Astonishing Spider-Man #16
Astonishing Spider-Man
Maximum Vengeance
Part I: The Changing Times
Writer: Chip Caroon
Editor: Ben Kaine
Editor-in-Chief: Brian Provow

Previously in Astonishing Spider-Man . . .

Ben Reilly has returned from the dead, only to accidentally impersonate Peter Parker and sleep with Mary Jane. Distraught over his action, he has disappeared. Actually, unbeknownst to the Parkers, he has moved to Chicago with the mobster son called Jimmy-Six, performing barely legal missions as a private investigator to earn his new paycheck. Meanwhile, in New York, the arrest of the Black Cat for returning to her burglar ways has placed a wedge between Spider-Man and Daredevil's friendship. To top it off, the Daily Bugle has declared that it will no longer accept pictures of Spider-Man, destroying Peter's greatest source of income.

Somewhere in New York City, Wilson Fisk sat in an office. It was an office that was once the central location of the biggest crime syndicate in New York, and Wilson Fisk had been its Kingpin. However, Daredevil had caused Fisk to lose that position. He wanted it back.

He knew that his greatest opposition came from two vigilante heroes: Daredevil and Spider-Man. Fortunately, the Kingpin knew how they felt towards one another after recent events, and an idea had come. He would use that to his advantage.

Leaning back, Wilson Fisk smiled. He pressed the button on his phone to call his new assistant, who sat in the outside room.

"Blackgard," he ordered. "I want you to call someone for me . . . "

Peter Parker sat at his kitchen table. Stacked up around him were several piles of bills. A calculator and a pad of paper were also laying on the table. He looked up from the latest batch of crunching numbers. "MJ, I don't know how we're gonna get by if I can't find a place to sell pictures of Spider-Man."

Mary Jane walked over and stood behind Peter. "Now, Tiger, I still have my steady modeling job. And I'm sure that you could still take other types of pictures at the Bugle . . . "

Peter sighed. "You're probably right. But still . . . Wait a minute! Jameson got back from his vacation a couple of days ago . . . "

MJ could see the wheels in Peter's head. "You're not thinking of . . . "

Looking up, Peter smiled. "It's worth a try."

Spider-Man swung over New York City. Landing on the roof of the Daily Bugle, Spidey began climbing down to the window of J. Jonah Jameson's office. Looking in, he could see Jameson reading the numerous memos that had piled up during his absence.

Spidey tapped on the glass, and Jameson jumped several inches out of his chair.

"You menace! Can't you leave me alone?" Jameson shouted, wheeling around.

Spidey opened the window with a simple trick he had learned several years ago.

"And good day to you too, Jonah."

"What are you doing here? The Daily Bugle isn't giving you any more attention and neither am I!" Jameson spat.

"Like that's why I'm a hero," Spidey said, with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "You know, I thought you had risen above that. I know you're a nice guy under that tough attitude . . . "

"What are you talking about, you little--?!"

"I've saved your life tons of times, and this is how you repay me? You're one ungrateful sonuvagun. Heck, when I saved your son's life, how did you thank me? By beginning your personal crusade against me, ruining my career!*"

Spidey paused. Jameson did have a point. However, the wallcrawler wasn't painted into a corner just yet. With a calmer voice, he said: "All I want to know is why you suddenly don't want anything to do with me anymore, Jonah."

Jameson fell silent.

"You can't give me an answer, can you?" Spidey asked. "Is it that you're finally realizing that I'm not the menace that you've been trying to paint me as?"

Jameson picked up his phone. "I'm calling Security."

Spider-Man walked to the window. "Don't bother. I'll be gone before you finish your call."

With that, he fired a webline, leaving Jameson standing in his office, holding his phone on his chest, wondering.

In a dark alley, near where Spidey was at that moment, a man was rummaging through a garbage dumpster, dressed in rags. He had a long, unruly, stringy beard, which looked as if he used it for a napkin.

He heard a noise behind him. The man stood up, banging his head on the dumpster lid.

"Ow! Dang it! Whozat?" he asked. Turning around, he saw someone dressed in a red and blue costume, aiming his right hand at him.

"Spider-Man?! Please, don't web me up! I ain't a bad guy! I'm just down on mah luck!"

Without a word, the homeless man was covering in webbing. Within seconds, he was suffocating.

Spider-Man sat beside the gargoyle that he liked to call Bruce. He usually came here when he had troubles, and life had recently seemed to hit yet another complexity.

"You know, Bruce," Spidey said, "with all that's happening, the one thing bugging me the most is Ben's disappearance. I haven't heard from him yet. I haven't heard anything about Spider-Man being somewhere else in the country. And the biggest thing is that I don't know why he left."

