Comics : Web of Spider-Man #54

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This story is part of an Arc: "Lobo Brothers Gang War"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7 / Part 8 / Part 9 / Part 10 / Part 11 / Part 12 / Part 13 / Part 14 / Part 15 / Part 16 / Part 17

This story is part of a Lookback Series: World Wide Web of Spidey

This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

In Spectacular Spider-Man #153, Spidey was duped by the Chameleon, posing as Jonah, into a fight with Hammerhead. He was also injected with something by Chameleon. Kristy was rushed to hospital after a heart attack and Tombstone murdered Joe's protector, Bruiser, in jail.

In Detail...

"The Wolves Of War"
Web of Spider-Man #54
Sep 1989 : SMURF 319.700 : SM Title
Summary: Kristy, Chameleon
Arc: Part 15 of "Lobo Brothers Gang War"
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Alex Saviuk
Inker:  Keith Williams
Cover Art:  Alex Saviuk
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Articles: Aunt May Parker (BTS), Chameleon, Glory Grant, Jameson, J. Jonah, Nick Katzenberg, Kingpin, The Lobo Brothers, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Mercado, Joy, Nathan Lubensky

Now back to the attack on Fisk Tower. It is 11:15 pm and the Lobos strike where the Kingpin's men least expect it. They take their helicopter to the roof. It hovers above as some of their gunmen fire down at the roof guards. Both Lobo brothers, fangs bared and claws extended, leap down at the Kingpin's men. In seconds, they have landed hard on two men, and then pursued the others, dragging them down from behind and slashing their throats with sharp claws. Their henchmen climb down a rope ladder from the chopper, still firing their weapons. The Kingpin's men run for their lives, thoroughly routed.

In his office, the Arranger gets a frantic message from one of the men on the roof, telling him that the enemy is already coming down the stairs. He beseeches the Arranger for reinforcements but then he is silenced forever. The Arranger can only mop the sweat off his brow and mutter, "Heavens!"

Slashing and killing, los Hermanos de la Luna wade through the Kingpin's men and make their way down the stairs to the penthouse floor. The Arranger hears them coming and hurries to a secret elevator he has in his office. He is just descending when the door of his office is blown across the room, colliding with his desk. The Lobos have arrived. They look down through the transparent Plexiglas of the elevator but they are too late. The Arranger is gone. But that's acceptable to them. The man they really want is the Kingpin.

In another office, the huge figure of the Kingpin sits placidly in the dark behind a desk. Suddenly, the office doors are ripped off their hinges as the Lobos burst in. They demand vengeance for the Kingpin's attempt to have them killed. "Nonsense" says the Kingpin without moving his mouth, denying such an attempt was made. "You call my brother a liar?" says one Lobo. "I call your brother a fool. Like you." says the unmoving Kingpin. This response so enrages the Lobos that they howl in anger and attack.

On a roof eight blocks to the north, a very sick webhead maintains his balance by hanging onto a TV antenna and wonders why J. Jonah Jameson betrayed him. Here Spidey thought the two of them were fighting together against the mob and Jonah has to inject him with a "nearly lethal" experimental virus. The wall-crawler shoots out some webbing and swings to a nearby building but he is so sick he nearly doesn't make it. It has gotten so bad that Spidey feels like he's going to die. "But I can't die", he thinks as he pulls himself to another roof, "Got a book due at E.S.U. Library Monday morning." (Ah, that famous Spidey wit!) Not only that, he has to find out what's going on with the Lobos and the Kingpin.

There are dozens of police cars at the entrance to Fisk Tower as a squadron of cops carefully enters the lobby of the building. They are led by Sergeant Frank Farrow (remember him?). Joy Mercado and Nick Katzenberg are along for the story. Farrow tells them to be careful as they walk through the war zone. Nick barely listens. He is too busy trying to coax Joy into sharing a cab with him afterwards. ("Katzenberg, I'd rather eat slime" she says.) Joy asks Frank if this attack is related to the killings that he and Ben Urich were investigating. "Gosh, I don't know", Frank says sarcastically, "Whadda you think?" Then he opens a door and shows them a room full of bodies. There is blood everywhere and the corpses have all been horribly slashed. Katzenberg, unfazed, asks Joy to pose with one of the bodies to add a "personal" touch to the news photo. Joy won't give the "scuzzbucket" the satisfaction.

