Web of Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #69

 Posted: 2000
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)

Story 'A Subtle Shade Of Green'

Late morning in J. Jonah Jameson's new office where the esteemed publisher is showing a news report to five of his employees... among them, Joe Robertson, Betty Brant, and Peter Parker. The report concerns "a wild beast roaming the Connecticut countryside". Peter wonders what kind of wild beast they can be talking about. "The nearest zoo to that part of New England", he says, "is in the Bronx". Jonah tells Peter to go cover the story and find out. But when Peter asks if he is going to write the story as well as take pictures, Jonah refers him to his partner... the newest Jameson Publications reporter, Betty Brant. Peter is surprised by this. Up til now, he has always thought of Betty as a secretary. But JJJ has gotten the idea that Betty has the talent to do the job. This story is her first big break.

Just as the twosome are about to head out for Connecticut, Robbie asks for a word with Peter. The photog hasn't gotten along with Robbie since the editor-in-chief accused him of faking photos. This talk, thinks Pete, could be trouble.

(Okay, time to get our bearings. At this point in time, J. Jonah Jameson is not in charge of the Daily Bugle. That newspaper was wrested away from him, in a hostile takeover by Thomas Fireheart, the civilian identity of the Puma. (As revealed in The Spectacular Spider-Man #157, Mid-November 1989.) Fireheart, in some misguided attempt to repair the dishonor he has done Spider-Man buys the newspaper and begins publishing pro-Spidey articles and photographs. Jameson is forced to start a new publishing venture. He introduces Jameson Publications (on West 23rd Street in Tribeca) and puts out a magazine called "The Jameson News Digest". The trouble starts, in Web of Spider-Man #63, April 1990, when Peter and MJ stage a photo shoot, using Spider-Man for an ad campaign. At some point in the shoot, Peter removing his Spidey mask, revealing himself. Unfortunately, sleezy shutterbug Nick Katzenberg is up on the roof spying on the Parkers (trying to determine how Peter gets such great shots of Spidey) and he snaps photos of Peter, maskless, in his Spidey-suit. One issue later, Katzenberg shows those photos to JJJ and Robbie and the only way Peter can protect his secret I.D. is to tell them that he faked the photos. He argues that he was justified in doing this faking because the photos are for an advertising layout and are not real news photos. Jonah seems to buy this but Robbie is incensed. He and Peter argue about this and almost lose their friendship over this. Things get worse (in Web of Spider-Man #66, July 1990) when the first issue of "The Jameson News Digest" comes out and features a Peter Parker photo on the cover. Robbie feels betrayed by this, since he feels Peter should be punished for his previous faked photos. All clear? Let's get back to it.)

Elsewhere, at the Cyberbiokinetic Institute of Greater New York, a large brooding bald man with a goatee watches the "wild beast" report and decides this may be the perfect time to test his biokinetic energy absorber (a rather unwieldly device that looks like something Galactus would wear on his head). The man turns out to be the brother of the inventer who used "an earlier prototype model of this device" to steal the Thing's appearance and powers way back in Fantastic Four #51 ("This Man, This Monster", June 1966). In that story, the nameless scientist, jealous of Reed Richards, intends to impersonate the Thing and destroy the Fantastic Four. Instead, he learns to respect the FF's leader and ends up sacrificing his own life in the Negative Zone to save Mr. Fantastic. But his brother knows none of this. He only knows that he received a letter from Ricardo (as the nameless FF villain is now named) that told him he planned to test his device on the Thing. Never hearing from Ricardo again, the brother assumes that the Fantastic Four killed him. So, over the years, the brother worked from Ricardo's note to re-create and improve the device. If he can stage a successful test, he plans to avenge Ricardo's death.

