Web of Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #114

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


We continue our inaugural "Worst of The Worst" with part two of the four-part Facade! story arc.

Story 'Who Among Us?'

  Web of Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #114
Summary: Facade, Death Lance Bannon
Arc: Part 2 of 'Live And Let Die' (1-2-3-4)

The following morning, just before dawn, and J. Jonah Jameson is still in his tux in his office at the Daily Bugle. He is so ashamed of his fight with John that he never went home, unable to sleep in his own bed "surrounded by mementos of my son". But, moments later, John walks into the office. He is ready to talk "man-to-man, instead of behaving like a blowhard". He says that he respects the tough and uncompromising way Jonah has always run the Bugle, but, in spite of that respect, he must go his own way. Jonah asks if this means he will not leave the Ravenscoft job for a position at the Bugle. John realizes he is not getting through to his father. He leaves and Jonah sheds a tear after his son's departure. Outside the office, John considers going back inside to get it straight with his father. But, "What's the use? Dad's made it clear he couldn't care less about what's right for me."

On the other side of the city room, Lance Bannon and Cole Cooper sneak over to the darkroom. Cole wants to develop their respective films together and compare what each got. Lance wants to go it alone. With Amy back with her roommates, assuming that her fiancé is still at the hospital, Lance has slipped out to pursue his scoop. A chagrined Cole leaves Lance by himself in the darkroom. Under the red light, Lance pulls out the roll of film that contains "the big, fat face of the guy who murdered Haney last night and stole the Facade armor".

But, elsewhere in the building, the killer has become Facade once again. He pronounces the suit to be "easier to wear the more I'm inside it", then makes his way to the darkroom door. (Terry seems to be trying to get us to believe that Facade is actually Cole Cooper but I wouldn't buy into that one if I were you... assuming that you care.)

Across town, a man in a brand-new red corvette convertible stops at a streetlight and gets a gun stuck in his face. His car is being high jacked by some anonymous bad guy. The thug peals out but before he can get very far, a large strand of webbing adheres to his back. Spider-Man is on the scene and he yanks the hood right out of the automobile. With no one at the wheel, the car runs smack into a streetlamp, totaling it. The owner is beside himself... "I didn't even take the sticker off the window and now look at it!"... but Spidey is surprisingly unsympathetic. He webs up the crook, then swings away, saying, "some jokers don't know when they're well-off."

In the darkroom, Lance has developed the film. Unfortunately, "the shadows fell right across the culprit's face" so that his identity remains a secret. (He is, however, wearing a tux, which implicates almost everyone.) Lance is not beaten yet, however. He knows a few tricks of the trade, designed to "get as much detail from the shot as possible". Suddenly, he notices something he hadn't seen before, something that reveals the murderer's identity. What is it? Who knows? At just that moment, the door is torn away by Facade and the giant armor steps in. Lance, ever the genius, tries to get Facade to stay back by telling him "I know who you are!" (Maybe he should have said, "leave me alone, I don't know who you are!") It doesn't work. Again, Facade jolts him with his green power blasts. With Lance paralyzed by the attack, Facade whales into the darkroom equipment. The villain says he was only planning to "retrieve the incriminating evidence" but now that Lance has opened his big mouth, Facad e must make sure it is closed forever. He reaches down with his huge metal hand and kills Lance Bannon by snapping his neck!

Just after the killing, Facade realizes that he is deep in it now. He tells himself that Dr. Haney's death was an accident but that he can't deny that he killed Lance Bannon in cold blood. (The fact that Facade knows Lance's name seems to clear Wilson and Bryce and implicate Cooper even more.)

Out in the Bugle offices, Betty Brant arrives from the police. She finds Cole's camera sitting on a desk with no Cole in sight. (Terry's trying real hard to make us believe it's Cole Cooper.) Betty enters Jonah's office but the publisher is not in, even though his coat is still on the coat rack. She notices John Jameson's coat is there, too. (Now Terry is trying to implicate the two Jamesons.) She decides to go to the darkroom to see how Lance is progressing. Lance isn't progressing at all, of course. It's more like he's decaying. A traumatized Betty discovers Lance's corpse.

At dawn, Betty holds a conversation at the scene with Detective Sloane Chase of the NYPD. She tells him that JJJ, John, and Cole were very likely somewhere nearby. As Chase examines the stairwell door (and notices that the lock has been shattered), Amy Powell enters. She tells Betty that she heard that Lance did not go to the hospital. This news has worried her so she has come to the Bugle to see him. She looks at the expression on Betty's face, takes in the fact that a homicide detective is present, and pieces together the truth. She breaks down in tears, muttering, "no no no no no".

The offices of the Daily Bugle are somber this morning. Inside Jameson's office, Sloane Chase questions JJJ, John, and Cole as to their whereabouts. John tells the detective "my father and I had a quarrel here last night so we went back to my place together to settle our differences". Jonah knows this is not true but he doesn't deny it. Instead, he threatens to bring in his lawyers. Cole tells Chase that Lance sent him away. He went to a pay phone to call Amy Powell, hoping "to distract Lance so I could get a look at his photos". (Huh?) Chase warns the three of them, "don't leave town".

