Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #143

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


What is there to say about the villain called Cyclone? Well, he's got a fairly ridiculous power. He wears a silly looking costume with swirls on the front and back that probably drove artist Ross Andru crazy. (Except, of course, that Ross probably designed the costume.)

Like our previous candidate Mirage, he has henchmen who have silly looking costumes that are a variation on his silly looking costume. But wait, there's more. The Cyclone is also a Frenchman which not only means that Spidey has to travel to Paris to fight him but also that he gets to spout such immortal lines as "Pig! I will flatten you!", "Oui, mon enemi", and the ever-popular "The problem with you Americans is you cannot understand your own vulnerability." Add to the mix the fact that Spidey defeats him in the dopiest manner since he smacked the ears of the Mindworm and that his entire caper plays second-fiddle to a surprise re-appearance of a previously major character (from Cyclone to Clone as it were) and you've got a perfect candidate for being in that bar when the Scourge of the Underworld comes in and starts blowing super-villains away. And what do you know? There he is!

Story '...And the Wind Cries: Cyclone!'

First a little backstory: In the previous two issues (ASM #141-142, February-March 1975), Spidey is bedeviled by phantom images of various old enemies attacking him. These appearances seem to have Mysterio written all over them except that one illusion takes place when our hero is in his apartment dressed as Peter Parker and Mysterio reportedly died in prison the year before. Across a busy New York street, Pete catches sight of a woman who is the spitting image of his dead girl friend Gwen Stacy and this, coupled with the other visions, nearly convinces him that he is going insane. In the end, Spidey discovers that the phantoms are actually illusions being broadcast via a transmitter that has been planted on the front of his costume in a battle with Mysterio, and that Quentin Beck, the Original Mysterio is indeed dead but replaced by an old buddy named Danny Berkhart. (Well, Quentin was dead at this point of the continuity anyway.) After his arrest, Berkhart calls the man who was financing his attack on the wall-crawler, J. Jonah Jameson, and demands legal help or else. Jonah's immediate reaction is to flee like a scared rabbit. On the spur of the moment, he tells Betty Brant that he has an urgent meeting in Paris and "could be gone for months". Which explains everything except... if Spidey isn't going insane and Mysterio doesn't know he's Peter Parker, what is the deal with the Gwen Stacy sightings? Let's get down to it.

It is sometime between Christmas and New Year's Eve and it is raining in New York. (Recall that the near marriage of Doctor Octopus and Aunt May in ASM #131, April 1974 took place on a previous New Year's Eve and you can see that Gerry has just made a real year equal a Spidey year. The nerve. If you went through and counted up all the holiday references since Amazing Fantasy #15, I wonder how many times Peter and his pals have celebrated Christmas and New Years in the ten years they've supposedly been around?) Spider-Man is webslinging through the wet stuff when he thinks he sees Gwen Stacy heading down into the subway. Before he can react to the appearance, she is gone and Pete decides he must either be crazy or seeing ghosts. He realizes that he has been thinking about Gwen quite a bit lately and probably wants "to see her so desperately I'm imagining things". He puts the blame on Mysterio for "forcing me to doubt my sanity" and decides, "all of that introspection must have broken down some hidden wall in my memory opening up a whole Pandora's Box full of guilt and delusion". Well, it sounds good anyway. Good enough for Spidey to swing away vowing to put it all out of his mind. "She's dead", he declares, "that's the end of it. Nothing can bring her back. Nothing."

Minutes later, our hero arrives at the Daily Bugle, jimmies the window, and enters the empty office of J. Jonah Jameson. Spidey's been meaning to talk to Jonah about the Mysterio incident for the last week (since he's had a feeling that "Jameson knew more about what happened than he let on") but hasn't been able to get to it. Now, he notices not only that JJJ is not there but also that the publisher's "In and Out" box on his desk is empty. This can only mean that Jonah has been away for some time. Since he knows he isn't likely to get any info as Spider-Man, he changes to Peter Parker and cozies up to Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jameson's secretary.

Pete starts by buttering Betty up. He asks her whether she and Ned Leeds have set the date for their wedding. ("August 27th", Betty replies for all you trivia buffs, except that, when Len Wein finally presents the wedding in ASM #156, May 1976, all the arriving guests are wearing winter coats.) Then, he kisses her on the cheek and tells her "you know you're the only girl I ever loved" (which crosses the border from "buttering up" to something that's just a little bit weird). Then, with Betty in a suitably blushed state, he asks her what's become of JJJ. Betty tells him that Jonah is in Europe because "something came up". Pete is savvy enough to deduce that the "something" that came up was the capture of Mysterio.

