Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciler: Alex Saviuk (Web), Sal Buscema (Spectacular)
Inker: Keith Williams (Web), Sal Buscema (Spectacular)

Author Gerry Conway might never even have noticed, but mid-way through his growing story-arc to bring back La Tarantula, his scripts bizarrely switched comic series.

To be fair, we readers might not have noticed either, since his first two instalments are far more concerned with the tale of Peter Parker's return to his old high school… as a substitute teacher.

It's a funny thing about the Parker boy and his career. I mean ask anyone what Spider-Man's alter ego does for a living, and I think most people will answer 'photographer', but over the years he does seem to have plugged away at the science teaching lark too. By the time that J Michael Stracynski took over the writing, it had become his only job. Well, apart from the other obvious one.

Anyhow, Conway seems to focus in on Pete's maturity in these issues, juxtaposing who he is now with who he used to be.

Then the subsequent issues of Spectacular find him settling down to married life in a new flat with Mary Jane, and battling city hall to allow oppressed immigrant families to escape deportation. (he fails, at least in the short term)

In fact, Conway clearly has a bit of an axe to grind with that last topic.

Peter: "Maggie Michaelson told Ben Urich and me how some illegals are too frightened to apply for amnesty -- afraid they'll be separated from their families -- and I didn't understand it.

She said there were shyster lawyers who preyed on that fear, making promises they couldn't keep - for a hefty fee.

But the reality didn't hit home until your friend Elvira phoned for help last night.

As Spider-Man, I could save her from La Tarantula and his goon squad --

-- but all my power couldn't rescue her from 'the wheels of justice.'"

Mary Jane: "All these people, Peter, living with such fear… it isn't fair."

Peter: "'Give me your tired,
Your poor, huddled masses
Yearning to breathe free…'

… but only if they've been here since 1981."

As if that doesn't hammer the point home hard enough, this final issue also features the brooding thoughts of Captain America as he reflects on how the flag that he wears on his costume has come to incite terror. Okay, I think we've got it now, but what the heck, let's finish the story on the original inscription from the Statue of Liberty anyway. :)

My closing words however are to celebrate Conway's foresightedness in his plotting. For just as La Tarantula's storyline was foreshadowed in the first two of these issues, throughout all four Conway also sets the scene for his next tale, featuring the return of Tombstone.

While I've always considered strong continuity to be a mark of good writing, it does make it tricky for me to break up these issues for review. As a teenager, I actually stopped collecting comicbooks one issue before the end of La Tarantula's storyline, and have had to procure a back-issue in order to see how this all tied-up.

Not so the one about Tombstone. If I go looking on Ebay for those editions, I fear that that they'll just foreshadow whatever storyline came after that, so with this issue I draw a line under my retrospective re-reading of US Spider-Man comics.

It's been a fantastic era, and from speaking to others recently it sounds as though the mid-1980s are generally considered to be Marvel's best. Just how fortunate was I to have collected these issues during this precise run, as opposed to any other?

Finally, since I'm leaving the Tombstone storyline open-ended, in much the same way as I came in mid-way through a Hobgoblin story, perhaps I'd better conclude things on a similarly never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger.

Or a joke.

Or both.

So, if Marvel wanted to use the character of Tombstone in one their movies, which Hollywood actor do you think would best resemble him?

"I'll be baaack…"


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