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New Marvel Knights
Astonishing Spider-Man #17
Astonishing Spider-Man
Maximum Vengeance
Part II: It All Started One Morning . . .
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.

Meanwhile, in New York, Peter Parker struggles to discover a new way to make money now that the Daily Bugle is no longer accepting photos of his superpowered alter-ego. Fortunately, he may have a new buyer: His own fanzine!

Peter may soon have more media attention than that, however. Unbeknownst to him, the once-Kingpin of Crime Wilson Fisk has enlisted the vigilante Daredevil to stop a killing spree in which all signs point to one murderer: Spider-Man!


Ben Reilly and Jimmy-Six pulled up to the airport at seven twenty-five. Ben looked around for the guy that they had been hired to escort to Dallas.

"What's this guy's name again?" Ben asked.

"Brigham," Jimmy-Six replied, "Winson Brigham."

"You know anything 'bout him?"

"Rich businessman in need o' bodyguards. That's it. Oh, and he's supposed to be wearing a blue overcoat, blue hat."

"I think I found him," Ben said.

Jimmy-Six turned to where Ben was pointing. "Good eyes, Benny. Let's go meet him."

Benny the Taps and Jimmy-Six walked up to a man in his late fifties, it appeared. The man was wearing a dark blue overcoat and hat, as well as a blue three-piece suit. His tie was blue, but his shirt was white.

"Winson Brigham?" Benny asked, tugging on his gloves, making sure they were on.

"Yes," the man replied. "And you . . . ?"

Jimmy-Six shoved Ben aside and stepped forward. "Jimmy-Six, Mr. Brigham" he said, shaking Brigham's hand. "This is my associate, 'Benny the Taps'. We're the Enforcers, your bodyguards for the day."

"Yes, I know," Brigham replied evenly. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

"Of course we do," Jimmy-Six frowned. "Now, if you would just get on the plane, so that we can protect you-"

"Alright, Mr. 'Six'."

"Please. Call me Jimmy."

Brigham walked to his plane. Jimmy-Six turned to Benny. "See, you gotta be smooth. I hope you were takin' notes. You'll need ta know how ta do that."

Benny nodded. I hope I won't regret my decision to leave New York, he thought. Maybe I should have just told Peter about . . .

"C'mon, Benny!" Jimmy-Six shouted, halfway to the plane.

Then again, I dunno, Ben thought with a smile. This is kinda fun.

Suddenly, an attendant ran up to them.

"Mr. Brigham," he said. "The pilot said it would be a while before the plane could take off. He asked that you wait in the lobby."

"Okay," Brigham said. "But if I'm late, I'll have his job!"

At that moment, unbeknownst to all, the pilot was doing some last minute tests on the plane, when a man in a dark outfit came up behind him. He put the pilot in a chokehold, and held a chloroform-soaked cloth over his mouth. The pilot quickly fell to the floor.

The man in black dragged him to a remote area, hidden from view. He took off the pilot's clothes and put them on over his black outfit. Then, he walked out, as if nothing had ever happened.


Peter Parker dialed the number advertised on the back of the Spider-Man fanzine. He had thought about calling it so many times in those past few days, he had practically memorized it. Why he hadn't called sooner, Peter wasn't really sure. Something was nagging at him, but he needed the money, and they might be able to buy his Spider-Man pictures. Finally, he dialed the last number and listened as it rang at the other end of the line.

"Hello?" a male voice picked up.

"Hi. Are you part of the . . . Spider-Man Fanzine staff?" Peter asked.

"Yes I am! Editor-in-Chief, Stanley King.* Who might this be?"

*(special New Marvel No-Prize to the first person to guess how I came up with this name! - Chip)

"This is Peter Parker. I -- "

"Peter Parker!" King half-shouted into the phone. "I know your work. You take those photos of Spider-Man for the Daily Bugle."

"Well, I did."

King was confused. "'Did'?"

"They no longer accept Spider-Man photos. And, well, I have a bunch lying around, and need some extra cash, so I was wondering . . . if you guys wanted them?"

King was silent for a second. "We'd love to have them, but we don't exactly have the money to hire you as a regular photographer."

"Oh," Peter said. "Do you have the resources to buy some of the photos yourself?"

"Of course!" King said enthusiastically. "We'd love to buy some. How much do - I mean, did - you usually get for them at the Bugle?"

Peter named a price, only slightly lower than before.

"Is that all? We can surely purchase several. When can you come down?"

Peter looked at the clock on the wall. It read eight a.m. "Is eleven o'clock okay?"

"Sure, sure. Do you have the address?"

"Is it the one on the back of the magazine?"

"Yep."

"I'll be there. Good-bye."

"Bye," Stanley said. Peter hung up the phone, beaming in his new victory-

And then Mary Jane came rushing in.

"Peter!" she screamed. "Tiger, look at this!"

She shoved that morning's Daily Bugle into Peter's face.

"What's this?" Peter asked.

"Read!" she ordered.

Peter read the headline: SPIDER-MAN: MURDERER! His heart fell into his stomach.

"No way," he moaned. "Not this . . . again!"


