Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #22 (Story 1)

Background

The Evolutionary Wars was a mega-event that threaded its way throughout all the Marvel’s annuals in 1988. Some installments were more involved in the storyline than others.

Story 'Drug War Rages'

Our story begins in a warehouse where some drug dealers are guarding their supply. Spidey shows up and makes short work of them. Before he leaves, he stops to take a few pictures for the Daily Bugle. Then, he finds a cop to make the bust.

Unfortunately, the cop is crooked and instead of calling for back-up he calls in a two-bit hood called Splitface Flanagan. Peter returns home (which at this time is his Bedford Towers apartment) only to find out from the news that Spider-Man is suspected of killing the hoods that we just saw him take out.

The next day Matt Murdock “reads” an article accusing Spider-Man of murder and decides to get to the bottom of things in a way that only he can – as Daredevil! And whenever Daredevil appears, you know the Kingpin can’t be far behind. It seems that a group of armored goons have been disrupting the drug supply and he wants answers. Queue the ominous music….

Meanwhile, young Robbie Baldwin is visiting New York City with his mother. Who’s this, you ask? Just wait and see.

Another meanwhile passes and Spider-Man, looking to clear his name, returns to the scene of last night’s supposed crime. And who just happens to be there but Daredevil! The two heroes forego the usual mix-up fight and agree to band together to get to the bottom of things.

Let’s get back to young Robbie Baldwin, who is walking the streets of New York all alone (always a bad idea in the Marvel Universe) when he is targeted by a gang of young toughs. He is quickly surrounded and pushed to the ground and that’s when his latent super powers manifest! For those of you not in the know (or were fooled by my lame attempt at suspense), Robbie is actually the hero known as Speedball. His schtick is using the kinetic energy from any kind of impact to bounce off walls and knock out bad guys. This is his first appearance, however, so he’s still getting the hang of his new abilities.

Anyway, while Robbie is zipping around like a spaz, two of those armored goons arrive and attack the would-be muggers. Horrified by their brutal takedown, Robbie decides to follow the men in the metal suits and see what their master plan is. He trails them all way to their secret headquarters in the Empire State Building.

The Kingpin is also interested in the tin men’s master plan, and he has managed to capture and interrogate one of them. After some “persuasion”, the man spills the beans about the High Evolutionary’s grand scheme of purifying the earth by eradicating everyone with “unacceptable DNA patterns”. (It also involves a giant raygun set up on the top of the Empire State Building, because of course it does.) The Kingpin is understandably disturbed, and quickly comes up with a plan.

Where are Spidey and DD while all of this is going down? They’re hanging out at Josie’s Bar (a nice cameo from Daredevil’s own mag) and trying to beat information out of the usual assortment of ne’er-do-wells. Their first stop is a dead end, but they hit pay dirt at their second. An informant tells them that the gang that killed the drug dealers (remember them way back from the beginning of the story?) has a secret hideout at the top of the Empire State Building.

Now it’s time for all our players to converge at the New York landmark. DD and Spidey make their entrance by dramatically crashing through a convenient window. They easily knock out the High Evolutionary’s henchmen, but they can’t seem to stop machine that powers the giant raygun.

This sounds like a job for Speedball, the Masked Marvel! Using every last bit of his kinetic energy, he bounces from the observation deck all the way to the tippy-top of the building and smashes the giant raygun just in the nick of time. Unfortunately, the angle of his rebound sends him careening over the edge of the observation deck and on a one-way ticket to the sidewalk below. A well-aimed webline catches him, however, and he is hauled up to safety by Spidey and DD. Explanations ensue, I assume.

Well, that pretty much wraps up everything... but, wait! Wasn’t there a murder rap Spidey was trying to beat? The Kingpin decides to show his thanks to the heroes for doing his dirty work by convincing Splitface Flanagan to confess. Thus, Spidey’s name is once again cleared and all’s well that ends well.

General Comments

I never thought I would say this, but I miss stories like this. They pack a lot of entertainment into a tidy package.

Overall Rating

This is the beginning of a renaissance of sorts for Marvel annuals, which were previously hit-or-miss affairs only published sporadically. The first two years they featured company-wide events (Evolutionary Wars and Atlantis Attacks). After that, they featured mini-crossovers among similar titles.

Footnote

Interestingly enough, this is Speedball’s first appearance in the Marvel Universe and we don’t even get his origin! That would have to wait for his own series which would debut a couple months later. The series only lasted ten issues, but it had art by Ditko and I would love to see it collected sometime.