Friday, August 6, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #39 - June 1988

Petty Crimes

Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: A homeless alcoholic is burglarizing Aunt May’s neighborhood. After Nathan Lubensky’s apartment is robbed, Peter checks on him and vows to recover the engagement ring Nathan gave May. Spider-Man catches the thief at a nearby pawn shop, but he escapes. He soon realizes the local homeless man is actually his old foe, the Looter. Unhinged by seeing Spider-Man again, Looter reclaims his identity and goes on a rampage. He attacks the van Aunt May and her boarders are riding in, and is quickly defeated by an enraged Spider-Man. Nathan recovers the ring and returns it to May, who realizes she still has feelings for him.

The Subplots: A homeless woman pulls the thread out of Spider-Man’s costume while he tries to rescue her from an attacker. Mary Jane is aghast at the outfit (a replacement costume he picked up in Germany). She tells her fashion designer friends that Peter needs a Spider-Man outfit for a costume party, and they create a new one.

*See _________ For Details: Spider-Man has been wearing his red and blue costume since Amazing Spider-Man #300. Mary Jane couldn’t bear to look at the cloth replica of the black costume after her encounter with Venom. The German replacement costume he’s wearing, which has “Die Spinne” written on the back, comes from the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine one-shot. Nathan Lubensky and Aunt May broke up after he allowed the police to kill an intruder in Spectacular Spider-Man #113. They began to reconcile in Amazing Spider-Man #300, when she invited him to dinner.

Miscellaneous Note: The Statement of Ownership has average number of copies sold during the year at 242,875 copies, with the most recent issue selling 243,741.

Review: Like the previous issue, this is a Fabian Nicieza fill-in that actually fits in with the ongoing storylines, and is entertaining in its own right. There are actually two significant events in this issue, as Spidey gets a real replacement costume and Nathan Lubensky and Aunt May reconcile (okay, “significant” might be a strong word, but both plot points resolve ongoing stories in the other titles). I imagine having the “forgotten villain return as a drunken mess” idea has been used quite a few times over the years, but I think it was relatively original by this point. I normally dislike it when Spider-Man’s villains interact with people he knows as Peter Parker, but I think it works in this issue. It is a pretty big stretch that the Looter has ended up homeless in Aunt May’s neighborhood, but the story needs a local burglar and a credible villain for Spidey to fight, so the choice is understandable. I haven’t read a lot of Nathan Lubensky’s early appearances, so other writers might’ve also gone in this direction, but Nicieza’s portrayal of Nathan brings a lot of humanity to the character. He’s still a cantankerous old grouch, but he has the decency to apologize to Peter for the way he’s treated him, and he clearly loves Aunt May. He might be a moderately important supporting cast member who’s been long forgotten, but Nicieza really makes you care about the guy.

This issue is also significant as Alex Saviuk’s first chance to draw Spider-Man in his classic costume. Saviuk was my favorite Spider-Man artist for a few years as a kid, in large part due to his fidelity to the John Romita, Sr. style (which I only knew at the time as the “right Spider-Man,” because that’s the way he looked on all of the merchandise). Only years later did I learn, through this interview, that Romita was actually something of a mentor to Saviuk in comics and directly influenced his work. Saviuk’s a great choice to draw Spider-Man, as he can draw the costume on-model, handle the action scenes, and draw instantly recognizable interpretations of the supporting cast (unlike, say, a certain editor-in-chief). He stuck around for years, drawing Spider-Man in various styles; everything from McFarlane-esque to the ‘90s “animated” look when doing the comic adaptation of the cartoon. I believe he still works on Spidey to this day, on the Spider-Man newspaper strip.

1 comment:

wwk5d said...

Venom already appeared? Interesting, I always thought he first appeared in 1990. Oh well.

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