Spidey turned and looked at the lifeless statue. "Of course, everything's bound to get better. There are plenty of outlets to sell Spider-Man pics, and of course, maybe I could start taking pictures of something else . . . "

Seeing a purse snatching below, Spidey stood up. "Nice talking to ya, Bruce," he said, petting Bruce's nose before jumping down.

Halfway down to the ground, Spidey shot out two webs, slowing his decent. He then released them, landed perfectly on the ground. He jumped up and forward once more, landed on the side of a building, continued to chase the purse snatcher as he ran sideways along the brick wall.

Finally, he jumped on the man and tackled him. The two rolled into an alley. The purse snatcher tried to run off, but Spider-Man webbed his feet and the criminal fell. Spidey grabbed the purse, walked out of the alley to hand it over to the police.

"Hi, officers!" he said. "Here's the purse."

One of the officers took the purse. "Thanks, Spider-Man. We'll take it from here."

"Well, I have to go anyway," Spidey said. He fired a web. Looking back, he gave a little wave and swung off.

"Ohmigod!" the second officer cried, looking into the alley. "Come here, Mike!"

The officer with the purse walked over and saw the purse snatcher and the homeless man webbed up in nice little cocoons. It was clear that both were dead.

"Spider-Man, what have you done?" he whispered.

Peter Parker returned home that night with little improvement in his mood. He quickly took his Spider-Man suit off and tossed it in his closet. He then walked into the living room and sat down on the couch. Laying on the coffee table was the beat-up copy of THE SPIDER-MAN FANZINE. Peter must have gone through that book a hundred times since MJ bought it for him.

As he was flipping through it, MJ came up behind him and put her hands on his shoulders.

"Penny for your thoughts, Tiger," she said.

"Only a couple of months ago, every was so good, and now - "

Mary Jane put her hand over Peter's mouth. "I don't want to hear it. All you've done the past week is mope and complain how your life has gone sour." She took her hand off of his mouth, and walked around, sitting on the couch, resting her head on her husband's shoulder. "It's not like your life's never gone into the crapper before, and more then likely, it'll be there again. But, in between those times, you've always had happy times, and you'll have them again."

Peter was silent. "You're right."

"Something's still bugging you, though."

"It's Ben. It's not like him - not like me - to run off suddenly, for no reason."

"Tiger, you realize that he did the exact same thing when he first found out that he was the clone.* Maybe this time he had a reason. If he doesn't want to share it, fine with him. It's his life. It's not yours anymore."

*[A long time ago, I'm not sure if it was shown in an actual comic, but it was revealed during the clone saga. - I-actually-like-Ben! Chip]

Peter sighed, looking at the magazine in his lap. MJ also look down at it, and then slapped Peter upside the head.

"You dummy!" she laughed. "Did it ever occur to you that you could sell your pictures to this fanzine?"

"But that's just it. It's a fanzine. They probably spent most of their life savings on this issue."

"But what if they were endorsed by Spider-Man?"

"Then, maybe . . . " Peter wondered aloud.

"It's worth a shot," Mary Jane said with a big smile on her face.

Peter returned the smile.

Hell's Kitchen is not your ordinary neighborhood. Some consider it the worst neighborhood in the country. Others don't see much wrong with it. Never the less, everyone can agree on one thing: Hell's Kitchen is Daredevil's territory.

So, more than likely, when a few gang members begin making a racket, the Daredevil's going to notice.

People living in the surrounding apartments looked out in fear as the gang of about five teenagers made their presence known. They also watched as a man in a crimson suit, two large D's on his chest, leaped down from a roof.

As Daredevil landed, the gang stopped and looked at him. The Scarlet Swashbuckler crouched, studying his opponents.

"So, the big ‘Double D' has finally come out to play!" the oldest-looking one said. He was closest, according to Daredevil's ‘radar'. Daredevil could detect the outline of a bat in the young man's hand, and the boy was prepared to use it. "Come on, boys! Let's get him!"

Daredevil jumped forward, landed in such a way as to knock the leader to the ground. The leader swung the bat, hoping to knock Daredevil's feet out from under him, but the crimefighter jumped sideways, turned to face the rest of the gang which was now facing him. They pulled out guns. Daredevil backflipped, barely getting out of the bullets' way.

The leader of the gang had stood up and began leading the charge against Daredevil. Daredevil jumped forward again and began throwing punches, hoping to connect with as many jaws as possible.

However, the five members were able to bring Daredevil to the ground. Daredevil fell there, taking the beating, gathering up his strength. Then, as the beating began to let up, Daredevil harnessed all of his strength and hurled the gang off of his back!

"Bravo," a deep voice said.

