Note: In this issue, Peter Parker does not go wild in the least. “Well, who’s gonna be doing this fill-in since Marv and Keith bailed, probably the usual, Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema or Jim Mooney, I guess” WRONG, it’s Roger Stern and John Byrne! Big guns, all-stars! This may be a fill-in, but it’s a top shelf fill-in! They are joined by Gene Day on inks and George Roussos on colors, and they are finally going let us know what’s going on with JJJ. That’s weird. The 3rd writer in 3 months resolving this dangling plotline might seems odd, but it’s very Roger Stern. ASM is clearly in a rough patch right now, tho. Some cover on this one, huh? Al Milgrom makes it look like Peter has already broken Robbie in half. Anyway. Hey. Let’s do it. Fade in on JJJ strapped to a table and hallucinating Spider-Men everywhere.
Jonas Harrow is one of the weirdest things to ever happen to Spider-Man comics. He’s been rambling around in the shadows of this book for three different regular writers, never actually encountering Spider-Man, just messing with various villains, for almost a decade, at this point. That’s crazy. Anyway, “Mental Attitude-Response Variator Ray” (MARVR? Like Marv-er? Is that a jab at Wolfman for having to clean this up? Am I overthinking it? Has this tangent gone on too long? How have you been? You eating right?)? Harrow has been zapping JJJ with his device since at least ASM 196, through him firing Robbie and being voted out by the board and allat. Even JJJ busting out of the looney bin was Harrow’s doing. Then we learn he’s been using what he learned driving JJJ crazy to do the same to… Joe Robertson, of course. That’s why he’s acting like a jerk now that he’s taken JJJ’s place. I have no idea if this was Wolfman’s plan or not, but Stern at least puts all the pieces together in a satisfactory order.
Peter just bumbling into a mess every time he goes to The Bugle makes me laugh. The MARVR is now clearly working on both Robbie & Marla, and when Peter rushes in, it gets him, too, and he violently shoves them apart. That is as wild as he goes, angrily breaking up a fight. Then the whole Daily Bugle staff goes crazy. Peter pulls the fire alarm to get everyone to leave, but he knows something is up. He uses his Spider Sense to trace the feeling of danger to JJJ’s office, and then out the window. Soon enough, Spider-Man is swinging towards Harrow’s machine. So he just turns it on Spidey. He is wracked with fear and doubt, almost falling to his death, but holds fast, tracing the source of these feelings to a water tower. When he smashes it open, it contains Harrow’s machine. His reaction is pretty good.
Harrow having to be like, “It is I, your archnemesis, who you have never met! Allow me to tell you how I’ve been messing with you all this time!” is so awkward and funny. Our man crashes through a window into Harrow’s lair, JJJ nowhere to be seen. Harrow assumes he can just zap Spidey with a more powerful and mobile version of his MARVR, but Spidey dodges with ease as he’s ready this time.
For a 2nd time in as many months, Stern has Spider-Man drawn on his scientific knowledge to fight his villain, as he notices a bank of voltage regulators and deduces that destroying them will kill the beam. While he’s working on that, JJJ is on the loose, and pulls a plug out of the wall right as Spidey destroys all the regulators. Naturally, JJJ thinks he’s a hero when the power goes out, but Stern lets us know he’s just unplugged an answering machine.
Ok, but… doesn’t Robbie deserve to know what’s been happening to him? Jonah doesn’t even really know. I commend the team for doing their best to land this turkey, but there’s a lot of loose ends left.