Wolf at Bay
Scripter: Les Wein
Artists: Ross Andru, Don Perlin
Plot: Gerry Conway
Letterer: C. Jetter
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Originally published: August 1973
Spider-Man is in San Francisco. Why? Mostly he’s hoping it’ll help take his mind off Gwen’s death; he’s convinced Jameson to sponsor the trip as a way for him to get away from the city for a bit. This little relaxing getaway is interrupted, though, by some werewolf guy. As this werewolf attacks, Spidey just pretty much sits there dodging while feeling sorry for himself. The battle has none of Spider-Man’s usual quick quips; he just spends the whole time thinking to himself silently. It makes sense given his current situation, but it’s kinda boring to read. I know Pete has his share of mopey moments, but interesting writing shouldn’t be sacrificed for them.
Eventually one of Spider-Man’s dodges sends the werewolf plunging over the side of the Golden Gate Bridge into the water below, in a scene very reminiscent of Gwen’s demise. Surprisingly, and a bit annoyingly, Spidey doesn’t even make the connection. I mean, if you’ve just seen your girlfriend plunge from her death off a bridge, and then a few days later you send some dude plunging (presumably to his death) off another bridge, isn’t that going to stir some shit up in you? Why even bother having the attack go down that way if it isn’t going to have an affect on Peter?
As Spidey watches the water below, a weird creepy face appears in some clouds behind him, watching. This is when the issue finally shows an interesting spark and grabs my attention. As Spider-Man swings away he actually asks himself some pretty reasonable questions, such as why there might be a werewolf in San Francisco and why it might be after him. I am interested in those answers too, but also more interested in the creepy cloud face.
Later, when Pete goes to a diner for a cheeseburger on rye (a dish I’ve never tried, but which sounds really great), he notices everybody in the joint is totally hypnotized and zombified. JUST THEN THE WEREWOLF BARGES IN!!! Presumably relying on his canine sense of smell, the wolfman has tracked Spider-Man — now in the form of regular Joe, Peter Parker — to the diner, and attacks him while all the blank-eyed zombies go about their business. My current state: definitely interested in what’s happening. Peter manages to knock out the werewolf, but he still perplexed by the completely entranced San Francisco populous.
Before Spider-Man can follow these people, though, the sun starts to come out and the werewolf turns back into a man. The man, Jack Russell (hehe), is a werewolf visiting San Francisco from LA. Finally it’s answer time. Other than an amazing use of the word “prestidigitation”, these answers are unfortunately very boring and uninspired. Jack and some other jerks were at a lame magic show by this guy, Moondark, who hypnotized everybody and unleashed Russel’s wolf side. Moondark then ordered the Werewolf to go after Spider-Man.
Everything goes downhill after this, story-wise. It just becomes a typical bad guy showdown. Moondark is barely explored, there’s no explanation given for his scheme, and he ends up being nothing more than a lame cliché. Jack, unsurprisingly, turns back into a wolf for awhile so there can be another Exciting Fight®. The only semi-interesting thing is that Spider-Man and Moondark end up getting transported back to the Golden Gate Bridge, where Moondark goes over the edge into the water. Yet again, though, Spidey speculates on his death without a single mention of Gwen or anything. Lamesauce.
The issue ends with Spidey still in San Fran, now presumably about to start his actual assignment there.
This issue got me with a couple of sweet hooks, but it totally squandered that good will. I almost wish it had just been lame all the way through, instead of getting my hopes up. It wasn’t terrible, but it was a letdown.
Oh, and I love the title of the issue. Puns are the best. Seriously.