Overlooked Gems #12: “A House Divided”

Today we will be taking a look at A House Divided (well it’s technically called Mayhem, but I find the former to be a much more fitting title) in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #113 by Peter David and Bob McLeod from 1986.

Writer Peter David’s run on SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #103-129, 134-136 from 1985 to 1988 is easily one of the best stints in the character’s history. Able to transition from dark and serious story arcs (The Death of Jean DeWolff from #107-110) to goofy and light-hearted ones (Eyewitness from #121) seamlessly, David displayed a wide range of talent and craft during his tenure on the title. Unfortunately, the aforementioned The Death of Jean DeWolff (and to a lesser extent, its excellent follow-up The Return of The Sin-Eater from #134-136) seem to be the only stories of his that fans really talk about. This is an injustice as his entire run is filled with some truly top-notch tales (many of which are one-shots) that deserve to be placed among the wall-crawler’s best.

So if I were to pick one gem out of a treasure pile (though I can assure you we will be coming back for the others at some point), A House Divided from issue #113 would definitely be among the shiniest doubloons.

Our comic begins with one of Aunt May’s friends and boarders, Ernie Popchick, frantically sprinting into her house with the utmost panic.

Tax collectors?

His pursuers:

A little background is necessary here. Several issues, ago Ernie was violently mugged by a group of street hoodlums.

Not desiring to experience such an unpleasant ordeal a second time, Ernie purchases a gun to protect himself. However, he ends up getting a little trigger happy with it.

Back to the story at hand, the group Ernie shot have since recovered and are none too happy about their previous encounter with Mr. Popchick and plan on getting some payback–but not before robbing an innocent mother and her daughter on the subway for good measure.

Maybe Ernie wasn’t wrong to shoot them after all?

The scene later transitions to Mary Jane Watson and her Aunt Anna who are discussing…personal matters.

The redhead doth protest too much, me thinks.

Once the pair reaches the Parker residence, they notice something very alarming.

Our dear Mr. Parker himself soon stumbles upon the scene with Daily Bugle reporter Joy Mercado on his way home.

Fearing for the safety of his dear aunt, Peter rushes into the crowd demanding answers, which Mary Jane provides for him. However…

While inside the house, the situation quickly escalates from bad to worse.

That’s telling him, Aunt May! Wait…

Oh yeah, Spidey is livid now. Will he be able to save his aunt along with the other hostages? Or will his anger get the better of him as Mary Jane fears? Read it yourself for the answers!

What is most impressive about this issue is that at its core, it really is a fairly standard home invasion/hostage tale. However, Peter David takes what could easily be an unremarkable outing in the hands of a lesser writer and makes it shine. The action is a lot of fun, there is funny humor abound, the characters are all written very well and the ending comes as a surprise as we get to see a a more sinister side of May’s fiance Nathan Lubensky. Much like The Longest Hundred Yards from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #153 (which I covered here: http://www.spidermancrawlspace.com/2018/01/03/overlooked-gems-9-the-longest-hundred-yards/), I consider A House Divided to be a template on how to utilize a single-issue story effectively and memorably.

It’s unfortunately never been collected, so you’ll have to settle for tracking down the individual issue. This is definitely one gem not to be overlooked.

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(5) Comments

  1. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @Cheesedique I highly doubt Dan Slott's Spider-Man would even be able to do something like this on his own. He would either need backup or a lot of funky technology to bring each of the hoodlums down.Much like J.M. DeMatteis's run on SPECTACULAR, Marvel has yet to give David's stint the treatment it deserves. Stay tuned though as I plan on covering more of his stories!

  2. Cheesedique

    This is indeed a GREAT issue. First off, I like how PAD brought back the hoodlums from "Death Of Jean DeWolff". Gives his Spec run a nice sense of continuity and consequences.Second, I love how Peter reacts in this story, with MJ telling him to cool it, that he's too close to it all. Then the suspense of him taking the thugs out one by one in the house. Could anyone picture slott's moronic Peter being able to do this today?Still don't understand why Marvel have never collected the great PAD Spec run. So good.

  3. Joshua Nelson - Post author

    @hornacek Yes, Aunt May looks half-dead on the cover.As my article on "The Big Question" discussed, the marriage was far from an out of left field development. It's funny that Joe Quesada and the rest of his cronies apparently seem to think fans are too stupid to go back and read the issues prior to the marriage to see for themselves.I didn't mention it in the article, but the scene with the gangsters mistaking Black Cat for Silver Sable was pretty doggone funny. Peter David always did excel at humor.

  4. hornacek

    Aunt May's face looks pretty bloody on the cover."Mary Jane Watson and her Aunt Anna who are discussing…personal matters." But ... but this goes against Marvel's claim that the marriage came out of nowhere! How can this be?It's been years since I read this, but looking at the panel where Peter arrives at Aunt May's and seeing all the cops outside, I wonder if Peter flashed back to AF#15 when he arrived home and the cops told him that Uncle Ben had died.Reading the full issue recap over at SuperMegaMonkey.net, it says this issue also contains the first mention of the Foreigner, and contains a panel that probably inspired the movie Ashley is looking forward to the least in 2019 (but you just know Brad will have her review it) where the Black Cat is misstaken for Silver Sable: http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/scans15/PPTSS113_BlackCat.jpg

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