April 1986: Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man 116 – Or, who exactly are we supposed to root for?

 

Synopsis: 

102 uses for a dead cat was written by Peter David, with art by Rich Buckler and Bob McLeod and opens with 5 ridiculous looking thugs about to kill Felicia ‘Black Cat’ Hardy (in costume) after breaking her nose. She’s suffering the effects of a concussion, hallucinating that the lead thug is Spider-Man.

Speaking of…  Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker (all decked out in his black costume) is swinging around the city, enjoying his customary monologue which is out loud for some reason. He’s thinking/talking about how Black Cat’s back luck powers are now messing with his life and he doesn’t want to talk to her about it because he’s a pr—- because he feels awkward about his breaking up with her. He’s happy about being ‘friends’ with Mary Jane, but when he arrives at her place and switches to his Peter clothes, he flips out after seeing Roderick Kingsley leave her place. They have a huge fight and Peter leaves in a huff. Yeah Pete, just friends.

I should say that this is where we get to the villain of the piece, but I’m finding it hard to find the good guy here, so let’s call him the master criminal? The ‘Foreigner’ (yes, that’s what he’s called) is practicing his archery before he is interrupted by Victor ‘Sabretooth’ Creed, the two bicker about the Foreigner being unavailable. I mean it’s just lover’s tiffs a-go-go here today. The Foreigner also shuts down Creed’s attempt to join his group of assassins, pointing out how conspicuous a huge beast of a man in lycra calling himself Sabretooth is. Back with the Black Cat, the lead thug is enjoying some non-consensual kissing, which leads to Felicia (rightfully) kicking all kinds of ass. The Gang falls quickly if not easily as she realises that her bad luck powers seem to be gone. Even so, she is able to leave and the thugs are nowhere near able to stop her.

At Peter’s place, he is pacing the floor, walls and ceiling and talks himself into going to see Felicia again as somewhere else in the city a family moves into a new apartment, the father complaining of the injustice of having to move because he’s a child beater. He storms out and after he has left his terrified son notices his hand is glowing.

Foreigner takes Sabretooth to the room where that Black Cat was, to show him a gold notebook and finds the aftermath of the earlier scene and an empty safe. Despite Foreigner’s protest, Sabretooth catch’s Black Cat’s scent and charges off after his new prey. The thugs are quickly sacked and Spider-Man arrives at Black Cat’s home.

Injured and more than a little vulnerable, Felicia throws herself at Spider-Man, who knocks her back. He tells her about going to Doctor Strange to cancel out her bad luck effect on him and the fact it ‘might’ affect her. Now we get lover’s tiff no 3 and Peter storms out, just in time for  Sabertooth to arrive hungry for blood. Spider-Man busts back in before Black Cat can do anything. Spider-Man and Sabretooth get into their fight as an automatic camera records it for the press. Peter ends the fight by webbing Sabretooth’s face and Sabretooth simply tears it away, along with several strips of skin from his face. Spider-Man leaves after another slanging match with Felicia. Foreigner decides to go after the notebook himself and the little boy with the glowing hand accidentally incinerates his father rather than face another beating and realises that he’s in trouble with his mum.

Notes:  A man running a cadre of assassins, an abusive father, a barely human killing machine, 5 violent gang members and an unrepentant thief and yet the villain of this story is Spider-Man. He screws with Black Cat, has a go at Mary Jane and helps Sabretooth slice his own face open. It’s  hard to root for him.

Okay, the art is pretty good, Buckler and McLeod are a capable team, all expressive faces and clean lines and while the plot is at times ludicrous, the scripting is tight and entertaining, which is par for the course with Peter David. It’s not a bad issue, but it doesn’t paint Spider-Man in all that positive a light. Having fond memories of Roger Stern’s Spider-Man and other writers, even as a fan of Peter David’s, this portrayal of Spider-Man left something of a bad taste in my mouth.

Next Time: More first degree Byrne as we head back to the Baxter Building.

 

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