We conclude the two-part Looking Back review of the two-part Vengeance From Vietnam! arc which began last issue in Amazing Spider-Man #108. Did we mention that this story is the all-time favourite of John Romita (Senior)?
|Pencils:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Inker:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #87|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Visionaries, John Romita, Sr.|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Spider-Man #5|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man: Visionaries - John Romita, Sr. (TPB)|
At the end of Amazing Spider-Man #107, the wall-crawler, having defeated Professor Smythe and his Spider-Slayer spotted his girl-friend Gwen Stacy walking arm-in-arm with Flash Thompson. But before he could get too jealous, a car with tinted-windows stopped next to the couple. Two men, one in military uniform, got out and escorted Flash into their car. Now, our highlighted issue begins with Spider-Man swinging through the air, following the sedan. From his vantage point, the webhead gets a clear view of a brown semi-truck intentionally running a red light to block the path of the automobile. The men in the truck lob gas pellets at the car and a second auto moves up and blocks the sedan from behind. The men with Flash roll up the windows to try to evade the gas but it is too late. As Spidey hangs overhead, unsure who to fight ("Don't even know which are the bad guys!"), three men in overcoats, hats, and gas masks exit the car in back. With the fumes forcing the other men out of the sedan, Spidey decides that his only recourse is to keep everyone away from Flash. He shoves the men in gas masks, who retaliate by pulling guns and firing blindly into the smoke screen. Spidey disarms the men with ease. He grabs one, intending to remove the gas mask but is staggered by a powerful blow from a large right hand clothed in a white glove. Groggily, Spidey looks up to see "a guy in a chauffeur's costume... more than seven feet tall!" The figure bellows, "So! You would dare interfere with our most sacred mission?" but Spidey's not intimidated. Swiping at the giant's legs with his left hand, he knocks the chauffeur off his feet. It can now be seen that the giant is Asian. So is the man behind Spidey who has taken off his gas mask and pulled out a knife. He tries to stab Spidey from behind but the ol'spider-sense does its job. Spidey reaches behind, grabs the man by the coat and flips him over to collide with the fallen giant. The man yells something that seems to be written in Chinese rather than Vietnamese but, hey, back in 1972 in the U.S., who knew the difference? Spidey doesn't help in the politically correct department when he thinks, "They all looked like refugees from Fu Manchu!" as he webs up his prisoners.
Flash is half-blinded by smoke and still hiding in the car but he comes out when he realizes that Spidey is there. A soldier pulls his gun and tells the wall-crawler to keep away from Thompson but Spidey decides to snatch Flash and get the lowdown from him in privacy. He webs away with Flash hanging over his shoulder. Fearing they may accidentally hit the man they were charged to protect, the soldiers refrain from shooting at Spider-Man. On a nearby rooftop, Spidey asks Flash why the MPs were "trying to haul you away" and gets the reponse that "they were trying to protect me". Flash decides he'd better explain. "It started some months ago", he says, "back in Viet Nam".
A wounded Flash Thompson is separated from his outfit. He is "weak, delirious, "stumbling blindly" through the Vietnamese underbrush. He comes upon a clearing and, in it, "some kind of ancient temple". Then he blacks out. When he comes to, he is being treated by an old man wearing a monk's robe and a young attractive woman. They tell him he is in the "sacred Hidden Temple", a structure that remained secret and safe from the ravages of war for centuries. Days pass, as Flash's wound mends. He is impressed with the way he was immediately taken in to be nursed even if he may be an enemy. When the old man asks him, "Are we all not brothers beneath the eyes of heaven?", Flash realizes he's "never known such holiness!"
Eventually, Flash must leave to return to his unit. He bids farewell to the two people he has grown to love and finds his way back to his base. There he overhears an order to level an area known as "Sector B" with shelling. Flash knows that the Hidden Temple is right in the center of Sector B. He tries to tell his superiors but they believe his story to be the result of delirium. He races back to the temple to warn the old man and the woman but they will not budge. "We have harmed no one.", says the Venerable One. "Surely those with whom you serve will do us no harm." And then it is too late as the shelling begins and the temple is destroyed. Flash blacks out again and wakes to find himself back at camp. As far as he knows the priests and the woman are all dead.
As the word of the temple's destruction gets around to all those who thought it a holy place, the rumor also circulates that Flash "had gone there to finger it, to set it up as a target for shelling". The army now realizes its mistake but it is too late. For the rest of his tour of duty, Flash is "followed by silent, staring, hostile men... men with naked hatred and loathing blazing in their eyes!" Even now, "military intelligence learned that there was a price on my head. Some of the more fanatical natives would never rest until I was dead." That is the reason the MPs were posted to guard him. Spidey decides the best thing is to return Flash to the authorities.
