Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #14

Story 'Killing Me Softly...With His Hate!'

Spider-Man, Razorback and Flash Thompson are still chained to a wall in a dungeon of the Hate-Monger's compound staring at a ticking time bomb. Flash can't quite reach it and Razorback laments that he can't reach the stud on his belt buckle. Spider-Man tells them not to give up: "...the Hate-Monger wrote the scenario for this cheap cliff-hanger...and I always saw myself as too much of a James Dean rebel type to go along with somebody else's script." After several attempts he manages to deflect a web line off a steel beam and onto Razorback's belt buckle. This results in Big Pig crashing to their rescue and the heroes escaping before the bomb blows. They head to Yonkers Stadium to try to stop the Hate-Monger's next move.

Soon after at the stadium, Brother Power and Sister Sun answer questions from the press about the bombing, saying that they only preach love in the Legion of Light. This is all part of the Hate-Monger's plans to frame the three heroes with an attack on his peaceful religion so that more may listen to his message.

As Sha Shan in her Sister Sun guise continues to feel sad about her role in this - forced upon her by her father to counter the cosmic evil he knew was about to rise - Achmed Korba (Brother Power) is confident about the Hate- Monger's plan. The Hate-Monger, though, claims to be a different type of being altogether - "evil incarnate" - and reveals his true face in shadow to the others.

The three heroes get to the stadium where the Legion of Light rally is about to take place. Spider-Man gets the others to wait as he promises to get inside another way. He slips in as Peter Parker with a press pass and opens a back door for the others to get in. They soon run into Hate-Monger and some goons. Spidey takes on Hate-Monger while Flash and Razorback go after the others. Hate-Monger somehow manages to free himself from Spider-Man's webbing and catches the hero with a mindblast that makes him attack Razorback. Hate-Monger soon zaps Razorback with the same mental powers and the two heroes begin to grapple.

Meanwhile Flash has taken care of his lot of the Hate-Monger's minions and borrows a Legion of Light robe to be less conspicuous. He finds Razorback's sister Bobby-Sue and convinces her to come with him as per the mentor's orders.

He takes her into the bowels of the stadium where they find Spider-Man and Razorback unwillingly fighting. They are able to talk to one another as usual but are unable to shake the Hate-Monger's commands. Flash jumps onto Hate- Monger's back, temporarily breaking the spell and removing the villains mask. The shocked heroes look on as this Hate-Monger is revealed not as the original but as the monster known as Man-Beast.

General Comments

This middle chapter of the Hate-Monger storyline makes for an excellent issue with a lot of little touches that balance out some of the sillier aspects of the plot.

One excellent sequence involves Spider-Man's attempts to free himself, Razorback and Flash Thompson from their imprisonment. Knowing that Razorback's belt buckle holds some sort of key to their escape, Spidey makes several attempts to use his web-shooters to hit the special stud on his friend's belt. It's not as easy as it seems since he and the others are manacled and hanging from a wall. His first try misses the beam, the second sticks to it, the third deflects off and misses Buford's belt. But the fourth one does the trick. It's nice to see Spidey being able to both think of a plan like this and being able to execute such a dexterous maneuver.

Although some of our pal Sal's artwork seems rushed in this issue - there are several panels in which Spidey's head looks like a flat disc - he does render a terrific sequence in which the Hatemonger takes his mask off but his face is obscured in shadow. We see only evil-looking yellow eyes and fangs that give us a clue that this Hatemonger isn't quite the one readers may know.

Speaking of clues, editor Archie Goodwin gives longtime Marvel readers one with a footnote. After Spidey exclaims surprise that Hate-Monger could break through his webbing ("But my webbing held the Hulk longer than that"), the Hate-Monger says, "And where the Hulk could not best me, insect -- neither shall you!" The footnote states that the Hate-Monger never fought the Hulk, leading us again to believe that this is a different being under the mask. This harmless conceit that Marvel had, thinking that a Marvel reader would consume so many books that they would see this statement as an aberration needing correction right away, helped to make comics of this era so much fun.

Overall Rating

Although the story features a CB super-hero who owns a remote-controlled truck named Big Pig, this issue features a lot of little touches that make up for it.

Footnote

This issue continues from issue 13 and is completed in issue 15.

Among the signs seen on a wall at "Yonkers Stadium" are "Drink Mantlo," "Goodwin Life Insurance - You'll Need It!" and "M.M.M.S.," which stood for the Merry Marvel Marching Society.

Interesting ads include The Superhero Women joining Stan Lee's other Simon and Schuster books, a Star Wars 1978 calendar (coincidental given that this review was written just after the opening of the last installment of Star Wars), and a Thor Hostess Fruit pie ad, "The Ding-A-Ling Family."

Several letters from readers mention the problems Peter has with languages in issue 10. One reader, Meredith Robbins, says "Please, don't have the White Tiger - or anyone else - deliver lines in Spanish, only to translate them in the same breath..." 'Nuff said!

Full Disclosure - This reporter has tried his best to be objective about this issue even though this was one of the first Spider-Man comic books he ever had as a kid. Others include Spectacular Spider-Man 20, Amazing Spider-Man 173, and Marvel Tales 81. I still have my original issues after all these years, although young Scott saw fit to use a marker to write inside the "Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man" logo on the cover.