Spectacular Spider-Man 218: What do you breed with to get Were-Pumas?

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Credits: Plotted by Tom DeFalco, scripted by Todd DeZago, art by Sal Buscema and edited by Danny Fingeroth.

Cast: Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Thomas ‘Puma’ Fireheart, Angela ‘Nocturne’ Cairn, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, her aunt Anna, her sister Gayle, Gayle’s son Kevin, May Parker and cameos by Matt ‘Daredevil’ Murdock and Ben ‘Scarlet Spider’ Reilly.

Plot: Devoid of his humanity, Puma battles with a Spider-Man who is desperately trying to shed his own, whilst Nocturne lies bleeding. Initially neither combatant cares, both lost in the brutal exchange, but Peter’s humanity is not quite as gone as he believes and he can’t leave this woman to die on the floor, so when Puma bolts, he stays to tend to Nocturne.

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He wants to be go after Puma, lamenting not being able to be in two places at once, but around the corner, his clone is swinging across the city. Unwilling to drop a ‘known to be dead’ with an eleven foot wing span into a hospital, so decides to take her to her old apartment. In a nearby alley, some low-lives are harassing an innocent woman, Puma discovers this scene and the men leave at speed, Puma spares the woman, who is left cowering in the alley. Spider-Man and Nocturne arrive at her old home, but Spider-Man sees that there’s a new family living there and that despite his pain, Puma’s pain and Nocturne’s pain, the world will always move on and keep turning, with or without them.

Speaking of, subplot time, where Anna Watson prepares to say goodbye to her hospitalised and near-death friend May and Anna’s nieces Mary Jane and Gayle try to make peace after years of resentment and silence. Gayle’s son Kevin wakes after a nightmare and both Watson’s hold him and tell him it will be alright.

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Back in New York, Nocturne wakes and uses her empathic power to convince Spider-Man to go after and potentially save Puma. The pair go after him, passing by the ‘new’ Daredevil, who is really just the original Daredevil, just dressed differently. They catch up and it’s Puma vs Spider-Man again, brutal and savage, with Nocturne unable to restrain Puma at all, until she decides to connect the minds of the pair of fighters. Spider-Man is enlightened, but how is not clear, while Puma has his humanity restored and is once again Thomas Fireheart. He leaves as does Nocturne, Spider-Man asks her, why she doesn’t try to be person again, Nocturne responds with the same question, why doesn’t he?

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Notes: This issue feels a bit like a rescue mission for this story. DeFalco inherits a bizarre story with bizarre characters, one of which has an eleven foot wing span and the other is the result of a selective breeding program. (Okay, who or what do you breed with to get were-pumas?) The story quickly avoids focusing on the fight and instead it becomes about Spider-Man trying to save Nocturne. The parallels between the characters’ individual struggles is a little ham-fisted, but there is an attempt here to make it about something. That said, it’s a little difficult to take Puma seriously.

Writing: A focus on captions over speech bubbles give this a bit of a noir feel and the emotional beats end up working better here than they did in the part 1 and the last bit is poignant and well placed. 3/5

Art: I spent a long time not being very impressed with Sal Buscema’s pencils, but looking back he was a solid draughtsman and work-horse for Marvel from the 70’s through the 90’s which a huge body of work and his run on Spectacular Spider-Man was very under-rated. Solid storytelling, good action and a singular style that always makes me think of this comic, despite the other artists that have worked on it. I don’t particularly like his take on Puma, but everything else is quality. 4/5

Overall: This 2-parter ended a lot better than it started, leaving the door open for the character and story to move forward.  7/10

Next Time: A Triple Threat as the clone saga goes unlimited.

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