Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #196

Background

Dr. Kafka, Edward (aka Vermin) and Spider-man have been kidnapped by the Mutates and taken to their underground lair. Baron Zemo has just arrived on the scene.

Story 'Faces'

  Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #196
Arc: Part 3 of 'Death of Vermin' (1-2-3)
Editor: Rob Tokar
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inker: Sal Buscema
Cover Art: Sal Buscema

Zemo tells Spidey that he has over-ridded the brainwaves of all the Mutates, including Vermin. Spidey lets him go, and Zemo explains what he’s been up to lately (see Captain America #363 for the details). Hey, what’s with all these Captain America plugs lately?

It seems that Zemo has gone just a little bit insane after falling into an active volcano and getting his face disfigured. Now, he’s decided to renew the experiments that created the Mutates in the first place. Then he makes our hero an offer. Let him take the Mutates and Vermin, and Dr. Kafka is free to go. Spidey says no dice.

Then Zemo threatens to do to Dr. Kafka what he did to Edward. This leads into a mini-origin of Dr. Kafka which explains why she is such a bleeding heart do-gooder. It seems that back in the day she had to take of her mentally handicapped sister because her mother couldn’t handle the situation. After her mother died, however, she put her sister in an assisted-living home and walked away. She then decided to help others, because she feels she didn’t do enough to help her own family.

Dr. Kafka freaks out. The Mutates grab her, but Spider-Man knocks them away. Then Vermin leaps at our hero and gets swatted away. During the tussle, however, we see that somehow there’s a giant fissure in the middle of the floor that we never saw before (that’s known as foreshadowing in the biz).

The Mutates eventually overrun our hero due to sheer numbers (much like last issue). Then Zemo orders them to remove Spider-Man’s mask and give it to him. Zemo puts it on himself, saying he doesn’t care about Spidey’s secret identity, he just wanted to see what it feels like (I told you he was just a little bit crazy).

While all this is going on, however, Edward has been trying to regain control of himself. He succeeds somewhat, still retaining Vermin’s body but with his mind in control now. He slashes at Zemo again and again, leaving our big bad villain cowering in the corner.

Now it’s time for some melodrama. Edward wants revenge on Zemo, so he lets Vermin take over so he can kill the person who got him into this whole situation in the first place. Spider-Man tries to stop him, but the Mutates restrain him. Vermin threatens Zemo again, but this time Dr. Kafka stops him. She says if Edward lets Vermin kill Zemo, then Vermin will win.

Our favorite half-human/half-rat cannibal is confused by all his conflicting emotions. He releases Zemo and goes running right into the crevasse. Zemo takes the chance to run away. Meanwhile, Spider-Man shoots one web at Vermin that snags his foot, and one web at Zemo that snags his neck. He whips Zemo around and lays him out with one punch. Then he goes to the fissure to help Vermin up. But it’s not Vermin who emerges, but Edward smiling. He says, “Vermin’s gone. He’s dead.”

And just like that, the whole ordeal is over. Now it’s time for the wrap-up…

Edward is now Dr. Kafka’s assistant, and he is helping her return the Mutates to normal. He also says he’s decided to stand trial for his previous crimes, and Matt Murdock has agreed to become his lawyer. There’s also a hint that there could be a deeper relationship between the two in the future but I don’t think anything comes of it (aww, they’d make a cute couple).

General Comments

Yeah, it’s clichéd ending, but I think the characters really earned this one. Even when I was fifteen years old and reading this for the first time I knew Vermin wasn’t going to physically die during the course of this storyline. But it was great psycho-drama.

Overall Rating

Overall, a very satisfying story.

Footnote

As far as I know, this really is the last appearance of Vermin. His alter ego, Edward, does show up at the Ravenscroft Institute (or as I like to call it the Retirement Home for Psychotic Spider-Man Villains) during the “Power & Responsibility” story arc that starts in Web of Spider-Man #117.

I don’t know where Baron Zemo shows up next. Probably in some Captain America issue down the line.

The Mutates (presumably) are never heard from again.