Thought you’d seen the last of the Puma in Spectacular Spider-Man #172? Well think again, because J.M. DeMatteis is bringing him back in a tale nobody demanded…
I want to make a special note of the cover of this issue, because it features (at the time) a rare sighting of Spidey’s old black and white costume. This is an obvious homage to Amazing Spider-Man #257, the issue where Puma was first introduced. Unfortunately, that’s about the only noteworthy thing about this issue.
To begin the story proper, we see a mysterious crow flying around fog-enshrouded New York City. It enters the office of Thomas Fireheart (aka Puma). Fireheart changes into the Puma and attacks it, but the crow turns into mist and slips away.
Next, we see Peter hanging down by his feet from the ceiling in his apartment. MJ wanders in, turns on the lights and cries out, waking Peter up. They get in a fight and Peter decides to swing off into the night.
To continue this thrilling hit parade we now come to the senses-shattering (but not really) origin of the Black Crow! It seems he was an average Native American, named Jesse Black Crow (see what DeMatteis did there?), who was a construction worker. One day, he’s involved in an accident where he loses the use of both his legs and ends up in a wheelchair. Now, when he concentrates really hard he becomes the Black Crow.
It’s a pretty thin origin as new characters go. Is he from the same tribe as Thomas Fireheart? Does Jesse physically turn into the Black Crow, or is the Black Crow a mental projection of Jesse’s? What exactly gave him this power, what are the Black Crow’s powers anyway? None of these questions are ever answered.
The Black Crow’s appearance should also be commented on here. He wears a feathered loincloth and cape, black boots, has white stripes (possibly tattoos?) running up and down his arms and legs, and carries a longbow that he never seems to use. Honestly, he looks like one of those silly villains from Scooby Doo.
Sometime later, we see Puma prowling the rooftops when he encounters Spider-Man in his black and white costume. But it’s not really Spider-Man… surprise, it’s the Black Crow! Puma attacks anyway, but the Black Crow flies away, and Puma chases him.
Spider-Man, meanwhile, is snagging a bouquet of flowers to bring back to MJ, but is interrupted by a shadow cat that chases him and turns into the Puma. They fight for a bit, but then the Puma turns into the Black Crow and flies off. Spider-Man naturally follows him.
So, of course, Puma and Spider-Man meet up just as they are closing in on their mutual quarry. But before they can do anything a strange mist rises up and they are both transported to a Southwestern-looking landscape.
Previously, the Puma had played a somewhat major role in Spidey’s life. He bought the Daily Bugle way back in Spectacular Spider-Man #156 in an effort to rehabilitate Spider-Man’s public image. This brought him into conflict with Spider-Man more than a few times, but by the time this issue rolled around his story arc was pretty much resolved. I see no reason to bring him back now.
A lame adversary, a supervillain without any motivation, and a whole lot of mystic mumbo jumbo. This is not a good way to start off a three-part story arc.