With Jameson out of the way, Joe Robertson is in charge of the paper. Peter saunters over to Robbie's office in time to see the Editor-in-Chief chewing out some hapless employees. But he shelves the "Captain Bligh routine" when he sees Peter and offers to buy him lunch. The two men head to a Chinese restaurant where, after the wonton soup, Robbie reveals his reason for requesting Pete's company. He knows Pete has been working for Jonah for a long time, longer than he has himself, so he thinks the young photographer is the right man to help out. Robbie pulls a telegram out of his pocket and hands it to Peter. The telegram reads, "Come to Paris immediately stop bring one million dollars negotiable bonds stop authorization for removal from Daily Bugle account follows stop urgent you come at once stop" and it is signed "J J Jameson". Peter's first reaction is to joke about the message but Robbie thinks it is very serious. "Something's happened to him", he tells Pete, "I want you to come with me tonight!"

Pete agrees, but first he has a few things to do. He webslings over to Empire State University where he runs into Flash Thompson and Liz Allen in the hallowed halls. Pete has no time to chat but invites them both over to his place for coffee... "say, next Monday?" They agree. Pete then legs it up the stairs and slips into "a class already half over" which is being taught by Professor Warren. After class, he requests a one-week leave of absence. Warren tells Pete that "you've improved this past semester, Mr. Parker". On the strength of that, the Professor agrees to secure a leave of absence from the Dean's office. Soon after, Peter has his leave successfully in hand. He is off for the pleasures of Paris! (So, does he have a passport or will customs just accept his leave of absence?)

By evening the rain has turned to snow. A cab carrying Peter, MJ, and Robbie pulls up at Kennedy International Airport. In the terminal, Pete and MJ sit close with Robbie a discrete distance away until "Flight 907 to Paris via London" is called for "boarding at gate 5". MJ and Pete stand and face each other, holding hands. (Pete's hands are still bandaged from when he punched out a brick wall in ASM #141, February 1975. It is that same loosely wrapped bandaging that always seems to show up in comics and in movies about the curse of the Mummy.) MJ tells Pete to "take real good care of yourself". Pete agrees to do just that if MJ will answer "one question". "Why do you always call me Tiger", he asks. "Oh Petey", MJ replies, "I call you Tiger 'cause you're not!" And then, with a smiling Robbie sneaking a peak from his seat, they kiss. The kiss lasts for a while and Gerry tells us in his caption that, "Whatever the reason, something happens and neither he nor she will ever be the same." As they separate, MJ is stunned by the passion of Peter's kiss. She says, "wow" (twice!) as she gazes into Peter's eyes. Pete struggles for words to express himself. Finally, MJ asks, "Why, Peter are you blushing or is that acne?" and Peter laughs, breaking the moment. Robbie steps in and tells Peter it is time to board the plane. (And look at how unconcerned with tickets and security Kennedy Airport is! There's just an empty corridor that leads to the plane. Any old freeloader could get on!) Pete turns and waves just before boarding. He promises MJ that he'll be back. She tells him that she'll be waiting.

Seconds later (or so it seems) the plane takes off. Pete gazes down at the terminal from his window seat. There is one single person in the entire airport. It is MJ watching the plane depart. She walks off alone, muttering "far freakin' out" to herself, which I assume refers to her moment of passion with Pete but could just as easily be a reaction to the fact that she's the only person in one of the world's busiest airports.

Twenty hours later, Spider-Man is in Paris swinging by the Eiffel Tower. He settles down on a rooftop and runs across it to peer down on Joe Robertson who is standing under a streetlight, which is at the start of a bridge crossing the Seine. There are steps leading down to a brick mooring. Spidey knows that Robbie "is unaware that Spider-Man is in France" and "unaware that I'm following him" but he still feels like the Bugle Editor is leading him on a wild goose chase. He decides that it must be the plan of the kidnappers to have Robbie "have his cab drive around like that to lose anyone who might try to trail... and catch the crooks". He pulls out his camera and snaps a picture, then settles back on the roof and observes. Shortly thereafter, a voice calling "Monsieur Robertson" wafts up from under the bridge. The web-slinger's spider-sense informs him that "it's the same man who called us an hour ago". (Man! I knew the spider-sense was good but I didn't know it was that good!)

