Web of Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #116

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


We conclude our inaugural "Worst of The Worst" with the last dying gasps of the four-part Facade! story arc.

Story 'Crescendo'

Spidey is stretched out on the ground, unable to move. Facade stands above him, ready to impale him with a sharpened piece of the broken fire escape. But, even as the villain raises the spear over his head, he is too late. A barrage of machine-gun fire strikes him from behind. He turns to see Betty Brant dressed in a low-cut black leather danskin with a black leather jacket and a big blue ribbon that serves as a headband. She even bothered to change to different earrings! She tells Facade that Spider-Man "bought me enough time to double back to the armory in my closet". (I kid you not.) She fires the machine-gun one-handed. Unfortunately, the Facade armor is too tough to be dented by bullets. Ignoring Betty's attack, Facade turns back to Spidey and slams the spear down hard! All it shatters is concrete. Betty's diversion has allowed Spidey enough time to recover and flee. Facade taunts the webhead for running away but Betty is unperturbed. Declaring she believes "in payback", she fires away at the armor with her gun. Soon, though, she must turn away and escape through a big gaping hole into her apartment. Facade follows, referring to her as "Betts". (Hey, wait, Peter often calls her "Betts"! Maybe Facade is secretly Peter Parker!) But he doesn't get far. Instead, he is punched out into the alley by the strong left fist of the Amazing Spider-Man. Spidey tells Facade that the cops are on their way. Why this should scare someone in that armor is beyond me but it's enough to get Facade to flee the scene. He tells the web-slinger that this is only delaying the inevitable. He plans to get Betty Brant... "even you can't protect her forever". But Spidey doesn't plan to wait around for his opponent. He fires a spider-tracer at the fleeing villain that ends up attached to the inside of the armor's left ankle.

An unspecified time later, Lance Bannon's funeral takes place. His parents (Ernest and Jennifer Bannon for all you trivia buffs) are there, as is Amy Powell. The only attendees from the Daily Bugle are JJJ, Joe Robertson, Betty Brant, Ben Urich and Cole Cooper. Peter Parker is a no-show because Spider-Man is observing the scene hidden up in a tree near the gravesite. He reflects on the fact that he hasn't been able to sense Facade in spite of the spider-tracer. He also hasn't checked in with Mary Jane or Aunt May in quite some time because he is, you know, The Spider.

The minister asks if anyone would like to speak about Lance. Amy, supported by her two roommates (why, whenever a comic puts three women together, do they always make one a redhead, one a brunette, and one a blonde?) can't bring herself to speak. Cole decides that the least he can do is say something about his "respected colleague". As he begins, Archer Bryce and Victor arrive. Betty is surprised to see them. Why, she wonders, would they attend the funeral of a complete stranger? Bryce says he is there for Betty. "And Victor goes where I go, of course."

Cole's eulogy quickly becomes a paean to his own abilities. Sloane Chase sidles up to John Jameson and comments on the size of Cole's ego. The two men start to chat. Jonah sees the conversation and lashes out, accusing Chase of harassing his son "with your absurd accusations of murder". This, obviously, puts a crimp in the funeral ceremony. John gets mad at his father for "making a public headline" out of everything. Betty steps in and suggests that everyone get together to "pool our resources to catch a killer". Chase agrees. As Ben Urich takes the Bannons home and Joe Robertson takes Amy and her roommates home, Betty, JJJ, and Chase go back to the Bugle to compare notes. As twilight approaches, four men, John Jameson, Cole Cooper, Archer Bryce, and Victor, (there's your four suspects, folks!) are left to "share an awkward moment of silence together". There is no one in the treetops to observe them. Spider-Man is long gone.

At the Bugle offices, Betty Brant presents her list of "financially-motivated guests that attended the Macro Museum reception". Jonah decides to interrupt her with a confession. Betty tells him to say nothing without an attorney but JJJ "can't afford to wait any longer". He admits that he lied about being with John at the time of Lance's murder. He only wanted to protect his son but he's "no longer sure that was in anybody's best interests anymore". Chase now knows that John Jameson has no alibi for "any of Facade's attacks so far". Betty turns away in despair. She has never seen JJJ "so broken". This sympathetic reaction turns out to be lucky indeed because she ends up looking out the window just at the moment that Facade comes flying right towards them. Betty shouts out a warning and Chase pushes everyone down. But Facade never makes it through the window. He is snagged on the back with the webbing of The Spider.

Facade thinks he now has it all figured out. Knowing the webbing is a conductor of his energy, he reaches back, grabs the web, and fires his (all together now...) Green Blasts! Spidey drops the webbing before the jolt gets to him and leaps behind the Daily Bugle sign on the roof of the building. Facade, demonstrating typical super-villain idiocy, follows the webhead, which allows Spidey to slip around and kick him in his armored face. But Facade is unfazed by this. He fires his (hem) green blast at a bouncing Spider-Man, then fires his (sigh) green blast again. (He also declares that his power supply is limitless! Oh no!)

The chase has led to the end of the Daily Bugle sign. Facade thinks of this as a dead end for Spider-Man. The wall-crawler knows he could just swing away but that would leave Facade free to attack his intended victims. That, and his belief that The Spider "has nothing to lose anymore", prompt our hero to act. He snags Facade's right hand and right foot with webbing, then pulls tight. The hand and foot come together, completing the circuit. Facade paralyzes himself in a big flash of a (yeah) green blast.

The armor lands on the roof. Spidey can see that it is already repairing itself. He knows he must act quickly to put an end to it. Ignoring the jolt of the (uh-huh) green blast that surrounds him, he pulls with all his might and rips the entrance door right off the Facade armor. But the electro-shock becomes too much for him and he passes out.