Once again, they take to the webs, with Flash riding piggy-back on the wall-crawler. The ex-G.I. wishes he could remember what happened back at the temple after he blacked out. "I've got a strange feeling that there's something more behind all this," he says, "There's something I don't know, something I've got to find out." In the meantime, the duo has arrived at the Federal building.
Inside the army officials are on the phone to the Pentagon, ready to report that Flash was kidnapped by Spider-Man. Instead, they find him right outside their window hanging from a spider's web. They let Flash in and jump to the conclusion that Spider-Man was trying to kill him. But Flash explains, "I first ran into Spider-Man years ago, when I was still in High School! In fact, I even formed a Spidey fan club! I never had a clue to who he really was but I always figured he was the greatest! I dunno, maybe that's why he sided with me now! Maybe he remembers!"
Spidey swings back to where his clothes are hidden and changes back to Peter Parker. He intends to help Flash anyway he can but he isn't very enthusiastic about it, "especially when I know how he feels about Gwendy. He'll never stop trying to take her from Peter Parker." He makes his way to the apartment he shares with Harry Osborn where Aunt May has dropped by for a visit. Harry asks May to make herself comfortable but the old busybody notices that something has spilled in Pete's room and is "seeping out from underneath the door". When she reaches down to touch it, it adheres to her skin. Pete enters and immediately realizes that a vial of web fluid "overturned in my room!" He covers by telling May and Harry that it is a "new paste formula" he is going to use as a supplement to his Master's thesis. He turns down May's offer to clean it up (and no wonder! A Spidey suit is hanging on a door in full view!) and enters his room alone to take care of it. But the doorbell rings "And it's Gwendy's voice!"
Gwen, wearing a dopey black headband for some reason, rushes to Peter with the news that Flash has been taken by MPs and held under guard in the Federal building. Pete wonders whether she's concerned as a friend or if it's... something more.
Pete and Gwen go down to the Federal building to try to see Flash. But in the lobby, Pete spots the giant chauffeur (the perfect inconspicuous choice, right?) hanging around. He presents Gwen with a lame excuse about needing to call Jameson about photos and sneaks off to do the Spidey bit. But he's reluctant to appear in costume lest Gwen become suspicious about him and the wall-crawler. "If I'm lucky", he decides, "I can handle this without my costume."
Pete takes off his shoes and socks and finds a window. He climbs out and scales the outside wall. His intention is to sneak around and plant a spider-tracer on the giant (who is conveniently standing right by an open window). But after he accomplishes this, an explosion rocks the building. The lights go out. Pete eavesdrops on the giant and another man. "The time is now", one says, "Even now, I hear them return with our prey!" And, sure enough, two other men, appear, lugging an unconscious Flash Thompson between them.
Peter wastes no time. He smashes through the window and kicks the giant in the back. He clings to the walls to avoid the broken glass and goes after the men who have Flash. But the giant recovers quickly and attacks him from behind. "In all Indo-China, none can match the power of the Giant One!", he brags and Pete counters with "Yeah? That and a quarter'll get you an egg roll!" (An egg roll for a quarter? I wish!) Pete uses his spider-speed to leap past the giant one and he even takes a poke at the big guy's kisser but the chauffeur still manages to grab him by the ankle and throws him hard against a door. While Peter tries to clear his head, the giant one takes his leave. Peter gets to his feet just in time to look out the broken window and see a sedan drive off with a kidnapped Flash. He dare not pursue in his street clothes (fortunately, the whole battle inside took place in darkness so Pete's face was not seen) and besides, he can hear Gwen calling him.
Peter rejoins his sweetheart, explaining that the explosion caught him as he was looking for a phone. "The force of it"... get this... "it blew my shoes right off!", he says. The army officials show up and declare that Flash is "as good as dead" if they don't find him. Peter tries to ditch Gwen again so he can give chase as Spider-Man but she will have none of it. "Whenever there's danger", she says, "you always leave and run off!" causing others to label him a coward. This time, Gwen begs him, "If you love me, stay with me!"
Peter doesn't know what to do. He's the only one who can find Flash but he can't ditch Gwen and let her think he's "gutless". "My only other choice", he decides, "is admit that I'm Spider-Man!"
In the letter section, Bruce Roland of Hayward, California complains that Spidey committed murder when he lured Gog into the quicksand back in ASM #104. George Davis of San Diego, California complains that Kraven states he doesn't believe in honor in ASM #104 but declared he was a man of honor back in ASM #34. (The answer? Kraven changed his mind!) And future Spidey scribe David B. Michelinie, then of Louisville, Kentucky gets after Marvel raising its prices. "When you stop to consider that your major competitor is giving the public half again as many pages for a mere nickel more one has to wonder at your economic policies." Not a good month for the letter page armadillo.