Matt Murdock sat in his office, in disbelief. The events of last night disturbed him. He couldn't fathom anyway that Spider-Man could commit murder. Sure, maybe some of his loyalties, beliefs, and methods were a bit questionable, the wallcrawler was always one to preserve life. It looked as if there was only one possible conclusion to Daredevil.

He would have to take down his former ally himself.

Matt Murdock stepped out of his office shortly after eight, for the first time since he had returned from his little "adventure" the night before. He was still partly in shock. He could tell that Foggy Nelson was standing at the copy machine.

"Foggy," he said, walking over.

"What's up, Matt?" Foggy asked.

"Follow the Spider-Man murders for me."

Foggy lowered his voice, so only Matt could hear him. "Are you interested in defending Spidey?"

"Not at this point," Matt said coldly. He turned and headed back towards his office.

"Matt! What'd I say?"

"It's not you, Foggy. Trust me," Murdock said as he closed the door to his office.

No point in fooling myself, Foggy thought. Looks like Daredevil has something eating at him, and is going to take care of it.

Sure enough, inside Matt's office at that moment, Matt Murdock, attorney-at-law no longer stood in his office. In his place stood Daredevil . . . the man without fear!

Fisk is up to something, Daredevil thought. And he's going to tell me what. But first, I'm going to look for Spider-Man.

With that, he threw out his grappling hook and began swinging through the skies.


Peter sat at the kitchen table, face in hands. Mary Jane stood behind him, holding his shoulders.

"I wonder who's behind it this time," Peter muttered.

"Is there anyone who you've really ticked off that hasn't gotten revenge on you yet?" MJ asked wryly. Peter shook his head.

"I can't even remember half of the people who I've faced off against. Heck, most of them meld together into my mind."

Both were silent for a moment, trying to think of who was behind the latest woes for the wallcrawler.

"Let's just list off the names of villains, until we can figure one out," Mary Jane suggested.

"Sounds like fun," Peter said. "Shoot."

"Okay. How about the Green Goblin? He's been a big thorn in your side."

"He's locked up.* The whole family's dead or locked up. Except little Normie," Peter replied. Note to self: Check up on Normie.

*(as shown in Astonishing Spider-Man #1-8 - Chip)

"Electro?"

"Locked up."*

*(issues 14-15 - Chip)

"Doctor Octopus?"

"Ummm . . . Not his style."

"The Lizard?"

Peter shook his head again. "Nope. Whoever committed these murders was able to imitate my powers, at least visually. Lizard couldn't do that."

"Did you say 'imitate'?"

"Mysterio," Peter said, standing up. "I have to check on him."

"I hope you're not planning to go out in webbed long johns."

"Oh, that's right," Peter said, having forgotten for a moment that going out as Spider-Man was signing his own arrest warrant. "Ehh. I'll go to the Bugle and look through the archives."

"Good luck, Tiger."


Liz Osborn was led through the prison halls, to a waiting visitation booth. On the other side of the glass, she smiled sadly to see the unmistakable visage of her brother. He looked as he had always looked since the day of the industrial accident that had made him 'the Molten Man', with skin that appeared made of pure gold, holding within it the superhuman strength to crush a car. Yet within that power, he was still her much older brother.

Molten Man picked up the phone, giving a warm smile. "They say you might be let go."

"That's the rumor in here, too."

"It wasn't your fault."

"I know that. Norman pushed me into it," Liz said, a little ashamed.

"Got someone here who wants to talk to you," Molten Man said. He gave the phone to a small form behind him, and then with his powerful hands gently scooped up a small child, the most beautiful to Liz Allen in the world.

"Hi, Mom!" her son Normie said. "Guess what!"


For the better part of an hour, Daredevil had gone around the city, looking for any sign of Spider-Man. All he had found was the newest murder scene, which had been talked about in the paper. He had decided that it was time to go to Fisk, and find out what was going on.

Daredevil sat in Fisk's office once more. Fisk was sitting in his chair, facing the crimson crimefighter.

"So," Fisk said. "You think there is some sort of angle with this."

"That's right," Daredevil said. "Something about this whole murder scheme just doesn't fit."

"But you've seen the proof, have you not?"

Daredevil lowered his head, sheepishly replied: "Yes."

"And there is no doubting the evidence? No one else could have duplicated Spider-Man's powers in the way you saw."

"Well, the only one I can think of is Venom, but he hasn't exactly been himself recently."

"Then, as a man of logic, which I assume a star lawyer to be, you must be able to draw only one logical conclusion."

"Spider-Man is a murderer," Daredevil replied.


Benny the Taps and Jimmy-Six stood in the lobby of the airport on either side of Winson Brigham, who sat, thumbing through a magazine. Out of nowhere, two men began to approach. Jimmy-Six recognized them.

"Benny," he whispered. "Those guys're trouble. We gotta get out of here, now!"

Ben grabbed Brigham's arm. "Come on, Mr. Brigham. I think the plane is ready."

"But -- how -- what?"

"Just come, alright?"

The trio began walking out. The men began to walk faster towards the Enforcers.

