Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #131

 Posted: 2001
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


We conclude our two part review of the second Spider-Man/Hammerhead/Doc Ock story... "My Uncle... My Enemy?" as begun last issue in Amazing Spider-Man #130.

Story 'My Uncle... My Enemy?'

On the cover on ASM #131, Aunt May is so still and lifeless, it looks like Doc Ock is marrying a mannequin. She doesn't look much better on the inside. In fact, by the time we get to "The Ghost of Hammerhead" issues, she's looking so cadaverous, half the kids reading those issues probably got nightmares.

Yes, Spidey stands out in the snow peering into the window (like the Little Match Girl) to see a wedding going on. Doctor Octopus is all dressed up in his best tuxedo, specially designed to accommodate his four metal arms, which he wears during the ceremony. Aunt May is all dolled up in a bridal gown with a bouquet of roses in her hands and roses ringed around her head. A minister presides over the service. Behind the happy couple, Ock's goons are trussed up in their own fancy monkey-suits. One of the thugs is so effected by the event that he wipes a tear from his eye.

The wall-crawler doesn't know what to do. He knows that Ock has an army of men inside and he risks his Aunt's life if he breaks in. He also knows (since reading the contents of the envelope last issue) why Ock is marrying May but he can't figure out how to get to his Aunt to tell her. But, a moment later, the dilemma is resolved by a completely different gatecrasher. The oak doors to the room burst open. Hammerhead has just shattered them by butting them with his bean. Now he and his men rush in and start shooting everyone with "stun pellets". The plan is to knock everyone unconscious for six hours while Hammy and his buddies "grab the Parker dame and split!" But things go immediately wrong when Doc Ock uses his tentacles to knock all the intruders flying. Then he and his intended sneak away before Hammy can recover. (May asks Ock why anyone would want to kidnap her but her hubby-to-be stalls the question off.)

Spidey continues watching as Ock and May use a secret exit to take them outside. They come out at the base of the cliff on which the house rests. (And, no, I didn't know the house was on a cliff, either.) The webhead tracks them, giving us a recap (Hammy and Ock are both after May for mercenary reasons but Ock has decided to seduce the poor lovesick old sap to get his way.) as he web-swings to the attack. (And Aunt May flashes us a little bit of leg. Woo-woo!) The attack immediately fails as Ock flattens the webster with one metal arm. This punch knocks some sense into the wall-crawler. He realizes that he can't risk a full-fledged fight with Ock because Aunt May's "frail heart might not take the shock". He decides to hang back and wait for his opening.

So, Spidey is observing from behind a snow-covered evergreen as Ock flips the switch in a circuit box sitting out in an open field. A square-shaped section of earth heats up and melts the snow. Then doors slide open to reveal a large and very-fancy helicopter rising up from a level beneath. Spidey admires Ock's resourcefulness ("I'll give him this! The man has class.") as Otto and May climb aboard the chopper and fly away. Hammerhead and his men arrive, but too late. They shoot at the departing airship but their stun pellets inflict no damage. Hammy orders his men to cease-fire. They head back to their own helicopter (which looks like a Romulan Warbird) and give chase.

Spidey trails closely behind. He is impressed by Hammy's fancy helicopter and he thinks back to the "hypnotic effect" Hammy used in the previous issue to kill his men from afar. This is more than Hammerhead should be able to afford. Spidey figures there is more behind all this than he is aware of. (But if there is, we never learn about it.) He attaches some webbing to the bottom of Hammerhead's helicopter and hitches a ride.

Back at Betty's party, the old blowhard publisher of the Daily Bugle has babbled on for so long that Ned, Betty, and MJ beat a hasty retreat. Ned asks MJ what has become of Peter and she replies that he has given "Ms. Watson the cold shoulder". (See? That lame business of sneaking out the window and hoping no one noticed actually worked!) Ned says he thinks Peter is "adjusting to things fairly well" considering his girlfriend recently died. Ned and Betty both tell MJ she should give Peter time. But MJ gets into one of her carefree party-girl modes, tells the couple that "a fella like Peter can be a drag on a girl's career" then takes her leave, saying "There's a party out there and MJ just loves parties." (Maybe somebody should have told her she was already at a party.) After MJ leaves, Betty and Ned talk behind her back. Betty tells Ned that MJ acts that way because "she's frightened, a little worried about the way she feels". Ned replies that he'd "hate to see Peter get hung up on a girl as flighty as MJ". Just then Joe Robertson enters the room (hey, when did Robbie show up at this party?) and tells Ned no one should decide what is right for someone else. He knows that Peter can make his own decisions. He also knows that "people find their own way, usually without an eager friend's help, especially a guy like Peter Parker, a bright young man with both feet planted firmly on the ground".