When he recovers consciousness, Betty Brant is standing above him. While Spidey was out and before the others arrived, the man inside the armor managed to make his escape. The armor is fused together, "nothing more than scrap metal" so the threat of Facade is finished. But the killer has gotten away. Sloane Chase vows to "take a lot closer look at the other mourners who knew we were coming here". Betty plans to "find out the truth about Archer Bryce". But Spidey figures his job is done. He swings away into the night.

In the cemetery, a man stands before Lance Bannon's grave. It is Facade, concealed in a cap pulled over his eyes and a coat. His hair is visible, though, and it does not look like Cole Cooper or Victor's hair. He refers to Lance by his first name, which implies John Jameson. But he also reflects on the fact that he tasted "true power" while within the armor and that without it "I truly am a hollow facade". With John Jameson's history of space spores and moonstones, this taste-of-true-power comment seems more appropriate for Bryce.

This is the last we ever see of Facade. Meanwhile, Aunt May is in the hospital. She is in a coma with a breathing tube down her throat. MJ stands over her bed and wonders why Peter has not shown up. May needs him. MJ needs him. She can't face much more of this alone.

Outside the hospital, a man pulls up on a motorcycle. He never thought he would be back in this neighborhood again but, after hearing of May's stroke from MJ over the phone, he knew he had to come. He enters the hospital with his motorcycle helmet still on, obscuring his face. A security guard stops him and tells him only family members can visit at this time of night. The mystery man removes his helmet (so the guard can see his face, though we can't) and identifies himself as a family member. But then he hears a voice behind him, a voice from a person he dare not see. Putting his helmet back on, he runs for the exit. Seconds later, Peter walks up to the desk and gets directions to May's room. The guard seems surprised to see him there.

Peter gets in the elevator but has second thoughts. He wants to see Aunt May but he can't face Mary Jane just yet. Deciding that The Spider "doesn't belong here", he bolts. By the time the elevator reaches the correct floor, Peter is no longer in it.

At the desk, the nurse takes a phone call from a man at a pay phone on a motorcycle. She informs him that May Parker's condition has stabilized for now. The mystery of the motorcyclist only deepens.

On the "Web-Zingers" Letters Page, James Dysart of Brainerd, Minnesota contributes the following poem:


There once was a boy named Peter
A brilliant young scholar was he
He lived with his Aunt and his Uncle
His parents having died tragically.

One day at a science exhibition
Peter's life took a rather strange twist
As during the safe demonstration
A spider was blown near to bits.

The spider then landed on Peter
And bit the young lad out of spite
Which gave Peter great super-powers
And made him a star overnight.

Pete's career as a wall-crawling showman
Went on till his Uncle's demise
It taught him a valuable lesson
And made him a hero most wise.

Since then he's battled a legion
Of villains of every shape and size
He's been tortured and shamed
Murdered and maimed
And by evil, completely despised.

All his friends seem to die sooner or later
Or even become his worst foes
It's almost as though he's silk-screened a target
All over his super hero clothes.

Yet, though fate has been cruel
To this web-swinging fool
Don't worry, 'cause this bug-man has guts
And he'll always be my hero
Even if his sales drop to zero
And the Green Goblin blows him to dust.

Now I have been to Brainerd, Minnesota in January so I know what the winter can drive you to. But you got to admit; this is a pretty cool poem. Way to go, James! Nicely done!

Let's wrap this up. Is there anyone out there now who DOESN'T know that the mystery man on the motorcycle is Ben Reilly; the clone of Peter Parker, in what is the opening round of that now notorious storyline? Say what you will about the Clone Saga, we at least can thank it for so thoroughly dominating the Spider verse that Facade was simply never heard from again.

But for those of you who actually care who killed Lance Bannon at this late date, here's a quick recap of the suspects. J. Jonah Jameson has been exonerated. He was with Sloane Chase at the time of Facade's last attack. Mike Wilson wasn't seen again after the first issue, which probably leaves him out. Cole Cooper would probably not refer to Lance as "boy" plus he has the wrong hair to fit the suspect. Victor seems to fail the hair test as well plus he would not likely know Lance Bannon by name. Archer Bryce seems much too obvious and also fails the "Lance by name" test. John Jameson is the prime suspect (his one word comment of "interesting" is the only one of those one word comments that Facade later uses) but I can't imagine him ever referring to Betty Brant as "Betts".

And some questions: What was the detail that Lance finally spotted to give away Facade's identity? Did Cole make any discoveries from the time we saw him in the darkroom to his appearance at Lance's funeral? Why wasn't Archer Bryce in his limo when Victor arrived with Betty Brant? Who would have access to a truck to store the Facade armor? Who would be unconcerned about smashing the back door of that truck? If the killer was one of the men already at the Daily Bugle, why did he smash the lock on the stairwell door? Is there any significance to the fact that the thief knew how to operate the armor or is this just lazy writing? Whatever happened to the guy in the "Eel" suit who was the original operator? And why, if the user would damage his nervous system without wearing the special body insulation, was the killer able to use the armor dressed in only his tux?

Here's the biggest question of all: Why, after four dreary issues, did Terry Kavanaugh fail to provide a solution? Did he not have one himself? Or (here's the scary thought) did he think he was setting up a long-term Spidey mystery that would enthrall the readers for years to come? Did he think he was creating the new Green Goblin? Was the original plan to feature Facade every third month for several years while fans sent in letters to the editor speculating on who the killer might be? Is Terry, even now, sitting at home, typing up a mini-series proposal... something along the lines of Spider-Man: Facade revealed!? Wouldn't you just love to read that story to find out? Naw, me neither.

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