Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #137

Background

Events around this time included Peter Parker and Mary Jane being wed, and then Peter as Spider- man being tranquilized by Kraven and buried alive. Spidey's symbiote black and white costume came back to kill him for the first time in the form of Venom. On the streets of New York, Robbie Robertson ran into a mysterious old enemy named Tombstone in Web Of Spider-man #36. In South America, a military captain named Alvarez began taking injections to become the new Tarantula, in an effort to track down and kill refugees that have escaped to the U.S (also in that aforementioned issue).

Story 'Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide!'

Spidey's swinging through the city just after midnight; he's thinking he's nuts for taking another Bugle assignment that he always ends up regretting. JJJ had Pete taking pictures of a Jersey gangland summit, and then "spiked" the story once Pete brought him the pics. He thinks anyone who ends up working for JJJ deserves it. Cut to a janitor working overnight at the Bugle, one Armando Ruiz. The narrative boxes tell us that Ruiz would disagree with Peter, that he's grateful for his job at the Bugle. Ruiz escaped the Death Squads of his home country six years ago to start a new life in New York, one that's about to be cut short as La Tarantula steps out of the shadows of the Bugle's boiler room. Tarantula tells Ruiz that he spoke out against the regime of his home state, and fled the consequences, and that a traitor to the state will always be punished. Tarantula sticks him with one of his boot spikes, killing him. He spits on Ruiz's corpse, saying death to all traitors.

Three blocks away, Spidey can hear the scream from the Bugle and goes to investigate. He sees Tarantula, who says Spider-man killed his predecessor. Spidey says the original died a monster and it wasn't his fault. Suddenly, his spider-sense alerts him to an ambush--Tarantula's gang tries to gun him down from behind with automatic weapons. Spidey manages to dodge, but they're gone once the dust settles. Spidey thinks that only professionals in a military operation could've escaped so quick. Spidey himself swings away as police sirens start to wail.

In the morning, Jonah is fuming that one of his people was killed in his building. He tells Robbie to drop everything and tell Kate Cushing to put all the best Bugle people on the Ruiz story. Robbie's in a bit of a daze, though, still thinking about running into Tombstone on the street the other day.

Mary Jane is doing a bikini photo shoot elsewhere that same morning. She takes a break, talking with her make-up girl Elvira. Elvira is upset that immigration may come to take her and her family away. She says she has lived in the states under an amnesty, but that her lawyer now says that she hasn't lived in the US long enough and could be departed under new legislation. Mary Jane says her husband works for a newspaper, and that if Elvira's ever in trouble, to call MJ and gives Elvira her phone number.

Down at the docks, a man in a black business suit gets out of a car, telling his driver to wait, that he won't be long. A secret door opens in a trash barge--Tarantula's hideout. He introduces himself as Gullivar South. Tarantula asks if he's from the White House. South says not officially. Tarantula says he understood that he had the US government's full cooperation. South says not exactly, but certain policymakers in the capital support Tarantula's country's efforts to bring stability to South America, and that they'll do what they can to assist Tarantula's mission in the states, saying he'll provide information. He hands Tarantula a file on some more refugees--Elvira and her family.

Spidey's swings to meet MJ for a lunch break, wondering why can't any of his old enemies stay dead? Over lunch, MJ asks whether Peter will be going back to school to finish his degree. Peter says it'll be harder to get government help now that they're a dual-income family. MJ scoffs, saying she'd be glad to pay his way, but Peter demurs saying he'd get a greater sense of accomplishment out of paying his own way. That reminds MJ to tell Peter that Kate Cushing called after him, which leads Pete to run off for the work, leaving MJ with the bill. MJ realizes she forgot to tell him about the situation with Elvira. Meanwhile, Robbie's getting a hot dog on the street, standing outside Kingpin's high-rise building, wondering what goes on inside, and if Tombstone's there. He actually spots him outside the building, and begins to tail him. Robbie thinks to himself that he has to do something about Tombstone this time--but then Tombstone surprises him around a blind alley and pulls him in by the collar. Tombstone tells Robbie to stay out of his way and he'll live a long time. As he drops Robbie, Tombstone says it was nice talking to him, and that they shouldn't do it again any time soon.

Pete meets up with Ben Urich and a lawyer, Maggie Michaelson, in Spanish Harlem, to do a piece on the political refugees. Maggie says many of the refugees don't seek amnesty out of fear. Someone across the street sets off Pete's spider-sense--Pete pursues, following him into an alley, but he disappears. A gang of street thugs mistake Peter for the 'immigracion' and go to beat on him, but he bounds up to rooftop in the confusion of the melee. Pete reflects on the rooftop how the thugs reacted to him in fear as much as anger, how it's supposed to be the land of the free, home of the brave, so why do people have to live in fear like that? As night falls, Tarantula is busting up Elvira's family's apartment. Elvira, her husband and their kids flee to a nearby church. Tarantula pursues, thinking he had searched the neighborhood earlier in civilian clothing and found that those who cower in terror are easily controlled.

Elvira calls MJ and Peter at home, telling MJ the situation. Pete gets the details and swings into action. Tarantula and his gunmen have busted in the church and begin shooting. Elvira, her family and a pastor are hiding in a row of pews. Spidey lowers himself from the ceiling, and takes out Tarantula's thugs as cops surround the place outside. Spidey says the cops are outside ready to bust Tarantula's hide. Tarantula asks if he's sure, that in his country the police are servants of the state. Spidey takes out two more guards who are trying to sneak up and gun him--Tarantula takes the opportunity to bound out the window. An Agent Dunphy of the INS has come in the church to take Elvira away. Dunphy says she's being detained for a deportation hearing, that he doesn't like it but the law's the law and he just enforces it. When Spidey protests, Dunphy tells him to write his congressman. Back at Pete and MJ's Chelsea apartment, Pete informs MJ. She says they'll think of something to help Elvira. Over at Tarantula's garbage scow hideout on the Hudson River, Tarantula's furious at the evening's outcome. Agent South from earlier concurs, and says 'the Committee for Super-Powers' sent special help since Spider-man got involved--down the stairs comes Captain America!

General Comments

Gerry Conway and Sal Buscema started Spectacular Spider-man at the beginning with issue #1, so it's a nice reunion of sorts here for the writer and artist. Conway (despite having the unfairly dubious honor of scripting the original Jackal / Spider-man clone story in the 1970's that set the stage for the 90's clone blunder) delivers here with a solid if conventional tale. What can I say? I like Conway's writing most of the time. Buscema's inking over his own art here, and his pencil work is like seeing an old friend (I really like this ish's cover as well). To my knowledge, this would incidentally be Buscema's fourth and last time ever drawing Spider-man in the non-symbiote black and white outfit. His take on the costume is a bit blocky but nice overall.

Tarantula's okay as a villain, and he gets a sort of fresh motivation here. Conway's story references and refracts political events of the era (US military involvement in South America, that is) and I always liked that. The unfolding Robbie / Tombstone plot is almost more interesting to me, which plays out for a long time here in Spectacular.

Overall Rating

Despite being noteworthy as a reunion for Conway and Buscema, this is an exceedingly average issue: nothing great, nothing bad.

Footnote

The original Tarantula met his end in Amazing Spider-man #236.