Spider-Man and Puma are at each other’s throats… again.
After the end of last issue, Spider-Man finally gives the flowers he bought to MJ to make up for their fight earlier (which took place in Spectacular Spider-Man #191). Of course, since he’s on a mission he doesn’t stop in and say hi, he just leaves a note and goes swinging off again.
His mission isn’t going well, however, since the Black Crow didn’t give him a heck of a lot of information to go on (see last issue). Spidey is so frustrated that he winds up in an alleyway throwing trashcans around. Then a paper chances to drift by, and he reads about a Senator Maguire speaking at a human rights rally. Our hero figures that this must be the “innocent life” that Puma is hunting for. And since this is a 22 page comic book, Spidey’s guess turns out to be right on the money (talk about serendipity).
The Puma is keeping busy as well. He’s in Thomas Fireheart’s office, and can smell that Spider-Man was here. Knowing that his most hated enemy is on his trail, he becomes enraged and goes leaping off into the night. Through some monologuing along the way, we find out that Puma was paid two million dollars by some political enemies to kill Senator Maguire.
So he crashes through the window into the senator’s hotel bedroom. So what does our evil, feral assassin do to Senator Maguire to show he means business? He cuts his lip. Oooh, scary.
Now this annoys me to no end, but I can’t solely blame the writer. It’s just a problem with every comic book assassin; namely, they can never be portrayed as doing their job (which is killing people) well. This tendency crops up with Jason Macendale (Hobgoblin II, or actually IV, or whatever) as well. Since violence must be kept to a cartoony-minimum you can’t just show these guys offing people in cold blood. You have to have the hero save their targets (or he wouldn’t be much of a hero, would he?). So instead, these big, bad hitmen always end up looking incompetent and in the process lose all their threat potential. Okay, end rant.
Of course, Spider-Man arrives before Puma can strike a killing blow. The two tussle for a bit, then fall out a window. But Spidey does the ol’ web thing and swings them both up to an adjacent rooftop. They lunge at each other a lot and trade some punches. Then Spidey throws Puma into a big, lighted billboard. The electricity knocks Puma out, and Spider-Man stands on the rooftop ready to throw Puma down onto the street. (Again, why is Spider-Man so bloodthirsty here?) It’s at that moment that he remembers his vision from last issue and decides to not kill Puma.
Puma is not grateful, though. Instead he slashes at Spidey, but now our hero refuses to fight back. Just as Puma is going for the kill, the Black Crow (in crow form) flies in and scratches Puma’s eyes. This somehow makes Puma forget Spider-Man’s secret identity. It also brings Puma back from the edge of madness enough to get himself under control.
But before he can do anything else, a bunch of cops burst out onto the roof and gun him down. He teeters on the edge, and then falls. For some reason, Spider-Man doesn’t lift a finger to save him, he just runs over to the edge and looks down. Instead of making a big splat on the ground, however, the Puma has mysteriously disappeared (maybe the Black Crow picked him up and carried him off).
This issue itself wasn’t bad. The fact that it takes three issues to get here is what drives me crazy. This would have been an okay one-and-done story, but a three issue story arc about Spidey saving some politician from assassination is way too much padding. Throw in the mystical spirit quest aspect and it’s off the charts stupid.
This is an uncommon misstep for DeMatteis. He has previously revitalized several of Spidey’s lesser villains, but here the Puma takes a step backward in characterization. Turning him into a feral beast doesn’t really add anything new.
Puma next shows up two years later in Amazing Spider-Man #395, during the Clone Saga mess. He’s still feral. In Spectacular Spider-Man #218 his sanity is restored by another of DeMatteis’s lesser creations, Nocturne (from Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #13).
Is the Black Crow ever seen again? Who cares?
Actually, after reading the review of Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #13, I have to admit I made a mistake. It seems Spectacular Spider-Man #191 is not the first appearance of the Black Crow. It was way back in 1984 in Captain America #292! And who was the writer of that lil’ yarn? Our very own J.M. DeMatteis. Why he felt the need to bring back this moldy oldie is a mystery to me.