Cover Price: $.20
Value: $700 (Near
"The Punisher Strikes Twice!" - 19 Pages
Comic books are known for their hyperbole.
The bargain bins at every local comic book shop are filled with covers
proclaiming "Collector's Item!" or "Don't Miss This One!" Well, Amazing
Spider-Man #129 truly can be described as a one of the most important comics
of the last 35 years with a straight face. This comic marks the first appearance
of the Punisher. The black-clad, gun-toting anti-hero became one of Marvel's
most popular heroes in the grim 'n' gritty '80s and recently was the subject of
a major Motion
Picture with Thomas Jane and John Travolta. But wait, Spider-fans, there's
more: Amazing Spider-Man #129 also features the first appearance of the
Jackal, one of Spidey's deadliest foes of the 1970s and one of the villains
behind the infamous "Clone Saga" of the 1990s. The Clone Saga is one of the most
controversial storylines in Spider-Man history (I'll refer you to the excellent
wrap-up elsewhere on this Web site for details:
Here we go!), but
when he was first introduced, the Jackal was a fascinating villain who operated
behind the scenes and appeared to know quite a bit about our wall-crawling hero.
The two new characters make their appearance on Page 1, with a great splash page of the Punisher destroying a statue of Spider-Man with a single shot as the Jackal looks on approvingly - his wiry, hunched-over posture and constant, maniacal grin scream "Sneaky bad-guy!" on first glance. The Punisher says Spider-Man deserves to die and he intends to bring this "criminal" to justice in his own merciless manner. It's also clear that the Jackal is manipulating the Punisher to serve his own evil ends. Meanwhile, Spider-Man stops a routine robbery and gets some photos to sell to the Daily Bugle. These three pages are largely filler, but they do reset the back story of Spider-Man being blamed for Gwen Stacy's death in the landmark Amazing Spider-Man #121. Peter Parker tries to cheer up as he heads into the Daily Bugle, but to no avail. Peter hears of the Punisher from J. Jonah Jameson. Jonah, of course, wants news photos of the vigilante. "He's only the most newsworthy thing to happen to New York since Boss Tweed," the belligerent publisher bellows. "Yes, you idiot! I want pictures of him - and I want them NOW!"
It doesn't take Spider-Man long to find him. Spider-Man barely dodges an explosive projectile fired by the Punisher. Artist Ross Andru does a great job of setting this scene, as we see Spidey through the Punisher's cross hairs. "If it'd hit me instead of that abandoned tenement, I'd be a mushroom cloud right now!" Spider-Man thinks. The two tangle, with the Punisher explaining his raison d'etre, to use a fancy literary term. He claims he doesn't enjoy fighting crime, but says, "I've got nothing to lose by risking what's left of my life wiping out your kind of parasite." In other words, he's not exactly a villain, but he's certainly not a hero in the Marvel tradition. Spider-Man escapes the Punisher's cable and appears to have the vigilante on the ropes. However, the Jackal, who was hiding in a nearby chimney, rakes his claws across Spidey's head from behind, sending Spider-Man tumbling off a building to his apparent death. Interestingly, Spidey's normally reliable spider-sense doesn't react to the Jackal's sneak attack. We don't know why at the time, but we'll later learn (in Amazing Spider-Man #148) that the Jackal is none other than Professor Miles Warren, one of Peter Parker's most trusted teachers at Empire State University. Because Spider-Man's spider-sense registers Miles Warren as a friend, the Jackal doesn't trigger any alarms.
Spider-Man investigates the scene and finds a gun the Punisher dropped during the fight - an obvious clue he intends to investigate. Back at the Jackal's hide-out, the Punisher is furious about the Jackal's sneak attack. Even though he intended to kill Spider-Man, he says he didn't intend to become a "common murderer." The Jackal says nothing, but thinks, "I've had enough of your soul-searching. your usefulness to me is over...finished." Spider-Man traces the gun to a local gun shop. However, when he arrives, he finds the shop owner has been murdered - slashed as if by "some sort of cat." The Punisher arrives at the shop soon afterwards and naturally blames Spider-Man for the murder. They fight again and this time, Spider-Man scores the knock-out. He webs up the Punisher and forces him to listen. When the Punisher examines the gun shop owner's body, he sees that Spider-Man was telling the truth. The man was killed by someone with claws - the Jackal. With Spider-Man's help, he realizes that the Jackal was trying to frame him for the murder to get him out of the way. "In case you haven't already guessed, fella...I"m not a murderer," Spider-Man tells him. "I'm one of the good guys, I think." The Punisher leaves, vowing to continue his one-man war on crime - a war that now includes the Jackal as an enemy. As for the mysterious Jackal, he's watched the whole incident from a nearby rooftop. He chalks this encounter as a minor setback, but ominously promises that he one day will be the man to kill Spider-Man. If that's not an incentive to keep reading, I don't know what is!
The Jackal/Punisher storyline takes up most of the issue, but we do get a little bit of secondary plot development. Peter is in his apartment repairing his damaged costume. Harry Osborn, acting seriously insane listens in, and thinks, "He's still there...waiting for me...because he knows I'm the Green Goblin." To be continued, for sure. Also, we have Professor Miles Warren (AKA the Jackal, although we won't know that until Amazing Spider-Man #148) speaking with Mary Jane Watson on campus. He wants to apologize for being so stern with Peter in Amazing Spider-Man #127. Mary Jane thinks, "Do I even want to see Peter again?...He's not exactly Mr. Fun these days." This is a nice bit of subtle storytelling in a number of ways. First, it reinforces the notion of Professor Warren as the kindly educator, which will make his revelation as the murderous Jackal even more shocking. It also continues the melodrama between Peter and Mary Jane, which will oh-so-slowly build to them becoming a couple and, eventually, husband and wife.
The Punisher is next seen at the end of
#134, and makes his next full appearance the following issue:
#135. One month after his next appearance in
Giant-Size Spider-Man #4 from April of 1975, make sure to check out
the relatively scarce magazine format Marvel Preview #2 for his origin
Next month, the Jackal, Hammerhead, the Spider-Mobile and...Dr. Octopus marries Aunt May?!? Yep, all that and more, True Believers!
Reviewed by Bruce Buchanan.
Marvel Tales #106
Marvel Tales #209
Wizard Ace Edition
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