So there's this cabdriver who knows Spider-Man's secret identity, see, and he's willing to sell that knowledge to a trio of thugs to get money for a desperately needed operation. But is there more than meets the eye here?
Charlie Clemmens has offered three criminals--with whom he has tangled before--the opportunity to learn Spider-Man's secret identity. Obviously, they are skeptical, and the unofficial leader of the pack--"Seeds"--demands proof. So Charlie offers to produce a demonstration. Seeds' girlfriend Lorraine is unlucky enough to walk into the room at this point, and is coerced into robbing a pharmacy to see if Charlie can produce the web-swinger.
The four men sit in Charlie's cab and watch Lorraine enter the pharmacy. Charlie calls the Daily Bugle on Seeds' cell phone. Shortly thereafter, Spider-Man shows up and apprehends the now-freaked Lorraine. That's enough to satisfy Seeds' crew, and they (reluctantly) pick Friday to rob Charlie's jewelry store. Charlie goes home alone to find a message scrawled on his wall: "We need to talk."
Friday arrives, and the robbery goes off without a hitch. Charlie is paid his $500,000, and Seeds' crew receive a note telling them where Spider-Man will be later that night. They show up on time, gloating about how much easier life will be with Spider-Man in their back pocket, when Spidey arrives. They follow him into a nearby building...
...only to find themselves at the 10th Annual Spidey Convention (complete with "Special Guest!") Realizing they've been had, the three criminals turn around to find Spider-Man standing behind them. They sprint through the building, running into countless people in Spidey costumes, only to find themselves webbed up for the police in the alley outside. The real Spider-Man swings down from the building to meet Charlie, who was one of the men in the Spidey outfits. Charlie starts to tell him what happened, but collapses in pain.
The scene shifts to a hospital, where Charlie's ex-wife is looking over their son. The doctor tells her that the operation is a success, and Gladys tells her that she still doesn't know where the money came from. "I didn't have a cent. Then one night, on the dresser, this--this HUGE pile of cash. Over half a million! I mean... how? Who could have--?"
"The important thing is," the doctor says, "it bought your son's life."
Gladys wlaks over to another hospital room, where Charlie lies comatose. He is dreaming of the night he met Spider-Man. One night, while driving his cab, Charlie is T-boned by a police car in hot pursuit of Seeds' crew. Spider-Man sees the explosion, and runs over to help. Charlie has managed to climb out of the cab, but screams that his son is still in the back seat. Spidey pulls the boy out of the wreckage, and gives him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The boy wakes up, and reflexively pulls Spidey's mask off. The two men look at each other, Spider-Man handing Charlie's son back to him. And Charlie continues to dream, an odd smile on his face.
In any kind of a story, you can get a lot of mileage out of what ISN'T said. Take "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd," by Agatha Christie, which is my all-time favority mystery novel. It's too good to spoil (if you haven't read it, go buy it now) but suffice it to say that the murderer is absolutely the LAST person you would expect it to be. And it works because of what Christie DIDN'T explicitly say. (Yeah, that's really vague, but I really don't want to give away the ending. Sorry.)
Anyway, Bruce Jones pulls basically the same trick here, and the result is another great story. Go back to the first two issues. The second doctor Charlie sees never says that the $500,000 operation is for HIM, does he? The silhouette in Benny's doorframe is wearing a nurse's cap, isn't she? But we're not supposed to notice these things, and sure enough I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. A man who just last issue appeared willing to sell out an innocent man to save his own life turns out to be a man willing to risk his neck to find any way to save his son. And it fits the story's setup like a glove. Very, very nice work.
One gripe: Charlie is paid off in stolen jewelry, and collapses later that night. When did he have time to sell the jewelry and get the cash for Benny's surgery? I'd think it would take longer than a couple of hours.
Great story, great, gritty art, and just another great addition to anyone's Spider-Man collection.
I said last month that this story would rise or fall based on the final issue. And it came through with flying colors. Four-and-a-half webs.