Here we have an extremely hyped, doomed to disappoint stunt so intense it comes square bound to indicate its importance: The reunion of Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr.! Perhaps the best Spider-Man team ever? Certainly top 2. Just like in the old days, Stan couldn’t actually be bothered to come up with a story, so just like in many 80s and 90s comics where Stan deigned to write some dialogue, Tom DeFalco provides the script. This could be somewhat offensive, considering Jazzy Johnny did a fine job of plotting even Spider-Man comics he didn’t draw in the 60s, but one assumes he was busy and didn’t want to by 1997. Dan Green inks and Steve Oliff colors. I wish with all my heart I could say this is a masterpiece, but it’s just a kind of ok comic by 2 legends who, let’s face it, are past their prime. But that being said, it’s still them, so it’s still fun on some levels, and I sure ain’t gonna say no to a one-shot full of new Romita art. However… Kinda wish they’d let someone ink it a little heavier. We’ll see what I mean shortly. Our story begins with some dudes stealing some stuff out of a warehouse, as dudes are prone to do, when they’re lit up by the Spider Signal coming from Spider-Man’s belt. But then…
Couldn’t have done that in the 60s! Has Spider-Man turned killer? Wouldn’t it be wild if that really happened in a random one-off by (DeFalco) Lee & Romita?
Zoltarro! What a name! It sure feels and looks like the 60s with Zoltarro in the mix. So, like, Dan Green is a fine inker, but Romita is doing a sketchy, spidery line in this book, and I wish someone willing to be more bold in finishing him had been assigned this. Or, alternatively, that Johnny hadn’t insisted it look like this, if that is, indeed, what happened (Very possible!). It looks slightly unfinished. Would love to have seen Scott Hanna or Klaus Janson get this gig. Also, Steve Oliff is giving the book a sort of washed out look. Which, again, maybe that was very intentional, but I think the whole package could’ve popped a lot more with colors by Christie Scheele or Gregory Wright or Kevin Tinsely. Ah, well. Spider-Man goes on a straight up killing spree, killing arious mob figures, and JJJ is ecstatic. Robbie says Spider-Man’s never used guns before, and JJJ says he’s never gotten a tattoo before, but could get one tomorrow, which is a bit I liked.
Now, come on, Peter was there when Robbie found out about this, why would he be so surprised?
Again, this is classic Romita, but it looks unfinished. I wonder if the thin line was an attempt to seem more contemporary. When Romita inks himself in this period, his stuff still has bold lines. Just look at the cover of this, even. Maybe I’m obsessing too much. At any rate, Human Torch’s “shoot first” approach is echoed by a barrage of celebrity guest heroes, as Spider-Man is pursued across the city by such supertypes as Captain America, Reed Richards, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine, Cannonball and Luke Cage, most of them kind of shown in a montage to just get the idea across. Spidey’s having a rough night. He finally drops down into an alley to become Peter Parker to avoid anymore conflict, just in time for Ben Grimm to fly by and as if he’s seen Spider-Man. Peter decides he’s got to do everything he can to clear this up.
So it’s that simple, an army of fake Spider-Men juiced with the drug du jour. That doesn’t explain how they all have webs and spider signals. Kingpin really shelled out for the authenticity. The next day, at the law offices of Nelson & Murdock, Foggy’s boss tells him to reach out to Daredevil to reach out to Spider-Man to get him to let them defend him (A lady was in charge of them in this time, but I don’t really know who she is. She looks a like like Vanessa Fisk). In another room, Foggy’s partner is getting into his Daredevil outfit, thinking he’s the only one who can help Spider-Man clear his name.
Is that mummy Mysterio? Who’s the guy above Ock? Why does The Jackal have wings? Weird page! Peter drops MJ at her train, then his Spider Sense leads him to a waiting Daredevil which… doesn’t quite add up, but whatever. DD asks if he killed those men, Peter says no, DD can tell he’s not lying, and they’re off to clear his name. And of course, DD’s first stop is beating up people in Josie’s Bar. At The Bugle, Ben Urich insists to Robbie that Zoltarro is the real story, but Jonah’s not letting anyone do anything that isn’t related to Spider-Man: Murderer. Elsewhere, info from Josie’s leads to a warehouse, where DD hears people talking about Zoltarro, Kingpin, and the fake Spider-Men, and notices 4 of the participants have wildly elevated heartbeats.
Low blow to DC there. Spidey realizes the drug has gotten into DD’s system via cut on his shoulder, and then Daredevil vanishes. This is because the mad scientist has run back to Kingpin to tell him what happened, and Hornhead was right behind him, launching himself into Kingpin’s office and Kingpin himself. Back at the warehouse, Spider-Man is looking for an antidote to the Death Arrow when he sees it start to kill the guys who were dosed earlier (That seems kind of fast), and in Kingpin’s office, Fisk notices DD is way stronger than he should be, and deduces he’s on the stuff, himself.
DD’s in trouble, but Spider-Man’s found the antidote. He just doesn’t know where his partner went. But he mentioned Zoltarro, so Spidey does what he always used to do and calls The Bugle for help. Ben Urich just happens to have heard where Zoltarro is entering the country, and wants Peter there to take pictures. He’s trying to get to the spot, but cops see him and open fire. Eventually, all parties converge on a waterfront warehouse at night.
Zoltarro throws a slight wrench in Kingpin’s plan by blowing up his car. He tells his goons to go back for his case full of money.
Spider-Man arrives on the scene and sees DD isn’t weak yet, so he still has time to administer the antidote. He jumps into the battle, but DD’s out of his mind, and is soon attacking his would be savior. Zoltarro sees a chance to flee when it’s presented and does so.
Spider-Man dives to save the vial, and does, barely. Then DD starts to weaken, so Spidey kicks his friend in the face so he can’t fight back and jabs him with the antidote. Elsewhere, Zoltarro is stopped by a bloody and furious Kingpin, who notes he wasn’t in the car when it blew, and proceeds to choke Zoltarro to death. Don’t mess with The Kingpin, buddy. Ben Urich rushes over to the heroes to say he saw the whole thing, and Spider-Man won’t get away with attacking Daredevil, which is pretty uncharacteristically clueless on his part. Spidey tosses him the antidote, saying DD will tell him what’s going on when he wakes up, and we jump ahead to paramedics arriving and DD doing just that.
Unsurprisingly, Spider-Man/Kingpin: To The Death! doesn’t end with either of them dying. Even that mad doctor lived somehow. But that’s how it goes. Not exactly essential, but who could resist a book pairing Lee and Romita again? Certainly not me. There’s a sketchbook section with notes by Romita, and then both of them write “introductions” which wound up being the last page. Hey, what can ya do?