Astonishing Spider-Man #20
Astonishing Spider-Man
Maximum Vengeance
Part V: Truth and Justice
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 accidently 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. His latest mission, however, has become a disaster, for the man he and Jimmy-Six have been hired to bodyguard is being hunted by none other than the evil Blacklash!

Meanwhile, in New York, Peter Parker has discovered a new way to make money now that the Daily Bugle is no longer accepting photos of his superpowered alter-ego. How? Simple! Sell his photos to Stanley King, owner of the Spider-Man Fanzine!

Money problems aren't all Peter has to sweat about, however, because the heroic vigilante Daredevil is on his trail for a murder he didn't commit! And unbeknownst to our Webbed Wonder, two men are responsible for it all: Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, and his evil servant Doctor Vincent Mendella!

Daredevil stood on a house across the street from the residence of the Parkers, watching. As soon as Peter appeared, he'd spring on the lad and attack. For some reason, however, he had decided to be slightly merciful. He would wait and allow his opponent to change into his 'Spider-Man' costume.

Peter Parker walked out of the front door, rewarding Daredevil's patience, and Daredevil was swinging toward him in an instant. Peter's early-warning 'spider-sense' gave him a necessary head start. He started running, hoping that he would have a chance to change.

'Daredevil? After me again? I've gotta figure out why!' Peter thought. He ran and ducked in a corner, just long enough to change into his red and blue tights. He didn't care if Daredevil saw the change- The Sightless Swashbuckler already knew his secret identity. All he had to worry about was keeping his identity secret from any regular joe that noticed the fight. In a way, he thought, it was similar to fighting Norman Osborn.

Spider-Man ran out of the corner and into a nearby playground. No children were around, so that would lessen the impact of the fight. He looked around, wondering how he could fight the crimson ninja. Spider-Man didn't see him. But Daredevil found him, evidenced quickly by the billy club flying through the air toward the Webbed Wonder's face. The wall crawler fell back, watched as an outed Daredevil somersaulted from the building above and, using his acrobatic grace, caught the top bar of the swing set, twirling down perfectly. He ran forward at Spider-Man, who jumped over a seesaw to gain distance. Daredevil began to follow, but Spider-Man lashed out with his webbing, successively knocking Daredevil down. He leaped over to his fallen adversary.

Daredevil's eyes were covered (and were blind anyway), but even without a look into those windows of the soul Spider-Man could still somehow see Daredevil was somehow influenced.

'It's like we're complete enemies,' Spider-Man thought. 'I haven't seen Hornhead act like this since that time Kingpin gave him the Death's Arrow Drug! Kingpin- He's been lying low for a while. Could this be his return…?'

Before he could ponder anymore, however, Daredevil lunged up at him, knocking the already off-balance hero backward. 'He's almost bestial! I've got to cure him somehow- Or at least snap him out of it!'

Daredevil was on top of Spider-Man, had already thrown one judo chop at the Webslinger's throat, which Spider-Man had deflected. He was ready to come down with the other fist, but the Amazing Arachnid threw up his other hand and sent Daredevil down. They rolled around on the ground, Spider-Man inevitably coming out on top. He slapped Daredevil hard.

"Dude, snap out of it! I'm not your enemy! A guy who can sense people lying and you won't believe I didn't kill anyone-?!" Spider-Man began. What he received was a scream from the vigilante and a tossing. As Spider-Man fell, the roaring Daredevil stood again, and this time took the chance to- run?

Spider-Man stood up, dusted himself off. He fired a spider tracer at Daredevil, which attached itself to the crimson-clad crimefighter's ankle.

'What in the world did I do?' Spidey wondered.

Outside Chicago.

Ben Reilly stood guard by the small, two-engine jet as his charge Winson Brigham boarded, followed by Jimmy-Six. Once Ben was sure that they were both seated, he boarded after them. The door closed, locked, and Jimmy-Six took the controls. They were off!

As the plane lifted off into the air, Ben gave a last look to his partner and moved back into the passenger area. He entered and stopped, as he saw a frightened Winson and a smiling Blacklash.