Outside, Spidey has made it to the Fisk building and is scaling the wall. He realizes that Hammerhead ambushed him specifically so that he wouldn't be around to interfere with the gang war. But he still can't figure out Jonah. Why didn't he want Spidey to interfere?

By now, the cops and the reporters have made it to the Kingpin's office. Farrow warns that it could be messy inside. But Katzenberg is eating it up. "I got a sweet tooth for this stuff." he says. Nick can't wait to snap a photo of the Kingpin "ripped to bits like an old cat toy". He thinks the picture will be "better'n that shot of John Lennon in the Post". The group enters the dark office just as Spidey arrives at the window. They all look at the large figure behind the desk. Spidey thinks he is seeing the Kingpin dead. But it is soon clear to everyone that it is not the Kingpin who is torn open but a life-size dummy with a "remote speaker" so the Kingpin could talk to Los Hermanos from a distance. The frustrated Lobos have slashed it up and written, "Kingpin - You can run but you cannot hide" on the wall in blood. (But, obviously, not the Kingpin's blood.)

Once Spidey takes this all in, he realizes that he is too weak to do anything more, so he heads home. As he leaves, Nick Katzenberg spots him outside the window. He snaps off a photo, knowing that Jameson will love it. In fact, he already imagines the headline: "Spider-Man Linked to Mob Massacre!" Spidey isn't worrying about any of that. He hitches a ride on the top of a truck and just hopes he can make it back to Aunt May's place. The way he feels now that "seems like a real long shot".

By the time he makes it home, he is doing better than he was just a half-hour before. But he is so woozy, he almost misses his exit and his "brain feels as sharp as day-old oatmeal". Deciding that "Aunt May has too many boarders" to be able to sneak into the bedroom window unseen, he climbs into the window that leads to the basement. (Now, I don't want to make a big deal out of this but I could have sworn there was no one but May, Pete, MJ, and Kristy in the house just a couple of issues ago. Pete was climbing through the bedroom window all the time without any worries about being spotted. Do you think someone told Gerry about halfway through this story, "You know, Aunt May is running a boarding house and has all these people living with her?" and Gerry said, "oh yeah."?) Anyway, Spidey changes into his civvies down in the basement (even though there shouldn't be any clothes down there for him to change into) and staggers up the stairs to the living room. He is expecting all of the boarders to be asleep which will allow him to enter unobtrusively. Instead, he walks right into a crowded living room. Wheelchair-bound Nathan Lubensky and beret-wearing Arnold are looking right at him as he enters. Lamely, Peter starts to create an excuse for being in the basement but the boarders are too distraught to worry about his entrance. They tell him there's been a terrible accident. Peter asks where his Aunt is and they tell him she is at the hospital. Naturally, Pete assumes the accident involves May but before he can act he collapses on the floor. The virus has gotten the better of him.

In bed, a feverish Peter has nightmares of the Lobo Brothers, Hammerhead, Nick Katzenberg, a red-eyed Kingpin, and a red-eyed Jonah Jameson. He wakes up yelling but seemingly over his illness. Mary Jane is standing by the bed and she tells him that he's been out of it for two days. (And someone put Pete to bed and took all his clothes off. It could have been the boarders but, since Pete had his Spidey suit underneath his clothes, you'd think one of them would have mentioned it. So, most likely it was Mary Jane except that she wasn't home when Pete passed out. What did the boarders do? Leave him lying there until his wife came home?) MJ is dressed in a green business outfit and she has changed her hair so that it is pinned up. ("I've been needing a new look," she says.) She hands Pete a mug of soup to fight the flu he has, courtesy of Aunt May. Hearing that May is all right makes Pete think he must have been delirious when he first came out of the basement. Then he looks down at the latest Daily Bugle and forgets all about that. The headline says, "Spider-Man Linked to Massacre" (Hey! I thought it was supposed to be "Spider-Man Linked to Mob Massacre!") with Katzenberg's photo of Spidey taking it on the lam. Pete mutters, "I'll kill him". He then explains to MJ that Jonah Jameson is not only smearing him, but tried to kill him. "I didn't just catch the flu, MJ" he says, "Jonah injected me with some kind of virus". He tells her that this attack almost landed him in the hospital and that mention reminds him that he thought Aunt May was in an accident. MJ tells him it isn't May in the hospital but Kristy.

