Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #171

Background

In Web of Spider-Man #50 our hero was framed for a crime he didn't commit. It happens. In this case, a bunch of his former allies (and a few of his old enemies) decided to band together and bring him in to the authorities. Eventually, Spidey was exonerated.

This caper did have one long-reaching side effect, however. Because of his mistaken belief of Spider-Man's guilt, the Puma (an assassin for hire) believed that he now owed the webslinger a debt of honor. In order to pay it back he used the connections of his alter ego, Thomas Fireheart, a Native American business tycoon, to buy the Daily Bugle and begin a pro-Spider-Man ad campaign. Our hero was none to happy to have one of his old enemies hanging around and trying to get on his good side.

Eventually, the two men would have to settle things once and for all between them. This two-part story will wrap things up.

Story 'Ordeal'

  Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #171
Arc: Part 1 of 'Spider-Man vs. Puma' (1-2)
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Writer: Gerry Conway
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inker: Sal Buscema
Cover Art: Sal Buscema
Articles: Puma

It begins with Peter Parker and Thomas Fireheart (AKA Puma) sitting half-naked inside a Native American sweatlodge. What are they doing? How did they get there? Cue the flashback sequences...

Spider-Man swings into Fireheart's office demanding an end to their whole debt of honor thing that's been going on for months now. Fireheart promptly agrees to end the debt of honor the only way he sees fit - a duel to the death, natch! So Peter packs his bags and kisses MJ goodbye. Fireheart, on the other hand, settles his affairs in New York by returning ownership of the Daily Bugle to J.J.J. for the grand sum of one dollar.

The next flashback shows Peter and Fireheart arriving in New Mexico and being met by his tribal elders. Fireheart explains his debt of honor with Spider-Man, but the elders are upset with him. They say he has squandered the gifts granted to him by becoming an assassin for hire and he has brought shame upon the whole tribe.

With all the exposition and explanations out of the way, we return to the sweatlodge, where Peter is now seeing visions in the smoke. Suddenly, a puma springs from Fireheart's head, while a spider rises from Peter. These smoke creatures attack, the spider lunging for Fireheart and the puma rushing Peter. They quickly dispatch each other's spirit animal, only to see them reform above their heads. Peter remarks that it must be impossible to defeat another man's demon.

Then the spider turns and attacks Peter, while the puma pounces upon Fireheart. Each man is having a harder time fighting their own spirit animals, but just before each man is defeated the visions end. Once the smoke clears, Spidey and Puma are on a cliff, ready to finish their final battle.

Next issue, that is.

Overall Rating

This is a good, moody prologue that sets the stage really well for next issue's climax. There's not a lot of action, but besides that it is a topnotch effort. If I didn't know any better, I would be pretty scared for Spidey.