"Jimmy, could you take Mr. Brigham to the plane?" Ben asked. "I have a little, uh, business to take care."

"Youse sure?"

"Hey. If I need your help, I'll call."

Jimmy-Six grabbed a hold of Brigham's arm, began escorting him to the plane. Ben stood where he was. The men rushed up.

"Hiya, guys," Ben said. "What can I do for you?"

The men grabbed Ben's arms. "You and your partner owe us. We'll come back for him later."

"I seriously doubt that," Ben said, using just a portion of his increased strength* to knock the men off of him and to the lobby floor.

*(Remember, Ben has spider powers too! - Chip)

Before the men could stand, Ben began running, hoping he could get to the plane before the men got to him. One of the men was able to pull out his piece and fired at Ben, causing the entire airport to go into a frenzy.

The shot missed. Ben pulled out his own gun, given to him by Jimmy-Six just that morning. He turned back and returned fired once, without hesitation. If he had thought about his actions for a moment, he might've been surprised at them. He had never fired a gun before, much less thoughtlessly . . .

Then, he kept running. He finally caught up with his partner.

"Jimmy," Ben said. "We're in trouble. We gotta get in the plane and get it off the ground."

"What're you-?" Jimmy muttered, but then he turned and saw the men running after them.

"Come on, Mr. Brigham," he said. "We gotta get you on that plane."

Benny and Jimmy-Six ran on, finally reaching the plane. As Jimmy settled in Brigham, Ben went to the cockpit.

"Pilot!" he yelled. "We gotta go!"

The pilot turned and stood up, a cruel sneer on his face as he said: "I don't think so, 'Taps' . . . "

"Aw, no!" Ben exclaimed as the "pilot" took off his pilot's uniform. The black suit underneath proudly proclaimed the name of a villain who had battled the Avengers themselves, and a stinging whip was removed from its holster-

"-BLACKLASH!"


Peter walked into the offices of the Daily Bugle and was immediately greeted by Robbie Robertson.

"Peter!" he said. "Nice to see you."

"Same here, Robbie."

"I hope you're not here because of the Spider-Man story. We still don't accept pictures."

Peter shook his head. "Oh, no. I just need to use the archives to do some research. Well, I guess it's related to Spidey. I need to know what Mysterio's up to. I'm trying to help Spidey clear his name."

Just then, Jameson walked up. "Mysterio?" he said gruffly. "He's still in prison, just like he ought to be."

"Are you sure?" Peter asked.

"I checked myself before we ran the story. I was trying to make sure we could have the most accurate story," Jameson growled. "That, and I didn't want to run a Spider-Man story if I didn't have to."

Yeah, Peter thought. I think it's got more to do with the first reason, Jonah. You have a soft spot in your heart, and it looks like after all these years, Spidey has finally found it.

"Well, thanks guys," Peter said. "If you'll excuse me, I have another appointment."

This one, he thought, . . . with a phone. He found a payphone on the street corner just outside, dialed up Mary Jane.

"Hello?" her voice picked up.

"MJ," Peter said. "According to Jameson, Mysterio couldn't have done it."

"Sounds like you're back to nowhere."

"I'll be home soon. Bye."

As Peter turned around from the pay phone, he caught the sight of woman being chased by two large men, just within the nearest alley.

I have no choice, Peter thought. Spidey's gotta help. I don't see any other of New York's famed heroes.

Unknown to Peter, Daredevil was swinging across above, watching, waiting for Peter Parker to make the change into his alter-ego Spider-Man...

A few moments passed. Spidey leaped down in front of the men, farther down the alley.

"Hey, guys. I know that what you're doing isn't right. You know what you're doing isn't right. So why don't you just stop?" Spider-Man asked politely.

"Yeah, right. We ain't afraid of you, Spider-!"

Spidey bonded the mens' feet together in a splurge of webbing. They fell to the ground. He then put webbing over their backs to hold them down until the police arrived.

Spider-Man turned and approached the woman. As he came closer, she screamed.

"GET AWAY FROM ME!"

From above, Daredevil had failed to catch the incident, but only heard the scream. That's it, he thought. It's now or never! I gotta take him down NOW or someone's gonna get hurt.

"Geez, lady. I'm not going to hurt you," Spidey said.

"Maybe not," a male voice said from behind him. "But I might have to hurt you."

The woman stood and ran as fast as she could. Spidey turned around, saw a very familiar figure.

"Daredevil! What are you doing here?" he asked, walking closer to his former friend.

He chose to disbelieve his 'Spider-Sense' and was met with a punch to the face.

"It's over for you," Daredevil growled. "And I'm going to stop you . . . HERE AND NOW!"


Next issue: The Enforcers battle Blacklash, as Spider-Man fights for his innocence!
WRITER'S NOTES:

I must thank Ben Kaine for writing the Enforcers one-shot. It inspired me to do the Ben Reilly plot in this arc, and I'm having tons of fun doing it. Also, I will thank him for his help as editor. This arc probably wouldn't have happened without him.

-Chip Caroon


EDITOR'S NOTES:

People probably think I insert those writer's notes of his.

-Ben Kaine