"Jimmy-!" he shouted. But Blacklash was quick, sending his whip forward to merely contact Ben's skin. The resulting electric charge knocked the ex-Spider-Man out.

Jimmy-Six ran back from the cockpit with his gun pulled out. He fired twice at the villain, both shots only tearing into the long black cape. The whip lashed out again and cracked, sending the gun out of Jimmy's hand. Another crack brought Jimmy down just as hard.

Blacklash walked victoriously to Winson Brigham, said: "Let's talk."

Liz Osborn, the Defendant, arrived at the courthouse wearing the orange blazer that she was required to wear as a prisoner. She was handcuffed. As she walked in, she looked over at her brother, Mark Raxton, and her son, Normie, who were already sitting in the room, ready to observe the hearing.

As Liz neared the table she was to sit at, the lawyers already standing there turned around.

"Foggy?" Liz asked.

"You needed someone to represent you, right? Why should I let some stranger do it?" the chubby man replied. He tried to smile. Liz took her seat. Foggy sat down as well.

"You have reviewed the case, I presume?" she asked.

"Don't worry. You'll get off. I promise," he said.

Just then, the judge walked in. He was an older man, with graying hair and glasses. He had a neatly-trimmed mustache. Everyone stood up as the bailiff announced: "All rise. The Honorable Judge Howard Jenkins presiding."

The judge took his seat and the rest of the people in the courtroom followed suit. He looked over his paperwork, then looked at the defense table. "Ms. Osborn, it appears you wish to be freed."

Liz looked at Foggy, who nodded.

"Yes, that is correct, Your Honor," she replied.

"Well, it looks like we'll have to prove that you are worthy of being let out . . . "

Ben Reilly woke up with a start to see Blacklash talking to Brigham. He didn't feel nearly well enough to stand and fight again. Instead, he lay low, and merely tried to hear what they were saying.

"W-What is it that you want?" Brigham asked. "Why are you after me?"

"My wife was murdered some time ago*, Winson. All I have left now is my daughter. I swore that nothing would happen to her. But you, Sir, are endangering her welfare!"

*(This took place in Marvel Comics' Elektra #7)

"What? How am I threatening your daughter's welfare?" Brigham whispered.

"You know very well how!" Blacklash roared. "You tried to hire me for a job, Winson, taking me away from my home. But in the meantime, you tried to bulldoze our neighborhood! And when I found out about it, you decided to use my daughter- my own daughter- as insurance!"

At that point, Ben Reilly stood up. "'Hire him'? Brigham, what the heck is going on here?!"

"That's- none of your concern!" Brigham said, suddenly pulling a gun out of his coat pocket. "You know too much already!"

But, just as he pulled Winson prepared to pull the trigger on his own bodyguard, Blacklash snapped his whip, catching Brigham's arm and jerking it up. Ben ducked, used his agility to manuever around the wealthy man and to where Jimmy-Six lay.

Jimmy-Six was just standing up.

"Jimmy!" Ben exclaimed. "We're being set up! Brigham is the crook!"

"What the heck is going on?" Jimmy-Six asked. "Geez, I'm out for a few minutes, and I miss most of the movie!"

"Just get in to the cockpit," Ben said. "Turn us around and land us back in Chicago! Now!"

The judge looked over the papers in front of him, then to Liz Osborn. He had already spent the better part of an hour listening to evidence and argument and he still wasn't completely convinced that the woman should be free.

"Mr. Nelson," the judge said. "At this time, I am still not fully sure that either choice I have the power to make will be wise. However, I am willing to allow a twenty-four hour recess to consider."

"Your Honor, if I may!" Foggy said. "I would like to call a character witness to the stand."

The judge sighed. "I have no problem with that."

Foggy turned slightly. "I call Mark Raxton to the stand."

Mark Raxton, who's completely-golden skin had allowed him once to earn the criminal name MOLTEN MAN, stood up. He wasn't completely surprised by the turn of events. They were desperate. He walked up to the stand calmly.

The District Attorney was far from 'calm'. "I object!"