So, off they go to visit Kristy in the hospital. Kristy tells Pete that she shouldn't even be there. "I had an upset stomach, I threw up. I hit my head on the bathroom wall and I fainted. That's all" she says. Pete points out that she is "awfully thin" and Kristy replies, "I'm a blimp". Pete gives her a touch on her nose and promises to visit later. He and MJ go out into the hall where Pete notes that Kristy's arms are all black and blue. Susan Ransome, Kristy's Doctor, overhears Pete and explains that "unexplained bruises are a typical symptom of eating disorders". She continues, "They're caused by a chemical imbalance resulting from a combination of anorexia and bulimia". Pete and Susan stroll down the hall with MJ, arms folded across her chest, walking behind. Pete doesn't understand how Kristy can have anorexia when she eats all the time. Susan explains that Kristy is bulimic, meaning she binges on food and then purges by forcing herself to vomit. "But she's only thirteen years old!" Pete exclaims. Susan tells him she was eleven when she started binging and vomiting. "It took me fifteen years to get help," she says. "I could have died. So could she." She tells them they'll talk again tomorrow then heads off for a meeting.

Pete turns to MJ and asks her what she thinks and all the rage and frustration comes spilling out. "I'm sick to death of everyone and their problems," she yells. Lorraine with her drugs, Kristy with bulimia, Aunt May and her heart, Peter and his hang-ups. No one seems to notice MJ's problems. "My career is skidding downhill, my life savings are tied up in court, I'm living in your Aunt's house and nobody cares!" she cries. She runs away down the street, telling Peter to leave her alone.

Peter decides it might be best to let MJ go for now. But he needs someplace to direct his own anger. To his left is a newspaper dispensing machine. There is that Daily Bugle with that inflammatory headline. Just what Pete needs. Someplace to take out his aggressions.

At the Bugle, Nick Katzenberg, reeking of garlic and onion from the pizza he ate for lunch, tells Joy Mercado she should have taken him up on the lunch offer. (Except, if we remember that Pete was delirious for forty-eight hours, that scene with Nick and Joy took place two days ago, not earlier in this day. Note the mistakes that have suddenly cropped up in this issue after Gerry flawlessly juggled multiples plotlines for months. Did he just tire of the storyline or was something else going on?) Joy tells Nick to "Eat lice and die" (the kinder-gentler comic book rejoinder). Nick tells Joy she is just jealous of his status with JJJ. He walks away, picking his teeth, leaving Joy sputtering in rage.

Washing up in the bathroom, Nick congratulates himself for picking up this great gig. ("Sure beats duckin' punches from Sean Penn with the other paparazzi.") Now he's working on picking up a "good woman" to make his life complete. Unfortunately, that thought flies right out of his head when he looks up and sees an upside-down Spider-Man in the mirror right behind him. (The mirror's not behind him. Spider-Man is!) Nick makes a break for it but Spidey webs the door shut before he can get to it. The web-slinger has a point beyond just terrorizing Katzenberg. J. Jonah Jameson is not in his office and Spidey wants to know where the publisher is keeping himself. Nick must know, Spidey figures, since "you're the only one Jonah talks to anymore". In spite of his stammering and his frightened claims that "I-swear-it-wasn't-my-idea-it-was-Jameson", Nick doesn't go down easy. He doubles back and heads for the window. But the ol' web-slinger leaps over him and parks himself on the windowsill. At that, Nick concedes defeat. He tells Spidey that Jonah is home "at his penthouse". Before he can finish spilling his guts, Nick notices that the window is wide open. Spider-Man has left the building.