Of course, Peter's feet are pretty far from the ground right now. He has climbed up to stick to the bottom of the helicopter and put webbing around his waist as a little sling to hold him in place. With his ear to the underside of the copter, Spidey eavesdrops on what is going on within. (Must be that famed Spider-hearing picking things up over the sound of the flying machine.) Hammerhead is explaining things to his henchmen. They are following Ock's helicopter into Canada. Hammy doesn't know just what Aunt May has inherited but he knows it is big. Back in ASM #113-115 (October-December 1972), Ock intercepted a letter to May from Canadian attorney Arthur (formerly Albert, formerly Jean-Pierre) Rimbaud informing her that she had a big inheritance. This is the letter that Hammerhead stole in those same issues. Meanwhile, Doc Ock had Rimbaud murdered in ASM #120 (May 1973) to prevent Peter Parker from learning about the inheritance. The office from which Hammerhead stole documents was Rimbaud's New York base. The mob boss was looking for details to the inheritance. Ock meanwhile seems to know what the inheritance is. He is marrying May to gain half of it for himself. Then if May "happened to die, he'd get it all!"

(Memo to Howard Mackie: Note how Gerry Conway brings back plot elements that he planted over a year back so that they all fit into the story and make perfect sense. It's called planning ahead, caring about the plot, and knowing what you're doing, Howard.)

But twenty minutes later, Hammerhead is in for a rude surprise. Ock has reached his destination and Hammy now knows what the inheritance is. In his own words, it's "a crummy Canadian island". But, it is so much more than that. This island has "one of the richest supplies of uranium found in nature" and there is already an airfield and "one of the world's most sophisticated nuclear breeding reactors" built on the site. So, it turns out, as Gerry puts it, "May Parker has inherited the most modern privately-owned atomic processing plant in the world, a plant that, in the wrong hands, could produce weapons powerful enough for a madman to wreak incredible havoc". Said madman now leaving the landed helicopter in the company of his bride-to-be.

May is freezing in the Canadian December weather. Ock pops one of his men in the jaw with a tentacle, calls him "dolt!" and orders a coat for his lady. One man exits the copter with a fur coat for May. Ock calls this guy an "insolent fool" and orders his men to have their weapons ready. (And May still thinks he's a gentle old doctor?) Just then the group is fired upon from above. Hammerhead's helicopter has arrived and doesn't even bother to land before it attacks.

Ock's men shoot back and Spidey is caught in the crossfire. The chopper is still too high for him to jump down and he would be the perfect target if he tried a web parachute. Then the problem is solved for him. Hammy's copter goes into a dive. It looks like the gang boss is going to ram!

Sure enough, Hammerhead's helicopter plows into Ock's grounded one. (And doesn't wreck and doesn't explode. Apparently, it just... lands.) Ock scoops up Aunt May (all gussied up in her wedding dress and fur coat) and flees the scene, using his metal arms as walkers. Spidey leaps down off Hammy's copter and lays into a couple of Ock's men. Then he swings over to Otto and swipes May right away from him. Doc swats Spidey away and swipes May right back. The web-slinger sprays webbing in Octopus' face as he suggests that they both "stop acting like kids". Ock isn't pleased by this comparison. "You dare call me a child?" he bellows as he lifts himself in the air on two tentacles to avoid Spider-Man's attack. With a third arm, he grabs Spidey by the front of his shirt, lifts him high in the air, and starts to slam him to the ground. But the webbed one maneuvers so he lands on his feet, then yanks on the metal arm, pulling Octavius down into a snowdrift. Before Ock can recover, Spidey races over to him and starts repeatedly punching him in the jaw. As he punches, he berates Ock for taking advantage of "a harmless old lady", then he finishes Ock off, saying "pleasant dreams, you pig!"