The judge looked at the DA, and then at Raxton, and finally at the defense. "On what grounds?"

"Mark Raxton is a known criminal, Your Honor. He's- 'The Molten Man'!"

"Overruled. You may sit down, Miss Wilson," the judge replied. "I shall allow him to speak on Miss Osborn's behalf. You seem to have forgotten that Mr. Raxton's past of illegal activities has been completely paid for, and I'm sure he thanks you for bringing it up."

The DA sat down unhappily.

The intercom buzzed in Matt Murdock's office.

"Phone call on line one, Mr. Murdock," the secretary said.

Matt picked up the phone and pressed the appropriate button.

"Matt Murdock," he said.

"Matt- Er, what's wrong with your 'friend'?" the person on the other end of the line asked.

"Is this Peter Parker?"

"Yeah, a very confused Peter Parker! Look, man, I know that our buds Spider-Man and Daredevil haven't been seeing eye-to-eye for a while, but is that any reason for DD to try to beat Spider-Man to a near pulp-like state?"

Matt hesitated. "The murder, Peter-"

"Bull. You know I couldn't have done it."

"I- don't know- I've been under a lot of pressure recently and- can't really tell you much."

"Can't or won't?" Peter asked.

"Maybe both," Matt replied. "Is there a place we can talk?"

"What's wrong with right now?"

"I don't trust phones," Matt said, very coldly.

"Sure. Can you meet me at the Daily Grind?"

"I'll be there in an hour."

"Now, I'm confused," Jimmy-Six said. "Brigham here hired Blacklash to do a job, to get him away from his home, so he could- tear down his house?"

"Something like that," Ben replied. Brigham had already been subdued and was tied up in a corner. As for Blacklash, he was no longer considered a threat, so the Enforcers left him free. That didn't mean they weren't keeping him under close observation.

"So, why didn't Brigham just pay the guy off to move?"

"It must've been something besides just the land Brigham was interested in," Ben said. He looked back at their ex-employer. "So, what was it, Brigham? What did you want?"

Brigham spit on Ben's shoes.

Then Jimmy's meaty fist grabbed Brigham and pulled him up, slamming the tycoon's back to the side of the jet. "Dammit, Brigham. You tell us what we wanna know!"

Ben Reilly put a hand on Jimmy-Six's shoulder. "Calm down, Jimmy. Put him down. When he's ready to tell us, he will."

Peter Parker watched as Matt Murdock sat down at the table in front of him.

"You're late," he said.

"Sorry," Matt replied, then he lowered his voice. "I had to go see the doctor. After I ran off this morning, I went to him to get some blood tests done. He found something."


"He's not sure, but it was a drug. That's why I went so brutal on you, Peter, and I apologize. But you still have to explain to me about those murders. Those were the catalyst."

"Hey, I had to have been framed," Peter replied. "Don't you think?"

Matt nodded. "We may not agree on all methods, but I know you don't kill. And your heart didn't skip a beat just then. In fact, I should have realized something was wrong when I did go after you."

"You were drugged. Your perceptions were gone. That's what happens. Any idea on who it was?"

Just then, the Daily Grind's own waitress Kelly came over. "May I take your orders now?"

"Hi, Kelly," Peter said.

"Peter!" Kelly exclaimed. "I've been meaning to call you! Do you know where Ben is? I mean- Shirley's been worried sick and-"

Peter shook his head, sorry to have to tell her he didn't know. Kelly was obviously attracted to Ben, even though they'd never been able to hit it off, partially because his 'brother' had already been dating a girl named Desiree. "I'm sorry. I haven't seen him in weeks. He just left so suddenly…"

"Well, when you find him- Let me know, alright?"

"Sure thing," Peter replied. "Now, I could go for your pasta special and a Coke."

Kelly turned to Matt. "And for you, Sir?"

"I'll have the same thing."

As Kelly left, Matt lowered his voice again. "I don't know who did it to me or who framed you, but I have my suspicious."


Matt nodded. "Remember the 'Death's Arrow' drug? This seems similar."

"But shouldn't that have made you really weak after your episodes? Heck, dead by now?"