Back at Jameson Publications, Peter and Robbie have their showdown which turns into a reconciliation. Robbie tells Peter he has realized that he was holding him to an unreasonable standard of ethics as compensation for his own feelings of failure when he failed, years before, to testify against the mobster called Tombstone. But, through the latest encounter with Tombstone in the previous issue, Robbie has learned that forgiveness "has to start with ourselves". He and Peter forgive each other as they give each other a big hug.

In Connecticut, a roadblock of cops waits for the wild beast. What they don't expect is a massive figure falling from the sky at the end of an immense jump. It is the Incredible Hulk and he bellows, "Puny Cops!" as he wipes out their squad cars with his landing. But, this time, the Hulk carries Betty Ross Banner in his arms. The cops see her and hold their fire, radioing in for more reinforcements.

Up in the air, Betty talks the Hulk into trying to find a place to hide. He may be bulletproof but she is not. He may be impervious to harm but she is not. The Hulk lands near an old ice house. The pair enter, with Betty assuring the Hulk that they will be safe inside. The very word seems to calm the Hulk and when Betty adds that "You're safe with me", the Hulk reverts back to Bruce Banner. Betty holds him close and promises him that she will stay with him, that "I won't ever let you face that monster alone again".

In Queens, Mary Jane Watson-Parker's young cousin Kristy is being released from an eating disorders clinic. Kristy was a semi-regular figure in recent issues of "Web", where it was revealed that she was bulimic. Now, she leaves the center, in the care of MJ. Kristy thinks she will be forced to leave New York and live with her Aunt Martha but MJ reveals that Harry and Liz Osborn want to hire her "as a live-in babysitter for their little boy Norman". In fact, Liz and Normie are waiting outside the clinic and Normie gives Kristy a big hug. (What ever happened with all of this? Was Kristy just forgotten? Or was there some resolution to her au pair position with the Osborns?)

Liz tells MJ that having Kristy around will give her and Harry more time for romance. Without it, "even the happiest married couples become just roommates", she says and MJ wonders if that is the problem with her relationship. Is it the looking for romance that makes her find Jason Jerome so attractive? (Remember MJ's flirtation with infidelity? If not... it's not really all that important. Or, to put it another way, all these backtracks to previous issues have pretty much worn me out!)

Meanwhile, in Connecticut, Betty drives Pete to the scene of the wild beast sightings. She explains that she has decided to take charge of her own life. In the past she let others make decisions for her and all she got was "a dead-end career as a professional secretary and a nervous breakdown after my husband died". (Betty's husband was Ned Leeds who was killed in Spider-Man vs. Wolverine (February 1987) and subsequently revealed to be the original Hobgoblin only to be "unrevealed" as Hobby many years later. But you knew that.) Now Betty has chosen to take charge of her own life. A big part of that was to accept Jonah's offer of a reporter position.

This soliloquy by Betty is interrupted by a long line of cars waiting at a police barricade. A cop on a bullhorn instructs all the drivers that the road is closed and gives directions for a detour. But Peter notices a jeep that ignores all this and drives off into the roadside woods. Telling Betty to stay with the car while he gets some photos (and ignoring her cries of "You're not in charge.. Peterrrrrrr"), our hero finds the seclusion of the woods and dons the Spidey duds. He webslings through the trees, following the tracks left by the jeep.

And in the jeep, our bald and goateed mad scientist uses his Bio-kinetic energy wave receiver to trace a "massive biological energy source". As he gets closer he is suprised to discover that the "energy source is not entirely biological". It contains, in fact, "gamma radiation in gigantic quantities". And it is coming from the ice house dead ahead.

The scientist stops his jeep, removes his "Galactus helmet" from a suitcase and enters the ice house. The tracer leads him upstairs to a sleeping couple. The scientist learns that "the radiation source... it's that man!" Then he recognizes the man as Dr. Robert Bruce Banner.