At the Jameson penthouse, a man who looks an awful lot like the publisher sits at a desk with his back to the balcony gloating over the present circumstances. The Lobos have scared the Kingpin away, Hammerhead is ready to make his move, and Spidey will be blamed for everything because of the articles in the Daily Bugle. He sips some wine and looks at some Katzenberg photos as a shadow in the shape of Spidey's head passes over the top of his desk. Calmly, Jonah turns to see Spidey perched out on his balcony. He jovially invites the wall-crawler in.

Spidey enters the office and faces off with Jameson. The first thing he notices is that his spider-sense is tingling again. The second thing he notices is that Jonah's voice suddenly gets "deeper with some kind of accent". The third thing he notices is that Jonah pulls out a futuristic-looking pistol and fires it at him. Spidey leaps over the shot (which strikes and shatters a bust of Julius Caesar) but he can't believe Jameson is actually trying to kill him. JJ tells him that the gun "fires a variety of explosive capsules". The one he has just fired contains "a fatal quantity of cyanide gas" which will not affect him because he is wearing nose filters.

Through the smoke of the cyanide, Spidey sees Jonah running out of the office. The webhead stopped breathing the instant the Caesar bust exploded but he knows he can't hold his breath forever. He leaps through the doorway and tackles Jameson, as the wisps of cyanide trail along behind him. Holding JJJ down on the ground, Spidey asks him why he's turned bad. "Jonah Jameson is the same man he always was" is the reply. When Spidey disagrees, saying, "the JJJ I knew would never have sided with Hammerhead, never have tried to kill me", the man on the floor calls him a fool and tells him it was easy to deceive him. Jonah's face appears to melt and Spidey finally knows the truth. This man has never been J. Jonah Jameson. He is, of course, the Chameleon!

The Chameleon decides that his masquerade as Jameson has lasted long enough. He fires his gun again, which gets the wall-crawler to leap away from him. The blast hits the ceiling and the rubble that falls down lands on top of the web-spinner. Now wearing his usual white mask, the Chameleon runs for a private elevator, vowing, "When next we meet, I'll wear a different face." Spidey clears the rubble away and tries to stop the elevator but doesn't make it in time. The elevator door closes in his face. No problem, though. He can crawl down the outside wall and meet the Chameleon at the street. But then Spidey hears a moan inside a closet. At first he's afraid that it is "another Chameleon booby-trap" but his spider-sense isn't triggered so he opens the closet door. (Except it magically turns into the bedroom door, even though Spidey clearly said "closet door" three panels before.) And the webhead is chagrined to discover that he is rescuing his old nemesis, the real J. Jonah Jameson. Jonah is sitting cross-legged on the floor next to his bed. He is bound in a straightjacket with adhesive tape covering his mouth and a large shackle around his neck that is chained to the wall. In spite of these circumstances, he still has the fortitude to mumble "Don't just stand there! Get me out of here, you web-spinning menace!"

At a hotel on the west side, the Lobo Brothers converse in Spanish as a distraught Gloria Grant watches them from the other room. Eduardo wonders if they should end the war but Carlos sneers at him, asking "Is that your woman talking, Eduardo?" With the Kingpin in hiding, Eduardo doesn't know how they can do anything else but Carlos has an idea. "Even the fattest pig will flee the mud when the barnyard burns" he says ominously.

In General...

It's good that the real Jonah is back in the picture. As much as the Chameleon's impression of him was a decent plot advance, it was becoming quite repetitive. I also don't buy that Pete would ignore his Spidey-sense on so many occasions … surely he would have learned that it doesn't lie by now?

I think Kristy's eating disorder is a worthy storyline to advance but it's being underplayed to a very serious degree. Sure, the Lobos' gang war is the bigger story but an eating disorder is something real that affects people, regardless of whether in this case it's a fictional person. It has been glossed over here and I really think it deserved more coverage of the effect it has.

Mary Jane's reaction was also very odd. Despite individual pressures, would you really turn your back on a close relative with an eating disorder?

Overall Rating...

Your rating in words, and the short reason for giving it.

Footnote...

Details by Al, General and Rating by Kerry.