Doc Ock is unconscious and the shock of his defeat sends Aunt May into a faint. Spidey quickly shoots a web-mattress underneath her to cushion her fall, then hurries over, terrified that she has had a fatal heart attack because of the beating of "the man she thinks she loves". But no (darn it!), she's still alive, still breathing regularly. Now Spidey's only concern is to escape with his rescued Aunt. But how? The two gangs are fighting over by the two copters. The webster decides his only path is toward the factory complex and his plan is to double back later and "grab one of the choppers when no one's looking". Whatever the plan, he has to act fast. Ock's men have come upon him. He swings away, holding May, dodging gunfire.

Soon after, Doc Ock comes to and sees Spidey sneaking off. He is so furious over his perceived humiliation that he ignores Hammerhead and takes his men after the web-slinger. Hammy follows Ock, telling his men that he will force Otto "ta tell us the secret of this place".

Ahead of them all, Spidey stumbles upon a supply plane. Lucky for him, the "cockpit's been modified so even an idiot can pilot it". (So, in other words, Spidey can't drive the Spider-Mobile without crashing but he can pilot a plane.) The wall-crawler has ducked into the plane so quickly that Octopus hasn't noticed. Ock thinks Spidey has actually gone into the power plant so that's where he takes his men. Spidey seizes the moment and takes off in the airplane with a "swoosh!"

Inside the plant, Otto comes across a warning sign, reading "Danger Atomic Breeder". There isn't a soul on this island running the equipment and yet there is "an active nuclear breeder". Just then, Hammerhead breaks down the door with his head. Ock warns him to back off. With this dangerous equipment, "the slightest vibration could set off a chain reaction". Hammerhead, still dumber than a two-by-four, thinks Ock is just stalling to allow Aunt May to get away. He still doesn't know why May is so special but he's going to track her down after he crushes Octavius. He lowers his head and charges toward Doc and the atomic breeder. And the next thing you know, the entire island goes up in an atomic explosion, complete with mushroom cloud.

The noise of the blast awakens Aunt May. She is terrified to discover that she is in an airplane with "that horrible Spider-Man" and without Otto. Spidey starts to try to explain but is spared the trouble. May quickly passes out once again.

It is almost dawn now in New York City and two people are still awake at Betty Brant's residence; Betty herself and the last remaining guest from her party, Mary Jane Watson. (Oh sure, Gerry can remember plot threads he set in motion 15 issues ago but he can't remember that MJ left the party only ten pages ago.) MJ announces that she'd better leave. If Pete hasn't shown up by now, he never will. She tells Betty that she doesn't want to love Pete. "I like the guy too much for that kind of scene", she says. Then, deciding the conversation has gotten "too heavy", she heads out into the snow, saying "I'll think about Petey tomorrow. Yeah. Like Scarlett O'Hara said... tomorrow is another day!"

It isn't until a one-panel flashback in ASM #134 (July 1974) that we learn that Peter hustled a disoriented Aunt May over to Anna Watson's apartment "where she's been resting ever since". (But where did he land that airplane?) We don't see her again until ASM #137 (October 1974) when she seems all back to normal just in time to be kidnapped by the Harry Osborn Green Goblin. (Spidey rescues her, of course.) Then May disappears again until ASM #142 (March 1975) when she seems safely ensconced back in her home in Forest Hills.

The Jackal next appears in ASM #139 (December 1974) sponsoring the Grizzly. There's a Lookback of that story elsewhere in PPP.

Gerry Conway was once notorious as the murderer at Marvel. In his stint on Spider-Man, Gerry knocked off The Smasher, The Demolisher, Jean-Pierre Albert Arthur Rimbaud, Gwen Stacy, Norman Osborn (Green Goblin), The Kangaroo, Doctor Octopus, Hammerhead, The Molten Man, Mysterio (off-camera), The Spider-Clone, and Professor Miles Warren (The Jackal). A number of these people have been resurrected in stories since, of course. But no one could revive Ock and Hammerhead, could they? I mean, they blew up in a nuclear explosion, for God's sake! That's all for them, isn't it? Don't stop now! Keep reading!

 Posted: 2001
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)