In the Spider-Man continuity of the time, this story takes place after Spidey's encounter with Luke Cage in ASM 123. Still reeling from the deaths of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn, Spidey has come to San Francisco for a much-needed change of scenery. He's taking a "working vacation", on assignment from the Daily Bugle to get some pictures of Daredevil and the Black Widow (see issue 103 of Daredevil's own book for the full story on that).
Since its inception the Comics Code Authority had forbade any "horror" elements in its approved books. As lame as that is it's hardly surprising, since the horror-heavy EC titles of the 50's were the ones that brought the most heat on the industry when Dr. Wertham wrote that nauseating little book of his. But in the early 70's the code was relaxed somewhat, and Marvel was quick to exploit the new subject matter by bringing us such titles as the classic "Tomb of Dracula" and it's B&W magazine spin-offs, "The Monster of Frankenstein" and our current teamer-upper, Jack Russel, the Werewolf.
Russel, who first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #2 (Feb, 1972), was born into a family where the curse of lycanthropy was hereditary. Every month for the three nights of the full moon he uncontrollably assumes his wolf form, and though he does some good he also does things he'd be ashamed of if he could remember them.
Let's see what happens when this werewolf meets a certain spider-powered hero?
|Cover Art:||Gil Kane|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Werewolf By Night #1|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Marvel Team-Up #1|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Treasury Edition #18|
Our scene opens with Spidey high atop the Golden Gate Bridge, which spans San Francisco Bay. He's lost in thought, recalling the events of the past few days, which include a fight with Luke Cage. His reverie is broken by his spider sense tingling in urgent alarm, and he turns just in time to see the Werewolf leaping right at him!
The Werewolf slamming into him causes Spidey to lose his grip on his webline, and both of them are now free-falling to the pavement below! Spidey is able to spin a web trampoline to break their fall, and the two begin fighting on the bridge's center span. While the Werewolf is strong, and certainly savage, he's no match for Spidey's immense speed and agility and can't manage to lay a claw on him. Spidey plants a beauty of a kick on wolfie that sends him sprawling. Coiling his supernatural leg muscles the Werewolf leaps at Spidey, but our hero ducks out of the way and the Werewolf's momentum sends him over the railing and into the bay. "I suppose I should do something to help him, but I doubt if anything could survive that fall" Spidey muses.
What Spidey doesn't notice as he ponders the Werewolf's fate is the mist behind him, which coalesces into a sinister face. After surveying the situation the face fades, and the mist disperses.
Spidey leaves the bridge and swings to the city proper, and decides that the situation is best considered in a warm diner over a cup of hot chocolate. After a quick change in an alley, Peter enters Ben's Diner.
Ordering a cheeseburger, Peter notices that the waitress is speaking in a slow monotone and has a glazed look in her eye. Looking around the diner he sees that all of the patrons except him are likewise affected. Before he can investigate further though, the Werewolf crashes through the window and barrels right at Peter!
Still in his street clothes, Peter assumes (reasonably) that the Werewolf must have located him by scent. As he struggles with the Werewolf, his shirt getting ripped half to shreds in the process, he notices that the rest of the people in the diner aren't even paying attention to what's going on. This level of disinterest in a man fighting a werewolf is, needless to say, peculiar.
A flying tackle by the Werewolf sends both him and Spidey through the window and out into the street. Squaring off with the Werewolf, Peter positions himself in front of a parked car.The Werewolf (who's clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, if you follow me) again lunges full speed at Peter, but Pete easily leapfrogs over Wolfie's head and the Werewolf knocks himself out cold when he plows head first into the car.
Discarding his shredded shirt, Pete changes all the way into his Spider-Man outfit just as the entranced patrons of the diner file out into the street and start to walk away. Spidey's first instinct is to follow them, but an event triggered by the rising sun distracts him; still on the ground, the Werewolf is turning back into Jack Russel.
Now that he can talk, Russel reveals how he came to be fighting Spidey in the first place. The day before, Jack was traveling with his sister Lissa and best friend Buck when the decided to pop into a theater to see some "Live Occult Magic". The performing magician was named Moondark, and the whole audience, Jack included, slowly came under his spell as he performed. Russel awoke to find himself alone with Moondark in a back room, and was alarmed to find that Moondark could induce his change into wolf-form regardless of the moon's phase. Moondark now conjures up an image of Spider-Man in the air, and sends the compliant Werewolf through the mists, which act as a portal, after him. That's where we came in at the beginning of the issue.
Fearing not only for the coffee shop crowd but also for Jack's sister and friend, Spidey grabs Jack and they swing off towards Moondark's theater. The locked back door is an easy obstacle for Spidey to kick in, and our heroes begin to descend a flight of stairs.
Halfway down the stairs Spidey begins to feel that familiar tingle in his head, and turns to see he's being followed not by Jack but by the Werewolf! Tackled by his furry antagonist, Spidey tumbles down the stairs along with the Werewolf. Landing in the basement, Spidey sees Moondark standing watch over Lissa and Buck, who are still under his spell. Still struggling with the Werewolf, Spidey realizes that if he can remove Moondark's control that Jack will cease to be a threat. He bounces across the room and drop kicks Moondark into the Mists of Passage (used earlier to spy on Spider-Man and send the Werewolf after him), with his momentum carrying him in as well.
With Moondark out of the picture, the Werewolf falls to the ground and turns back into Jack Russel, proving Spidey right. Buck and Lissa snap out of their trance, and the confused trio is left to try to sort out what happened. But what about Spider-Man?
Well, we see that Spidey and Moondark were both teleported to the last place the Mists of passage were focused on? the top of the Golden Gate Bridge! It's an easy matter for Spider-Man to catch hold of the cable and save himself, but Moondark plunges down into the Bay, to his apparent death. Musing that Moondark's hold over all of 'Frisco should now be broken, Spidey swings off to the adventure awaiting him in Daredevil 103.
Next issue: The star spangled Avenger? Captain America!
I have one minor problem with this story, and that is that they never bothered to tell us what exactly Moondark's plan was! Left to my own devices I can think of plenty of uses the entire mind-controlled population of San Francisco can be put to, but I shouldn't be left to my own devices here unless they're going to give me a writing credit. And Spidey seems a little casual about Moondark's almost certain death. But it was still a fun fight, and I always liked Marvel's supernatural heroes.
And here's a word to the wise? if you ever see Spider-Man on top of a bridge, do not go near him!!! Few people go up there with him and live to tell the tale.
Elsewhere in Spidey's World: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire is trying to bring Spidey in for the "murder" of Norman Osborn in Amazing Spider-Man 123.
And meanwhile, in the real world: The Russian Space Program's Mars 7 Orbiter misses the Red Planet and heads for the sun, not to be heard from again.
A decent, self contained one-shot. I'm knocking one web off average for leaving Moondark's plan completely unexplained.