Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #104

 Posted: 1999
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


We conclude our review of the two-part Gog! story which began last issue in Amazing Spider-Man #103.

Story 'The Beauty and the Brute'

  Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #104
Summary: Ka-Zar, Kraven, Savage Land
Arc: Part 2 of 'Gog!' (1-2)
Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Gil Kane
Inker: Frank Giacoia
Cover Art: Gil Kane
Reprinted In: Marvel Selects #5
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #82
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #83
Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #5

It starts with a flashback, recapping last ish. Sketch of a monster on television, J. Jonah Jameson organizing expedition to the Savage Land, Gwen captured by Gog, Peter faking his death and changing to Spidey... only to land in quicksand, Ka-Zar also on the trail.

Now then, with that out of the way, Spidey has no problem shooting a web up to a tree limb to pull himself out. (Seemed sort of obvious all along, didn't it?) Except... the limb breaks off and lands on him instead! Still, there are plenty of other branches to choose from and they can't all be as rotten as the first one. So, Spidey aims again and... nothing happens. "That falling limb must've jammed my web-shooter", he decides. In his panic, Pete apparently forgets that he has two web-shooters. The quicksand continues to pull him in, it is up to his neck, when Ka-Zar swings by on a vine, scoops him out of the muck and deposits him safely on solid ground. A quick chat reveals that both men are on the same mission. Spidey suggests that they team up but Ka-Zar declares that, as lord of the jungle, he should go alone. Spidey does not react well to this and Ka-Zar quickly sees that "the female whom Gog has taken means more to you than life itself". (Does this realization on Ka-Zar's part and the subsequent events mean that the Jungle Lord now knows Spidey's identity? Well... yeah.) Ka-Zar tells Spidey that he "merely wished to spare you the dangers which lie before us" since "the way lies thru death-infested swamp". But now seeing that the dangers mean little to the wall-crawler, Ka-Zar agrees to team up.

Meanwhile, in another part of the jungle, Kraven decides to tell Gwen the full story of Gog. ("Because I've chosen you for my mate, it is good that you should know.") He tells her that, not long before, he fought Ka-Zar in New York City. (Astonishing Tales #2, October 1970). That battle ended in stalemate but Kraven could not get it out of his mind. He decides that he must defeat Ka-Zar and take over the hidden jungle to prove that he is "the greatest huntsman of all". He uses a single-occupant, rocket powered aircraft with pontoons for water landings (What'd he do, borrow from Dr. Doom?) and flies to the Savage Land. He intends to track Ka-Zar down immediately but instead stumbles on an immense space ship, half-sunk in a mist-covered lake. He fashions a raft out of logs and makes his way to the entrance of the craft. He enters to find "machines, computers... but no sign of life, human or otherwise". Then, over in the shadows, Kraven sees something move. He finds a "transparent cage" and within that cage, a small creature in a brown tunic, standing next to a metallic object that looks like the remains of a hatched egg. It is Gog in his infancy, still small enough to ride on Kraven's shoulder. (And he must be equipped with one of those self-growing tunics. Either that or the fabric stretches really far.) Nearby, Kraven discovers a second cage with a second egg... but this birth did not fare so well. Inside the damaged egg is a female "half ape, half reptile like the first... and dead". Kraven leaves the sinking space ship, taking Gog along with him.

Kraven tells Gwen that his new companion grew at a staggering rate. The creature instinctively began speaking an alien tongue and, as mentioned, his clothes grew with him. Kraven realizes that this being must have come from a highly-advanced race. Nevertheless, he chooses to use him to intimidate the locals. He names him Gog "after a Biblical giant", then has Gog build the lizard-altar so the swamp men can bring tribute to him. (Why a lizard idol? Shouldn't an idol to Gog look like Gog?) And he finishes by again telling Gwen that she will be the queen to his king. Hidden up in the trees, an eavesdropping Spidey and Ka-Zar decide it's time to put their plan into action.

"What plan?", you ask? Well... this one. Spidey swings out into Gog's line of sight, then webs away before either Gwen or Kraven can see him. Gog takes off after Spidey, ignoring Kraven's calls to him to come back. And Kraven, distracted by Gog's departure, is an easy target for Ka-Zar's attack. The Lord of the Savage Land leaps and strikes the Hunter in the small of his back. Both men go "tumbling headlong over rocks and jagged boulders".