Our clueless bad guy thinks he's stumbled on the perfect situation. With Bruce Banner asleep, he can, using his energy absorber, siphon off the power of the Hulk. He applies the pincers on the device to Banner's head which results in Bruce feeling extreme pain. Betty wakes up in alarm as Bruce pushes his assailant away and rapidly turns into the Incredible Hulk. The scientist's calm ("Nothing to worry about, Banner...") turns to fear as the green behemoth turns on him, knocks him aside with a loud cry of "Shut up!" and stands menacingly above him branding him with the crime of being "Banner's friend". Bleeding from the forehead, the scientist can only cower and plead for the Hulk to stop.

Luckily for him, the Amazing Spider-Man is just outside. Spidey smashes through a nearby window and tells the Hulk to back off. The Hulk's sudden movement (along with his great weight) cause him to crash right through the floor and land in a large supply of ice. Spidey follows, trying to hide his surprise at meeting the green goliath. After all, at this point in time, the Hulk is supposed to be dead! (No, no, forget it. You can look that one up for yourselves!) The Hulk isn't even slowed by his fall. He rises up, holding a block of ice and flings it at the wall-crawler. Spidey dodges it easily, declaring the Hulk to be "as much fun as a polar bear during oral surgery". (Huh?) But the ice block shatters a support and the rest of the second floor crashes down, bringing Betty Banner and our bad guy along with it. Betty rushes to the side of the unconscious scientist (who still clutches his device in his hands). He is so still that she fears he is dead. (And, in fact, he is dead. So doesn't this make the Hulk a murderer?) Hulk has no sympathy for any man who is "Banner's friend". In fact, the thought of Banner gets him so worked up that he ends up pounding ice into fragments while screaming "Banner! Banner! Banner!" As Spidey tries to dodge ice chips, Betty takes the energy absorber from the scientist's hands. In the confusion of ice, broken floorboards, and Hulk, she accidentally touches the pincers to Spider-Man's arm. The wall-crawler is immediately overwhelmed with the same sort of pain that Bruce Banner experienced when the pincers touched him.

Spidey is down, which puts him just where the Hulk wants him. Displaying no mercy, the giant grabs Spidey by the neck, lifts him high in the air, then throws him through the ice house wall. The webhead lands in a small pond about a hundred yards away. But it isn't over yet. In a last ditch effort to defend himself, Spidey had sprayed webbing in the Hulk's face even as he was thrown through the wall. This move only further angers the behemoth. He effortlessly rips the webbing away and leaps to join Spidey (feet first) in the pond. The Hulk holds Spidey down in the water and punches him, all the while chanting "Banner's friend! Banner's friend! Banner's friend!" For a moment the two combatants disappear under the water, then they spring up again, each with his hand around the other's throat. But the Hulk is much more powerful than Spider-Man and soon the weakened wall-crawler's hand falls away from the green one's neck. Hulk, however, does not ease up. With a worried and helpless Betty Banner looking on, the duo submerges again. She looks down at the two figures, praying for her and Bruce's sake, that the Hulk does not kill Spider-Man. When she sees the smaller figure fall away from the larger figure, she fears the worst. The Hulk surfaces, expressing apathy for the fate of his opponent, ("Puny Spider stopped fighting. Hulk doesn't care about bug!") and tells Betty they must leave right now. She scoops her up and leaps away. To her anguished question about Spidey's ultimate fate, the Hulk only replies, "Hulk wants to go now. We go!" (Hey, Betty, forget about what he did to Spider-Man! He killed the guy with the energy absorber, didn't he?)

Two minutes later, Spidey finally surfaces. His leg was caught in an underwater root and he was too exhausted to free it any sooner. He watches the Hulk leap away and tries to find the bright side to the whole affair. At least he got some photos with his automatic camera but he also has a killer migraine "not to mention an itch on my back that just won't quit". And it is no coincidence that that itch is in the same spot where his costume has split as if he were growing larger. It also is the source of a faint glow of radiation. Not to mention being the spot where Betty Banner accidentally whalloped him with the energy device's pincers.

 Posted: 2000
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)