Betty, meanwhile, is at the library, checking on "every name on the museum's invitation list, from the enigmatic Arthur Bryce to his quiet butler, Victor... (No! Please! Not Victor!)... until I find the real Facade".

In Forest Hills, Aunt May enters her house, carrying groceries. She is worried, as usual, about Peter. It is shortly after two robots, created by the Green Goblin and the Chameleon, impersonated Peter's "long-dead parents" and brought more pain to his often-painful life. Aunt May's not sure of exactly what happened but she knows that Pete and Mary Jane were both very hurt by the experience. Just as she puts down her groceries, the phone rings. May recognizes the voice on the other end of the line, refers to the caller as "dear" and tells him "seems like ages since we last chatted". She hopes the caller's travels will soon bring him to New York "so we could finally meet in person". She wants to introduce the caller to her nephew. Even as she speaks, May notices the headline in the paper that declares, "Murder at the Bugle". Distressed, May hurriedly tells her caller that she must hang up. And, in a room with a ceiling fan, a man hangs up the phone. He has a satchel next to his feet and his face i s in shadow. He is concerned about the abrupt end of the conversation and he determines that "there's trouble in the Parker family".

That night, Spider-Man hangs around on the roof of the Daily Bugle, reading the newspaper. He hasn't been home since the night before, which is sure to upset Mary Jane, especially considering his recent trauma over his "parents", but he has just learned about Lance's death, he has just read the article by Betty Brant and he is convinced that it is Betty's life which is now in danger. As Spidey blames himself for Lance's death ("if I weren't so wrapped up in my own problems, Spider-Man might've stopped this Facade character..."), Betty sifts through the Bugle's morgue alone, looking to "cross-reference all the party guests through our recent files". Apparently, her only protection is a security guard who is swiftly paralyzed by that familiar green blast. Facade has arrived. He enters an elevator and presses the button for the basement.

But Betty has one more protector. Spidey has entered the building. Coincidentally, he uses the elevator shaft as "the easiest route". While he is in there, his spider-sense alerts him to danger in the elevator car. Spidey punches his way into the car from above but it is already empty. A big hole has been torn in its side. Spidey leaps through and discovers the huge form of Facade, lingering by the printing presses. The villain uses those same tired old green blasts but the web-slinger leaps over them. Spidey's speed surprises Facade. Before the machine-man can turn around, the webhead comes up behind him and knocks him to the ground with one mighty punch. Unfortunately, this only results in a head start for Facade who ignites his boot jets, even as he falls, and flies away. The wall-crawler follows through a narrow corridor between the printing presses. His spider-sense alerts him that danger is striking from above. Facade has used Spidey's strategy of attacking from behind to ambush the wall-c rawler. He holds a huge chunk of machinery over his head and flings it down. Spidey leaps clear but the confined area forces him to go "straight forward". (Wish we could do the same.) As a result, he leaps right into (that's right) those same green force bolts from the hands of Facade.

His radioactive blood allows Spidey to become the first of Facade's "victims to resist total paralysis". Still, Spidey can't get up and Facade rolls an entire press on top of him. Three security men show up and thwart Facade's plan to kill Betty Brant. He flies away, intending to get away and regroup.

Facade's plan to kill Spidey has been thwarted, too. The webhead managed to spin a "web brace" just in time. It is strong enough to hold up the press, keeping it from touching him. But he knows he must extricate himself in a hurry. He has heard enough of Facade talking to himself to know that Betty Brant is the next target.

Down in the morgue, Betty has "turned up extensive entries on every other industrial research company that was represented at the F.A.C.A.D.E. demo... except Brycecorp". There was plenty of "media attention" on Archer Bryce after the deaths of his parents last year but she also learns that "his corporation hasn't actually made any strides in the industry since he inherited it". She decides she must learn more about Bryce and she is so intent on her research that she doesn't notice a hand coming up and resting right on her left shoulder. Responding quickly to the touch, Betty grabs the hand and exerts judo, wounding Victor, Bryce's butler. He apologizes for sneaking up on her and tells her that his employer would like her company out in the back. Victor takes Betty to a limousine and opens the door to let her join Bryce. But Archer isn't in the limo. There is no one in the limo at all.

Meanwhile, Spidey is outside patrolling once again. He's surprised that Facade has managed to escape without a trace. The only thing he can figure is "he's hidden under our noses somewhere". And, inside a truck across the street from the Daily Bugle building, the Facade armor sits; it's chest plate open, waiting for its occupant to return.

Let's review. The murderer inside Facade is actually: A) J. Jonah Jameson B) John Jameson C) Cole Cooper D) Mike Wilson E) Archer Bryce F) Victor or G) Who Cares? I know which one I'm going with. Meanwhile, unfortunately, there are two whole more issues to go.

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