At the base of the rocks, the two men grapple. Kraven realizes that Ka-Zar is his "physical equal" so he tries to stop the battle by shooting "vapor blasts" from the eyes of the lion on his costume. The vapors "would have felled a bull elephant" but they don't faze Ka-Zar because he is smart enough to hold his breath. A savage blow (could it be any other kind?) from Ka-Zar fells Kraven but the villain is not defeated. He fires "electro-bursts" from the same lion-eyes that emitted the vapor and this time he catches Ka-Zar head on. With Ka-Zar stunned and helpless on the ground, Kraven picks up a large stone. He lifts it over his head, intending to crush Ka-Zar's skull. But Kraven has forgotten about Zabu. The sabretooth tiger leaps at the Hunter, forcing him to drop the stone.

The two men face each other once again. Kraven feels at a disadvantage having to face both man and tiger but his opponent says, "Ka-Zar does not need Zabu to be lord of the jungle". (Well, he needed him just a minute ago.) "Ka-Zar needs only Ka-Zar!", he yells, sticking his head into Kraven's solar plexus. Kicking and punching, Ka-Zar subdues Kraven, getting the Hunter to surrender. But it is a ruse by Kraven, to give him time to "reach the plasti-cord hidden within my belt". The Hunter quickly fashions a noose in the end of the cord and flings it over Ka-Zar's head. (A shocked savage calls Kraven a "Lying hyenodon!"... my favorite line.)

Kraven leaps over a tree limb and pulls on the rope. Ka-Zar is lifted up in the air. He tries to get his hands around the noose but with little success. He is suffocating. But, dangling in the air, Ka-Zar manages to get the rope swinging. He builds up enough momentum to give a flying kick to Kraven's jaw. The Hunter is knocked backward right over the high cliff at the edge of which the two were fighting. (Um... just how did the base of the rocks turn into the top of a cliff? Roy? Roy?) Kraven falls to his death. (For now, anyway. He turns up again six issues later.) Ka-Zar peers over a cliff that is looking higher and higher all the time. "He lived without mercy", he says, "and he died without warning."

Ka-Zar returns to Gwen Stacy and tells her he can't stop and chat. "Not while the monster called Gog thrashes wildly thru the jungle on the trail of Spider-Man." (Thereby letting yet another cast member know that Spidey is in the Savage Land.)

The plan hasn't quite worked as expected. Spidey was supposed to have eluded Gog and snuck back to rescue Gwen but Gog is still hot on his trail. Each swipe of the monster's huge hand gets closer to nailing the wall-crawler. Spidey keeps swinging through the trees, looking back at his pursuer. But, suddenly, looking back, Spidey notices Gog is gone. "All of a sudden I lost him", he says, but then he sees why. In his haste, he nearly swings right into the mouth of an angry tyrannosaur.

Spidey manages to check his momentum and turn away but now the dinosaur is after him. He notices a cave in the rocks ahead and makes for it. When he gets there, Gog shows up as well. With the web-slinger trapped in the cave, the two giants play "King Kong versus Godzilla" with each other. Gog knocks the t-rex to the ground but the dinosaur wraps his tail around the giant alien. He then puts a jaw-lock on Gog's entire head. Somehow, Gog breaks free and grabs the reptile around the throat, pulling on the dinosaur's head until its neck snaps.

Gog stands over the dinosaur he has killed and Spidey takes the opportunity to try to sneak away. But the alien "espies a flicker of motion" (did you know that the word "flicker" was avoided by comics for years because of another less pleasing word it resembles if the lettering and printing is just a little bit off?... but I digress...) and, before the wall-crawler can get away, Gog is on Spidey's trail again. A desperate webhead decides that he must "do something I don't want to do". He swings over the quicksand pits in which he was previously stuck. Gog walks right into the morass. The monster struggles but he cannot break free. Soon all that can be seen is a giant hand reaching out of the ground. "This is the time I usually make like a wise-guy", Spidey says, "But somehow, I just feel sick". (Yeah, well, you don't usually murder your opponents, do you, Spidey?)

"I heard enough earlier to know Gog came from another world, might even have been the last of his race, sent off into space to escape a dying planet", Spidey says, "And, if not for the greed of Kraven..." The thought remains unspoken. The mention of Kraven reminds Spidey that he doesn't know how Ka-Zar has fared or whether Gwen is saved.

