I bought this issue of PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN at my local 7-11. I think I was motivated here in reading about the wrap-up of the Champions, a title whose last issue I had read a few months earlier, and liked well enough. That book had promised a resolution in the pages of AVENGERS, but instead writer Bill Mantlo wrapped up his outstanding business with the team that he had been scripting in his other regular series of the moment. So in this story, Peter Parker is sent by Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson to the west coast to get pictures of the disbanding of the team.
In the first half, which I managed to not see, the Champions’ old enemy Rampage, a failed industrialist in an Iron Man-style exo-skeleton, had taken control of Iceman and sent him out in the Rampage armor to get revenge on the “Heroes for the Common Man.” Visiting photog Peter Parker changed into Spider-Man to help out the Angel, the lone member of the Champions still around after the combo’s break-up, and together he and the winged Ex-X-Man were able to halt Rampage’s destruction and learn that he was actually a mesmerized Iceman. But Iceman was still mesmerized, and as this issue opened, he was continuing to attempt to kill the two super heroes who stood in his way.
Ducking behind one of the Champions headquarters security barricades, Angel had a moment to bring Spider-Man up to speed by recapping everything that I just laid out in an extended three-page flashback sequence. Art on this issue was provided by the ever-reliable Sal Buscema, inked here by Dave Hunt. Sal was about as meat-and-potatoes a storyteller as Marvel then had in stock, and so he often got used on multiple titles a month, doing loose, open breakdowns that got the action and pacing and characterization across, but left the fine details of the finish up to whoever inked him. In the case of Dave Hunt here, he doesn’t quite know what to do with all of the open space, and so the issue is extraordinarily open, with few spotted blacks to be seen. It had more the flavor of a coloring book, so open was it, though the action still moved with that Marvel zing thanks to Sal.
Anyway, after Angel gives Spidey a backstory download, Iceman is finally able to freeze his way past the barricade, shattering it, and the fight is joined once again, with Spidey and the Angel needing to stop the mind-controlled Iceman without hurting him. One of the running bits that Mantlo had played with on CHAMPIONS (that I believe he inherited from predecessor Tony Isabella) was the idea that the Champions’ headquarters had been built using sub-standard materials by greedy contractors, and so none of the equipment could be trusted to work right. Here, Mantlo continues with that idea, as the combatants are alternately hindered and aided by parts of the building that are literally falling apart.
At a crucial point, Spidey and Iceman get knocked out of the Champs building–and before Angel can go after them, he’s waylaid by lawyers acting on behalf of the builders of the headquarters. This leaves it to Spidey to take down Iceman alone as the two careen across Los Angeles (and why not–it is his title after all!) Back at the ranch, Angel vents his hostility on the lawyers, scaring them all into agreeing that their clients will drop any counter-suit they may have been considering and make all necessary repairs gratis. But that’s not going to mean much since there’s no team left to put into the headquarters even if ti was fixed up nicely.
Across town, Spider-Man has an ideas how he might be able to finally stop Iceman once and for all. Reasoning that a sudden shock might free him from Rampage’s mind control. the web-slinger lures Iceman into a car wash–where the hot steam treatment melts his icy outer coating and also snaps him back into being himself. Spidey webs up a hasty mask for Iceman as well, assuming that his true face wasn’t public knowledge. But it turns out that the wall-crawler’s micro camera was smashed by one of Iceman’s attacks, and so he’s going to be flying back to New York and an irate JJJ empty-handed.
The last few pages of the issue are subplot city, as Flash Thompson and his lady friend Sha-Shan walk the Empire State University campus, and are almost beaned by a frisbee thrown their way by soon-to-be-a-minor-supporting-player Holly Gillis. But before the disk can bean the unsuspecting Flash, a hand snatches it out of the air–one belonging to Hector Ayala, better known in his costumed guise as the White Tiger. Mantlo had created the White Tiger in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU and he was something of a pet character. He’s guest-starred a few issues ago, and now Mantlo intended to make him a regular in the title, with Holly as his new romantic interest. And on Pete’s flight home, his plane is almost struck by a devastating bolt of light that cuts through Attica State Prison, seemingly obliterating an entire cell, occupants and all. But that’s where things go To Be Continued this month, so we will have to wait to find out who might have been in that cell and whether they may have survived in some manner.