Monday, August 30, 2010

Spider-Man meets Nova, part two

“Photon is Another Name For...?”
Writer/ Editor: Ocean Doot
Penciler: Ross Andru
Inks: Mike Esposito
Colors: Glynis Wein
Letterer: Joe Rosen

Spider-Man looks over the crime photos of the wall melted out and Doctor Rider’s body lying before the ripped out calendar pages of the last half of the year. We get our six suspect ovals again, as Inspector Steel reminds him it’s a matter of police jurisdiction, and he has no plans to deputize Spider-Man and Nova. Spider-man insists there’s a good man, dead, and they will find the killer one way or another! The warning stands. Then he recaps the entire murder scenario written up above.
All suspects but Michael Lincoln have fled, and the butler, who nearly revealed Photon’s i.d., is a cold body removed now by the police---one of whom announces a train left unchecked, excluded from their roadblocks. They stand near the wall melted outward by Photon. Nova’s on the case; he speeds past a hydrofoil on the water and overtakes the train, zooming beside startled passengers---really into the sheer joy of being a super-hero, the joy of being a flying, partially indestructible man. He actually has a laugh!
No luck---but he’s reminded of that unmarked hydrofoil. He and Spidey realize it’s someone’s rendezvous, so Spider-Man wangles a way with a web to Nova’s back, the start of a turbulent ride at super speed. The police keep Lincoln in custody and follow.
Therapy’s done wonders for Harry Osborn; he’s enjoying Chinatown with Liz, unaware of a stalker.
Nova barrels beside the rocky shoreline, Spider-Man clinging, dizzy. In a solitary lighthouse, Risk, Dean and Daze discuss their escape; hoping to make a deal, Risk pulled the light plug with his foot at the Rider house so they all might break for it. They’ve yet to plumb his motives in this. Daze spots the hyrdrofoil arranged to take him back to A.I.M. headquarters. Since the device remains hidden, A.I. M. operatives declare they’re duty bound to retrieve it at all costs.
Now, however, Nova and Spider-Man find them, kicking off a massive melee of lasers, smart cracks and flying bodies courtesy Andru/ Esposito. Spidey notes the three suspects “have fled the coop again!” and Nova punches free to pursue, only to be battered by solid circles of light. Photon appears once more and fires a “living light”direct hit on Spidey, who contorts and falls: “I’m being beaten to a rainbow!”
From its hidden recess inside the lighthouse, AIM’s hydrofoil boat skims out to sea. Aboard an anchor, Spider-Man, chained with Nova, talks reason, but for his troubles, the anchor drops. Spider-Man begins holding his breath, worried about Nova. The newcomer’s costume contains a recycling oxygen supply, as we know; his helmet’s shield slid in place. Spidey begins straining against the chains, pulling them tight across the anchor shaft. Admiringly, Nova joins the effort, knowing Spider-Man’s nearly out of air. Their ribcages hold long enough for their strength to succeed, but he’s blacking out, grateful for Nova’s aid in zooming them to the surface. Together they’ve survived the trap, so they recap on the shore.
Spidey notes Photon couldn’t have been Lincoln, who could never have traveled there fast enough to be Photon. Nova notes Parker was with him during a Photon attack, so that leaves Risk, Dean and Daze. Daze, Nova mentions, had only a bruise while Parker has a cut, while both were supposedly blasted by Photon. Dean claimed to leave as soon as Photon attacked, but Nova suggests, even within the speed limit, he should’ve gotten to nearby police headquarters more quickly. They fly back to the Rider house, to find it under siege by AIM.
Webbed faces and headlong ramming make short work of the villains in spectacular fashion as the riot squad makes the scene with Steel to confront the rest. Now Nova and Spider-Man pursue fleeing Photon. Charles Rider, however, arrived before the battle; Photon finds him in his brother’s gameroom, just as Nova (in deep tones, ahem) warns “Mr. Rider.”
Hands up! But Nova flies, bouncing off the walls too fast, Spidey-style, for Photon to draw a bead, while the web-slinger pulls Charles Rider free. Nova clobbers him double-fisted, and as he skids over the pool table, Photon’s basically an eight ball in the side pocket!
So who is Photon? Nova asks. By now, Spidey says, the clues are obvious. “Our man claimed that Photon melted his way INTO this house---but the solidified slag beneath the hole in the wall shows Photon actually melted his way OUT!” But Nova knew it was “one of three insiders! So what?”
Ah, but when Captain Steel arrives, their man tells him Photon headed for the library---but if he didn’t see it but kept running, how could he KNOW where Photon ended up, with several rooms down the hall?
All the AIM agents are under lock and key, as are the two other suspects, says Steel (referred to as “inspector” in Nova and “captain” here; don’t worry). The most obvious clue of all: “the fact that Doctor Ralph Rider was completely captivated by word games! Here, look closely at this photo...and note the calendar pages the doctor is touching! They’re July thru December---the last six months of the year!”
“It’s ironic that the first letter of each month spells out J...A...S...O...N...D...PHOTON is another name for JASON DEAN!!”

What I never liked about this story is that figuring out the villain’s identity has no bearing on stopping him. They don’t have to make any choices based on Photon really being anyone in particular. It has other things to recommend it, though; 1977 readers don’t buy many comics for their actually mystery logic, but for their soap opera and fantastic action. I read it first in the Olshevsky index of Spidey’s title, and there are a couple of visual points I tried to include if you are into it. I’m just glad, unlike some misfortunate titles, the story’s complete!
This story reunites Len Wein with the character he co-created in 1967 with Wolfman, providing some of the first art for the Star, co-plotting and drawing him in one chapter and then switching with Wolfman to script the second chapter. You can imagine their glee, following that effort a decade later with Nova and Spider-Man. It must have been a comic book fan’s dream. The character as we know it evolved to his definitive version while the two were at Marvel, possibly during one of their tenures as Editor-in-Chief.

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