BHOC: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #12

The place where i regularly bought my comic books on a weekly basis was a 7-11 in the center of town. It was close enough to home that even at a young age, I was able to bike there regularly. This led me to work out that new comic books were put out on Thursday, and from that point it was a rare occurrence indeed when I wouldn’t be there on a Thursday afternoon after school. But that 7-11 had some weak points, not that I entirely recognized them at the time. One of them was that it never seemed to carry any of the Marvel Annuals–or, indeed, pretty much any oversized special issue. This would become a huge problem for me in just a few months. But at that point, I was blissfully ignorant of the problem. All of which is to say that I came across this AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL while out on a shopping expedition with my family–I would always compulsively attempt to check every convenience store, stationary store or drug store we got within distance of for comic books, and I’d occasionally come across something like this.

This particular Annual was entirely made up of reprint material save for a new lead-in page. The issue reprinted a pair of earlier AMAZING SPIDER-MAN stories, cutting out some pages along the way in order to make it all fit. Given that both INCREDIBLE HULK and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN were either on television or about to be, it made sense to appeal to that potential new audience, I suppose–the cover blurb about Marvel’s two “TV Sensations” definitely points in that direction. And I hadn’t read these stories before, so it was all right with me! The stories were written by Gerry Conway right at the beginning of his time with the wall-crawler. The first half was illustrated by John Romita, who also inked most of the second half, penciled by Gil Kane. So it was a good looking book, and a snapshot of the series right at a turning point. For this was the last story in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN before Conway and Romita had the Green Goblin kill off Gwen Stacy in the following issue.

The story opens with Peter Parker having intercepted a telegram meant for his Aunt May from a Jean Pierre Rimbaud up in Canada insisting that she come at once. Pete determines that he’s going to make the trip to find out what’s up, but as a poor college student, he’s got no financial means to do so. Fortunately for Pete, he sees reports that the Hulk is presently rampaging across Canada, and he convinces Daily Bugle Publisher J. Jonah Jameson to foot the bill for a flight so that he can get some pictures. Pete intends this is just a pretext, but given that Rimbaud is away when Parker arrives, he decides to get himself embedded with General Thunderbolt Ross’s troops, who are in the area providing lateral support to the Canadian armed forces, as they are specialists in Hulk-fighting. It isn’t long before the convoy comes across the hulking Green Goliath–who just wants to be left alone–and then it’s Spidey time!

This was, I believe, Spidey’s third encounter with the Hulk, and he fares no better here than he did in the first two, even backed up by the military. The Hulk’s heart isn’t in the struggle, he’s just looking for some peace and quiet. But he’s also easy enough to provoke, and before long, the amount of destruction is piling up. The battle continues towards the Maskattawan Dam, and wouldn’t you know it? The dam is damaged in the struggle, and Spidey and the Hulk have to work to try to keep the thing together. This is where the original first issue ended, with Spidey trapped underwater beneath a bit of dam rubble and rapidly drowning. But this Annual cut out the cliffhanger and the follow-up splash page of the second half, and so Spidey is suddenly free again on the next page, having been hurled into the air by the Hulk. The battle resolves itself for the moment, with the Hulk leaping away, so Spidey figures he’s done with that problem for this trip. Fool.

Heading back towards the law office of Rimbaud, Peter’s spider-sense warns him that he’s being tailed. One quick switch into his costume later, and it’s Spider-Man who’s turned the pursuer into the prey. The guy gives up that he’s tailing Parker on behalf of Doctor Octopus, who is interested in this business with Peter’s Aunt. (This wound up being a set-up for a much later story in which Aunt May somehow inherited a nuclear reactor, believe it or not. I’m guessing that at this moment, Conway didn’t know that, and was just laying down some bread crumbs for himself.) Spidey is also accosted by General Ross, who thinks he knows more than he’s telling about the Hulk–but that encounter amounts to nothing, and instead Peter and Rimbaud’s secretary head out to the site of the old Expo ’67 exhibition, where Rimbaud is consulting.

But wouldn’t you know it? That fairground is where the Hulk has taken shelter from the pursuing army, and as the car peter is in approaches, he perceives it as an enemy and smashes it. Faced with this situation, Peter has no choice but to gear up as Spider-Man one more time and attempt to take on the Hulk. The fairground provides a bit of local color to the conflict, with sky trams to swing from and roller coasters to tear apart. But the whole thing is a one-sided battle–Spider-Man isn’t powerful enough to even slow the Hulk down, much less contain him. He’s a nuisance to the big green guy, but that’s about it. Fortunately, after the hulk has gotten in a few good shots and Spidey is exhausted and thinking that his number is finally up, General Ross and the military show up like the cavalry.

The Hulk by this point, has had enough of stupid crossover, and he promptly skedaddles, leaping far away. The Army goes off in pursuit, leaving Spider-Man to crawl away and lick his wounds. (I’d need to look back at the timing to be sure, but I seem to think that the Hulk wasn’t in Canada in his own series when these stories first came out, which is an interesting bit of discontinuity if true, given how often he would be throughout the 1970s.) Finally, on a truncated final page, Peter catches up with Jean Pierre Rimbaud. But before the lawyer can reveal anything about inherited nuclear reactors or anything else, he’s assassinated by a gunman shooting from the shadows, presumably also in the employ of Doctor Octopus (though this is never outright stated.) Peter’s spider-sense doesn’t warn him here either, another imperfect use of that power in an era that was full of them. Anyway, with Rimbaud dead and no other leads to speak of, Peter boards the next plane home and the lingering problem of Harry Osborn’s drug relapse.

2 thoughts on “BHOC: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #12

  1. Given the number of plotlines that got derailed by editorial interference, books getting canceled or writers getting taken off books, I have a certain sympathy for comics writers starting plotlines without any idea how they’re going to end.

    Like

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