While Spidey retraces his steps, Ka-Zar employs a little spin control as he runs through the jungle with Gwen in his arms and Zabu by his side. Now he covers up his mention of Spider-Man by asking Gwen if she saw any sign of "the animal I sent to lure the giant from your side". Gwen tells him that she didn't see a thing and is only worried about a young man named Peter Parker. Ka-Zar, who you can add to the list of people who know Spidey's identity, tells her that he "suspects your friend was safe... at least, until not long ago".

Back at the camp, Jameson and Calkin flog themselves over the loss of the two young people. "What have we done", says JJJ, "you, to save a reputation, me to bail out a newspaper?" Nothing but bring about death... or so they think. But, at this moment, Ka-Zar hails the camp. The sight of the savage, riding Zabu and carrying Gwen in his arms, makes J. Jonah Jameson literally leap in the air and kick his heels with joy. Jonah gives Gwen a big hug but when she asks about Peter, he turns away and brushes away a tear. "That monster struck him... knocked him over a cliff into the river", he tells her, "and... and we lost him". But in the midst of this emotional moment, Jonah is distracted. He sees a shadowy figure webslinging through the trees behind him. For a moment, he doesn't know what to think. Then he scratches his head and decides that the "heat just got to me. Must've imagined it. It couldn't have been him! Not down here!" And, while JJJ is still trying to puzzle it out, Peter Parker shows up in camp, yelling, "Hello people!"

Gwen rushes into his arms. Jonah is happy, too, but he can't understand how Peter has survived. "Some trees broke my fall", Pete says, "Hid me, but I've been out cold for hours." Now that Pete is back safe, Jameson returns to his usual cheery self. "Didn't get any photos, I see, and lost your camera", he har-rumps. "Alright you two, break it up! You're necking on my time."

So, the adventure is over. The foursome hike back to their waiting helicopter as Ka-Zar, astride Zabu, waves good-bye. And Roy polishes it all off by dedicating the story "to the memory of Carl Denham, entrepreneur", the fictional showman behind the capture of King Kong.

As we all know, Kraven was not dead (yet). He returned only months later in Amazing Spider-Man #110-111 (July-August 1972), teaming up with the Gibbon to take on the web-slinger. In #111, Kraven reveals that he survived the fall by grabbing onto vegetation that was growing out of the cliff, slowing his descent enough to prevent his demise. He hid out in a cave for a week to heal his wounds. At the time of his teaming with the Gibbon, Kraven still nurses an injured arm, which he keeps in a makeshift sling.

Even Gog managed to survive this adventure. He turns up again in Astonishing Tales #18 (June 1973), in a Ka-Zar tale in which it is revealed that Ka-Zar's evil brother The Plunderer secretly observed Spidey trapping Gog in the quicksand and later used a helicopter to pull the monster out, because "Gog's lungs proved stronger than suspected sufficing until I rescued him." (So, those of you who were upset at Spidey for killing Gog can rest easy now.) Gog encounters Spidey again in Spider-Man #23 (June 1992), the final chapter of Erik Larsen's "Revenge of the Sinister Six" storyline. Gog, appropriately takes the place of the now decidedly deceased Kraven the Hunter.

So ended Roy Thomas' four issue interregnum on the Amazing Spider-Man; a stint that included Living Vampires, extra arms, giant alien monsters, and dinosaurs. Stan Lee returned with issue #105 and brought Professor Smythe and his Spider-Slayers with him; a return to normalcy that had some readers up in arms. In ASM #109 (June 1972), letter writer Wally Conger of Arroyo Grande, California exemplified this group when he wrote, "Issues 101 through 104 of Spider-Man were delightful... Not to be disrespectful to Mr. Lee... but #105 is dismal and I find myself crying, "Roy! Save us!"... Gog was a delight, even the old Kraven was welcome. Morbius - I loved him, and I loved the idea of a superhero burdened with four additional arms. Now, with the first issue of Lee's return, ROBOTS! My God, Stan, no!" Stan's return lasted a total of seven issues before he left regular comic book scripting for good. And Roy's days with Spidey were not over. Only two months later (March 1972), he was the scripter on a brand-new Spider-Man series... Marvel Team-Up #1.

 Posted: 1999
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)