Did I really pay $3.50 for this raggedy thing? I have the vaguest memory of buying this issue. I feel like I got it in college. Why, I couldn’t begin to say, especially beat to crap like this. But I just sort of feel like I was browsing back issues, and this one was close to the 290s, and I had some of those, so I got it. Not the most insightful memory, but at least it is one, unlike a lot of books lately. Behind that gnarly Zeck/McLeod cover we find… the guys who’ve been doing all these fill-ins in the other books. Alan Kupperbuerg pencils and Jim Fern inks. Not exactly the A-Team, but I guess everyone knew this book would need a new creative team in just 5 issues, so why call in the big names? We open on Hammerhead swearing revenge for the attempted hit on him last issue.
I feel like that first panel’s exposition could’ve been handled more artfully.
Good joke. It’s kinda funny to me how fans forced The Rose to “be somebody.” No reason he couldn’t have been an all-new villain, as intended, but the hype machine got rolling, and the would’ve been foolish to ignore it. Anyway, that attack on one of Rose’s facilities, a gambling den hidden in an arcade, has been visited by Spider-Man, who starts whupping everyone on both sides of the argument. But the last 2 Blue Boys are gunned down from outside, and Spidey soon discovers it was The Punisher.
I was snarky about the art team seeming to just be whoever was around, but this book looks pretty sharp. No disrespect. Spider-Man’s danger sense alerts him that Punisher has freed himself, which doesn’t really add up, and then we check in on Hobgoblin, telling us Punisher is the guy he shot at last issue in case we missed it, but not telling us much else. Elsewhere, Jack O’Lantern hits a mob junkyard that’s stopped paying its money to Kingpin’s organization only to find Hammerhead and Co. waiting for him inside. Jack flees, thinking “Oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh,” which is just very funny to me. Then, strangely, the scene from last issue where Arranger is telling his goons to stop bothering him about Kingpin’s return when he’s interrupted to be told Richard Fisk has arrived repeats, more or less the same. What?
Vanessa sure is looking young these days. So, we’ve seen that Richard turns out to be The Rose, unfortunately, but I think we’re supposed to think he’s Hobgoblin here. Is he? Meanwhile, Spider-Man swings to The Bugle to drop off his shots of the fight, but other photographers have beaten him to it, another beat repeated from last issue, except without Lance Bannon. This is weird.
The mysterious Ann MacIntosh returns, now with black hair! What on Earth is she doing with that pen? It looks like she’s shaving, except, with a pen. Ned & Robbie’s discussion feels like it picks up from last issue, even though it’s been at least 24 hours. Soviets in the 60s, eh? What’s that all about?
One could, if one were so inclined, read Ned’s jealousy of Ben a certain way, considering The Daily Bugle is such a Spider-Man thing, and yet Ben Urich became its most famous reporter almost immediately after being created in Daredevil. In the 2020s, he’s harassing The X-Men now. He’s everywhere. Spider-Man leaves The Bugle, again repeating his mantra of “should I even bother, once I free Flash I hang up the tights, etc,” an already hollow and annoying plot point now repeating multiple times per issue. He ultimately decides to try to help Arranger, because of course he does, so none of that meant anything. We quickly check in on Hammerhead prepping for the hit, saying The Rose is next, then Punisher prepping for the hit, having naturally found out about it, and telling himself he’ll kill Spider-Man if he interferes. So, later, the time is approaching, Punisher’s getting into position, Spider-Man is cluelessly swinging around, when he accidentally spots Punny taking out a goon.
The hit prevented, Spider-Man’s left fighting Punisher, giving him the usual lecture, getting nowhere, also as usual. Punny’s been wearing a gas mask the whole time, for no obvious reason, and Spider-Man begins to wonder if Punisher might actually kill him.
Exit Punisher, stage right. Despite the gang war continuing for 3 more issues, he’s done, for some reason. Man, maybe I should replace this issue, it’s a mess.