Eventually, after a week’s gap caused by my having bought the new comics for that week while at Heroes World earlier, new comics that I did not already own started turning up at 7-11 again. And so, on my weekly Thursday venture, I bought this issue of PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. It was a series that I had been following on-and-off for a little bit, but not one that I was especially invested in, not yet. As can be proven by the fact that I didn’t pick up the second half to this two-part adventure when it was on sale a month later–I can remember thumbing through it and passing it up on multiple occasions. Now, that may have been as much about not having enough ready cash for all of the comics I wanted to buy that week, but it’s also evidence of how lukewarm my feelings were to SPECTACULAR at that moment.
Moon Knight was one of those characters who was introduced and then bopped around the Marvel Universe hither and yon for years before anybody really sat down and made a concerted effort to build a series around him. He’s debuted as an antagonist for Jack Russell in WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, but when creator Doug Moench saw the good reaction the character was getting, he threw out most of the backstory we are told in that initial adventure and instead established Moon Knight as a modern day equivalent to the Shadow, one that used multiple regular identities in his crime-fighting activities. That was immediately more interesting than him simply being a mercenary in a costume laced with silver. A two-issue tryout in MARVEL SPOTLIGHT didn’t earn Moon Knight star status, and so he’d become one of those wandering players that would show up here and there–most memorably in an extended sequence of DEFENDERS issues.But you wouldn’t have bet on this guy to eventually get his own Disney+ series.
Writer Bill Mantlo apparently liked the character, though, and used him in this two-parter, which returned him to the streets after his time doing more traditional super-heroics in DEFENDERS. The issue was drawn by a young Mick Zeck, who had been toiling over at Charlton and who would go on to become a mainstay at Marvel. In these days, Mantlo would actively seek out new artistic talent to work with, and I have no doubt that getting Zeck on this story was his doing. Zeck’s work was still a little bit soft at this point, but you could see that he was going to go on to greater things.
The issue opens with Moon Knight attempting to intervene in a gangland slaying of an informant who turned evidence on the criminal organization, the Maggia. The crescent crusader shows up in time to engage in an establishing fight scene, but he’s not able to keep the snitch from getting gunned down. What’s worse, with his last breath, the guy tells Moon Knight that the Maggia are on to his true identity as a NY cab driver. This isn’t great news for MK, although his Jake Lockley identity is at this point just a disguise he puts on when he needs to trawl the streets for information, so it isn’t the end of the world if he needs to take Lockley off the board. Meanwhile, after some light comedy shenanigans, Peter Parker and Betty Brant head out on an awkward date. Betty had recently returned to the series over in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, having separated from her husband, Ned. But the magic just isn’t there between her and Peter any longer.
Meanwhile, Moon Knight has resumed his identity as Jake Lockley in an attempt to lure out the Maggia hitmen who have been dispatched to put him in the ground. He finds them at Gina’s Diner, a regular hangout of Lockley’s where he would pick up information from the customers and staff. Unfortunately for Moon Knight, Spider-Man is swinging by overhead, blowing off some steam after his gone-bust date with Betty, and his spider-sense alerts him to trouble in the diner. So Spidey crashes in and fouls up Moon Knight’s plan to get the Maggia gunsels to take him to “Big M”, the new Maggia leader.
The web-slinger mops up on the Maggia gunmen, all but one who escapes out the front door. Seeing his opportunity, Lockley changes to Moon Knight and pursues the man, cornering him and attempting to intimidate him for information. Unfortunately, Spider-Man catches up with the pair at that moment, overhears the wrong thing out of context, and assumes that Moon Knight is also working for the Maggia and attempting to silence the hitman before the wall-crawler can get any information from him. This leads to that age-old classic, the two-heroes-fight-each-other-due-to-a–misunderstanding plot.
While the two heroes dance with one another, the Maggia goon is able to drop a quarter into a payphone and alert his superiors as to what is going on. So as the issue wraps up, Moon Knight and Spider-Man’s tussle is broken up by hurricane winds–signaling the arrival of an old Spidey sparring partner, Cyclone. The French super-criminal is in the employ of the Maggia, and he’s been sent to wipe out both Spidey and Moony. To Be Continued!
I haven’t shared one of these in a while, but every month still brought a new Bullpen Bulletins page with gossip about the creative staff and salesmanship about upcoming releases. I’m not sure who was writing the page at this point–Scott Edelman had done it for a couple of years, but he was gone from Marvel by this point. I enjoyed getting one of these every month, as there was really no other place to get information about upcoming comics or the people who made them. Looking at it now, the format seems tired, the repartee just a bit dated and soft. The page wound up being phased out in a couple of months, although Jim Shooter would later bring it back in the early 1980s–but that version felt even more labored and corporate to my ear. But honestly, the difference may have been my age and my openness to such a thing.