Comics : Untold Tales of Spider-Man #22

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

We meet a new villain,the Scarecrow and finally see light at the end of the tunnel regarding Aunt May's sickness. Peter decides to give up being Spidey for good! Or does he?

In Detail...

"Night of The Scarecrow"
Untold Tales of Spider-Man #22
Jun 1997 : SMURF 018.720 : SMURF 018.760 : SMURF 018.780 : SMURF 018.800 : SMURF 018.820 : SMURF 018.840 : SM Title
Editor:  Tom Brevoort
Plot:  Kurt Busiek
Writer:  Tom DeFalco
Pencils:  Pat Olliffe
Inker:  Al Williamson
Cover Art:  Pat Olliffe
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Articles: Watson, Anna, Aunt May Parker, Flash Thompson, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Jameson, J. Jonah, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn

You've all seen the cult film "The Crow" starring the late Brandon Lee. Dilute this movie down into an innocent "sixties" style, and you'll have a good feel for the opening scenes of this issue. The Scarecrow certainly has the "crow" part down pat, being accompanied by at least a dozen of the dark scavengers. It's just the "scare" part that he's short on. His mask looks more like a pumpkin head than anything else. At least the DC villain of the same name (appearing in current issues of Nightwing) manages to actually SCARE the hero! Folks, what we have here is a lamo bad guy with a lamo origin...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We witness the Scarecrow as he contorts himself into an apartment and cleans out the loot with the assistance of his pack of crows. He then scampers across the rooftops of Manhattan cackling in maniacal glee.

It's the next day and Peter is depressed because Betty Brant is ignoring him, and the public still believes Spider-Man is a coward for running from the Green Goblin. He is assigned the task of getting some photos of the Scarecrow in action by JJJ. Peter is worried about getting hurt as Spider-Man since Aunt May is too sick to care for herself if something should happen to him. After donning the webs, he cautiously hunts down the Scarecrow, planning to snap some shots and leave. However, the Scarecrow's pet crows surprise Spidey, causing him to crash down into the room that the Scarecrow is ransacking! Oh No! Just what Peter DIDN'T want to happen!

Spidey (trying not to get hurt for May's sake) dodges around for long enough to allow us to hear the origin of this decidedly lacklustre villain. It turns out that the Scarecrow used to be a performing contortionist who used his abilities to foil a robber. He realised that crime paid better than two bit TV shows, and took on the identity of the Scarecrow. Just the opposite of the circumstances that caused Peter to become Spider-Man! Who'da thunk! Spidey escapes, convincing the Scarecrow he is a coward.

Back in Forest Hills, Peter throws his costume in the bin and vows to give up being Spider-Man!

As the Scarecrow is fleeing across the rooftops with his sack of goodies, he is approached by the Green Goblin, who asks him to join the Goblin's gang. The Scarecrow turns him down, citing that HE has beaten Spider-Man alone too.

The next morning, Peter discovers that Aunt May is recovering better than had been expected, and decides to take up the webs once more. He goes looking for the Scarecrow again, but this time it is to take him down. Spidey cleverly manouvers the fight onto a busy street so that his victory over the Scarecrow will be witnessed by plenty of citizens. Spidey's back! He hurls non-stop witty banter at the Scarecrow, totally humiliating him in front of the surprised but adoring crowd. No one will be calling THIS Spidey a coward for a while!

The story ends with a mysterious character lovingly caressing the imitation Spider-Man costume that Flash Thompson lost recently after his attempts to appear as Spidey and defend Spidey's honour. Seems the stage is set for the entrance of... An Imposter!

In General...

I know that Untold Tales of Spider-Man is set in the early days of Spider-Man continuity (ambiguosly between the sixties and the eighties) and that cornball villains were all the rage back then. But somehow, this story just doesn't manage to recreate that feel for me. It comes across as being a weakly plotted comic with old fashioned artwork. As you'll notice from the credits of late, Kurt Busiek has been gradually handing over the scripting details to other writers, and retaining the role of "plotter" on this title.

There are only three issues left (not including the -1 Flashback issue in July)in this series, and this issue definitely shows signs of fading away. I'm all for Marvel discontinuing this title when Kurt leaves (better to go out with a bang) but I still want the last few issues to contribute to the overall Spidey big picture. I just don't feel that way about this issue, and I don't want to be left with around four issues that are an embarrasment to Spidey history a few years down the track.

Overall Rating...

Much as I love the whole Untold Tales idea, I can only give this comic two webs.