Daredevil tensed. He knew that voice. "What do you want, Fisk?" he asked.

"I have something to show you," Fisk said. "And no, I'm not making a pun or trying to be funny. I have something that you'll find very . . . interesting. Come to my office in a half hour."

Daredevil gritted his teeth. "I'll be there."

A half hour later, Daredevil found himself sitting in a darkened room. Wilson Fisk, the former (and soon-to-be future . . . ) Kingpin of crime, sat at the desk in front of him.

"Okay, Fisk," Daredevil said. "Tell me what you want so I can get out of here."

"Patience, Daredevil," Kingpin replied. "I received the tape only a couple of hours ago. It had some very interesting footage on it."

"All the good that will do me."

"I realize that you are unable to watch television very well," Fisk said. "Therefore, I will allow you to hear it. To prove its contents, I will also give you the addresses of these incidents, so you may examine them yourself."

"Why would I care?"

"Because they deal with an old partner of yours: Spider-Man."

Daredevil gritted his teeth once more. He had been friends with Spider-Man for a long while. However, recent events had torn them apart*, and it had been done in such a way that Daredevil felt a future meeting might even lead to confrontation. He now had the feeling that he was right. "Go ahead, Fisk. Show me."

*[The Astonishing Spider-Man Annual # 1 – Ben!]

Fisk played the tape. Daredevil heard all of what happened. He couldn't believe it. While he was unsure of the first incident, the second incident definitely involved Spider-Man.

"I don't know what's more disturbing," Daredevil said. "The fact that Spider-Man may have committed murder, or the fact that you have it on tape."

Kingpin handed Daredevil a piece of paper. "This is where the incidents occurred. Check them out yourself, as I'm sure you don't believe me."

Less than twenty minutes later, Daredevil stood on the roof, looking down in the alley where the deaths had occurred. The police had already taken the bodies away. Daredevil saw that little webbing was left. This matched what Spidey had told him several times, that the webbing only stayed for about an hour. At that rate, most of it had dissolved long ago.

Daredevil was now angry, confused. All signs pointed to Spider-Man obviously having killed those men. Who else could duplicate his web formula? Daredevil didn't know of any who could have done so, except for Venom, but Daredevil had heard the monster had lost his symbiotic 'other'.

He aimed his grappling hook at a nearby flagpole and went home.

The next morning in Chicago, Ben Reilly was awakened by violent shaking. He opened one eye and saw Jimmy-Six, fully dressed, standing over him.

"C'mon, Benny," Jimmy-Six said. "Get up. We gotta a job today."

"What time is it?" Ben asked.

"It don't matter. Get your butt out of bed and get ready," Jimmy-Six ordered. Then, he added: "NOW!"

Ben stood up. "Okay! Okay!"

As Ben walked to the bathroom and started the shower, he heard Jimmy-Six shouting something.

"Hey, Benny! Put on the new suit that's hangin' in yer closet!"

"New suit?"

"Yeah! After yesterday's mess*, I had the tailor bring us new duds, so we could look presentable."

*[As seen in the "Ben Reilly/Jimmy-Six: Enforcers" one-shot - Chip!]


Ben went back into the bathroom and shut the door. He looked in the mirror, staring at the face that not only belonged to him, but belonged to Peter Parker as well. At that moment, the impact of his recent decisions came to him. He quickly brushed them off, reminded himself that he had a job to do this morning.

Next: Peter finds a new source of income! Ben Reilly takes on an assignment that makes him realize he might just be in over his head! And could it be? SPIDER-MAN vs. DAREDEVIL?! "Maximum Vengeance" continues next issue!

A Word from the Writer:

And here is my first issue. I have been anticipating this for a while. I never really expected to follow in Ben Kaine's footsteps so closely, but since I will be picking up on plotlines from his runs on both Astonishing Spider-Man and Daredevil: The Fearless as well as the Enforcers one-shot, it looks like I can't get away from him. So I publicly thank him for writing those issues, so I could have a story to build on.

I will be here for six issues, all part of this one story. And there's a possibility I'll be back for another Spidey project here.

Of course, looking back at how I got here, it was an interesting process. I'm doing this partly as a favor. DarthMav, the former EIC here, came to my fanfic site (DC/Marvel: The Merging) to write Young Justice. So, I told him that if he ever needed anyone for a fill-in on Spider-Man, call me. Well, from that came this story.

And Spidey is no stranger to me. I'm very used to writing him, although not in this version. If you are interested in seeing my other version of Spider-Man, you can see it at DC/Marvel: The Merging.

Until next issue,
Chip Caroon

A Word From the Editor:

I can't believe I'm doing this.

Until next issue,
Ben Kaine!