"Someone could have modified it."

"What say we decide to do some investigating, then?"

"You mean go to Fisk?"

"What other options do we have?"

Matt smiled. "Sometimes I wonder why we don't see eye-to-eye anymore."

"I think it had something to do with the Black Cat."

"I know," Matt said. "But, for now, let's leave that in the past. We need to work together now."

"Sounds good to me," said Peter Parker, SPIDER-MAN.

"So, Mr. Raxton, you simply believe that your sister was acting in the best interests of her son?" Foggy asked.


"Thank you. I have no further questions," Nelson said. The defense attorney sat down.

"I have no questions, either," Miss Wilson added.

The judge looked at Raxton. "You may step down."

After a few moments, the judge addressed the courtroom. "At this time, I cannot give a judgement. Therefore, this court will be in recess for twenty-four hours. We shall resume at this time tomorrow."

He brought down the gavel.

DAREDEVIL and SPIDER-MAN burst into Wilson's Fisk office only a short time later. The giant who sat across the desk from them, blowing a cloud of smoke from his cigar, raised his eyebrows in unsurprised amusement.

"Gentlemen," Fisk said. "I've been expecting you."

"How did I know he was going to say that?" Spider-Man muttered.

"I've always had my ways of being a step ahead, Spider-Man."

"I'll bet so," Daredevil said through gritted teeth. "Now tell me, 'Kingpin'. Time to come clean. Did you drug me?"

"As if I would tell you everything," Kingpin replied with a smile. "No. I personally did not. If you want the man who has turned you against each other, Murdock, allow me to advise against it. If you pursue this-truly pursue it to the end-you will be getting into something much deeper than you could imagine."

"Tell us, Fatso."

"(sigh) As you wish. You are both aware of how much your existence has pained me, and of how much I would enjoy being rid of that pain. Of course, the simplest solution, I decided, was to attempt a rather simple plan: Have you kill each other."

"Unfortunately, you appear to have triumphed. But at least you have nothing on me," Fisk said. "Nor is there anything you could find on me. I didn't make the drug, Daredevil. Or administer it into your bloodstream."

"Then who did?" Daredevil asked.

"Do you know a 'Doctor Vincent Mendella'?"

"Wait a minute!" Spider-Man said. "Mendella! That was the guy who made the Death's Arrow Drug! You were right, Hornhead!"

"Not entirely. You see, Vincent is Dr. Mendella's oldest son, a gifted chemist in his own right. I was so impressed I even gave him offices on my private floor. Just through that door, in fact."

Spider-Man turned, immediately ran through the door. Daredevil followed, leaving Wilson Fisk merely to watch from his desk. In the small sideroom, the two heroes found a small laboratory set up.

"He's gone," Spider-Man said. "Why are they always gone?"

Daredevil walked to the table in the center, 'saw' a pad of paper lying there. He took off his glove and ran his finger over the paper's surface, allowing his hypersensitive power of Touch to discern its secrets through the raised ink.

"Mendella's in charge of a chemical company," Daredevil slowly said. Then his breathing quickened. "And I think- He's got plans for it. Big ones. But I can't read enough of them-!"

Daredevil sighed, then replaced his glove. "But I do know he's on a plane to Chicago."

"That's a lot for a blind man to read," Spider-Man smiled under his mask.

"I could feel the indention from the paper on top."

"Look, I'll follow him to Chicago. You investigate Mendella's company branch here."

"No," Daredevil replied. "I should go after him. I'm the one he made-…"

"Hornhead, listen. You're a well-known lawyer. I'm a freelance shutterbug. You can't just leave suddenly like this. I can."

"You have a point," Daredevil said. He sighed, then shook Spider-Man's hand. "It's been nice working with you again, Webs. It's been- too long since we have. I'll let you know if I learn something. Throw Mendella one for me."

"You got it," Spider-Man said.

The two ran out of the room, past a frowning Kingpin.

Next issue: The exciting conclusion to MAXIMUM VENGEANCE! There's so much in this one, Folks, we can't even write a teaser for it! Chip's last issue!