As Robbie descends the stairs, Spidey starts to position himself to get more photos. But he gives up on that idea in a hurry because, instead of a simple ransom drop-off, Robbie gets attacked by three goons in silly-looking blue and gold costumes. Spidey decides to "break the NATO pact" and break up the assault (and, fortunately for his secret identity, Robbie is already unconscious). He attaches webbing to his camera and flings it up to the top of the streetlight for safekeeping. Then he webs one goon's feet to the ground and punches the guy right on the chin. As the punched man tries to recover, a second leaps and misses Spidey, hitting his head on the stairs even as the third gets kicked in the jaw by the web-slinger. They converse in French, which Spidey can't understand because he only took Spanish in High School. (And I could have sworn that, in an earlier issue, when Spidey fought the Tarantula, he lamented the fact that he only took French in High School, but now I can't find it. Am I crazy? Did I make this up? Help me out here, people!) Anyway, the webhead responds with a "Parlay-voo to you too, buster!" One of the thugs is amazed at the wall-crawler's speed. "Only the Cyclone himself could move so fast", he says. And if that isn't a cue, I don't know what is. Except... first, (after Spidey knocks everyone unconscious) a flashback.

It was only three hours ago that Peter and Robbie arrived in Paris. Robbie had previously arranged to "bring Jonah's stocks into the country" ("Stocks", "bonds", what's the difference?) "so customs was a breeze". The two newspapermen arrive at their hotel on the Blvd. Saint-Germain and go out to eat. Just as they re-enter their room, the phone rings. When Robbie answers, his suspicions are confirmed. Jonah Jameson has been kidnapped and his captors have given Robbie instructions for delivery of the ransom. Robbie tells Pete to stay in the room but, of course, as soon as Robbie leaves, Pete switches to Spider-Man and follows him. Robbie grabs a cab outside the hotel and takes a "grand tour of Paris". His cab crosses the Seine, passes by the Cathedral de Notre Dame, turns west on the Rue de Rivoli, travels "around the Place de Vendome where they have Napoleon's statue", ends up circling the Arc de Triomphe via the Champs Elysses, then swings around past the Eiffel Tower where it finally stops on the left bank of the river. (All of which is little more than an excuse for Ross Andru to give us cool shots of Spidey webslinging by the landmarks of Paris. But it's also the whole point of sending him on the trip, isn't it?)

Back in the present, Robbie starts to regain consciousness. Spidey knows that he daren't allow the City Editor to see him in France so he casually karate-chops Robbie in the back of the neck, knocking him out again. He hefts Robbie over his shoulder and takes him up the stairs, only now realizing that his interference is doing little good because Jameson is still being held captive. Seconds later, the issue becomes moot as some force sends Spidey flying through the air. He ends up crashing headfirst into a brick wall. Woozy, he gets a sensation of a strong wind swirling behind him. When he clears away the cobwebs, he discovers that the wind is not just a sensation borne of his collision. Right next to him is a small whirlwind with a masked man inside of it. The wind stops and the man reveals himself. He is dressed in a light blue-dark blue combo costume. His boots, gloves, belt (which looks like he stole it from Dynamo in the old THUNDER Agents comics), and swirly thing on his chest are yellow. "You Americans!" he chides, "you can never keep from interfering in matters which do not concern you!" He introduces himself as the Cyclone, and then whips up the wind again. Spidey watches from a sitting position as the villain creates a compact tornado and uses the vortex to grab up Joe Robertson and the three goons. Then the Cyclone uses his self-made storm to ram the building with which Spidey previously collided. The power of the cyclone causes the entire building to collapse on top of the web-spinner.

As Spidey slowly starts to dig himself out, the Cyclone dictates terms from inside his whirlwind. He now has both JJJ and Robbie and he demands that one million dollars be paid "within twenty-four hours [or] both men will die!" (This whole thing would have been a lot easier if the Cyclone had just had Robbie bring the million dollars with him at this initial meeting. Why else did he take that cab all over the city? Just to chat?) "And perhaps when they are dead, American interloper", taunts the French bad guy, "I will next come after you!"

The Cyclone swirls away as Spidey emerges from the rubble. The web-slinger rubs his neck and mutters, "For this I gave up biochemistry class?" (Well, Pete, you weren't going to your classes anyway.)

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