Thursday, March 24, 2011

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #81 - October 1991

Living in Fear

Credits: Kurt Busiek (writer), Steve Butler (penciler), Don Hudson & Chris Ivy (inkers), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Two brothers, Wyndell and Ricky, are apprehended by Spider-Man while stealing a car. Years later, Ricky works as a bond trader, but lives in fear that his teenage arrest will be discovered. Wyndell has become the super-powered criminal Bloodshed. When crimelord Bazin demands a million dollars from Bloodshed after a botched drug delivery, Bloodshed turns to his brother. Ricky is reluctant to help Bloodshed steal securities and reaches out to Spider-Man. Bloodshed soon attacks Spider-Man, who subsequently escapes and investigates Ricky. He mistakenly believes Ricky’s the criminal, but learns the truth when Bloodshed invades Ricky’s office. Ricky overcomes his fears and helps Spider-Man place Bloodshed in custody.

The Subplots: None.

Forever Young: Ricky has grown up, graduated college, and become a bond trader, all after an encounter with Spider-Man. The story tries to cover for this by later declaring Ricky was sixteen when Spider-Man apprehended him (although the art makes him look around twelve or thirteen), and by having Peter assert the event occurred during his “first few months as Spider-Man.”

Review: Before he really made a name for himself, Kurt Busiek would occasionally show up as the fill-in guy. This is one of his strongest stories from the fill-in days, a human interest story about two brothers that have followed very different paths in life. Not only is Ricky reformed, but he’s racked with guilt over his youthful indiscretion. Fearful that his past will be discovered, Ricky lives a lonely life of simply doing his job and keeping his head down to avoid attention. Wyndell has embraced crime, and even advanced into the early stages of supervillainy. Druglords have given Wyndell super-strength and an armored suit, and perhaps as a practical joke, an attached pink ponytail (Wyndell is a black man with short hair, making this even more ridiculous).

The story hinges on Ricky’s characterization in order to work, and Busiek’s portrayal of his insecurities and inner conflicts make Ricky an easy character to pull for. Spider-Man is, perhaps, not the best hero for this story, as it requires someone who’s been around for a while, but Marvel of this era wasn’t obsessed with “youth” so it wasn’t much of an issue then. Future Web artist Steven Butler makes his debut as fill-in artist, and I really like his interpretation of Spider-Man. It’s very much the classic Spider-Man of the Romita era, with a little bit of the ‘90s exaggeration thrown in. When Butler eventually takes over the title, he’ll stick with a Bagley-style Spidey, but this is the version I prefer.


Kurt Busiek said...

Glad you enjoyed it, sir.

I'll note, though, that it shouldn't be that hard to believe someone could finish high school, graduate college and begin a career since Spidey's early days. Spider-man's done all of that himself, so people he meets can as well.

And any time problem wouldn't be better off with other heroes, since Spidey got his start very early in the Marvel Age. So if the story had involved Iron Man or Hank
Ym, their careers aren't much longer than Spidey's, if at all. Even the FF don't predate Spidey by much.

As I recall, we chose to make him a bond trader because it's something you can be successful at while young.

Anyway, glad you liked the story, and Steven Butler did a fine job...!

Professor Booty said...

Holy crap, it's Kurt Busiek!

Reading those Spider-Man issues must be nice after all that Spawn crap you're putting yourself through.

HardtravelingHero said...

We've come so far since I started reading you when you were on Onslaught. I'm fairly certain that's when I found your blog.

I think I got this issue and another one before or after in one of those Sears Catalog comic packs in the early '90s or I may have traded it from a friend. I remembered the cover but not its contents. While it sounds solid enough, does it still entertain well?

Wow, according to that link, he's appeared again. I'm surprised he wasn't in Secret War too.

Master Mahan said...

Showing superheroes from the perspective of ordinary people is a theme Kurt Busiek (Hi Kurt!) really likes. Most of Astro City is written that way. The most recent Astro City story, The Dark Age, is about a pair of brothers who encounter a superhero when they're younger, and then grow up to live radically divergent lives, with one being a criminal and the other on the side of the law. As I recall, The Dark Age was an idea Busiek had had for years. So there's that.

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