Appearing in "Facing the Void"
- Joe Windy
- Beyonder (Recap)
- United States of America
Synopsis for "Facing the Void"
It is the holidays and with his wife Mary Jane out of town visiting family with her Aunt Anna, Peter Parker spends his time alone reflecting on everything he has lost over the past years.[Continuity 1] Feeling down, Parker decides to go out web-slinging as Spider-Man as it always manages to cheer him up. Just as he is considering joining his wife in Pittsburg, Spider-Man's spider-sense begins going off alerting to him of some kind of danger in a nearby alley. Something is watching him from the darkness, however, it -- and the spider-sense warning -- disappear as soon as the wall-crawler enters the alley. The only thing he can find is a strange doll made out of straw that is in the shape of a puma. Spider-Man wonders if this could be a sign that his foe the Puma is back, but quickly dismisses it. While in Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange spends his evening in his Sanctum Sanctorum reflecting on his own troublesome year.[Continuity 2] That's when he senses a sudden shift in the dimensional plane and decides to investigate it. When he begins using the Orb of Agamotto to try and detect the source, the presence that has caused this shift has left. Curious, Doctor Strange continues searching to try and find the source.
In Hartsdale, New Mexico, Thomas Fireheart is in a sweat lodge meditating, he is reflecting on his own past failures in an attempt to find answers from within. His meditations are interrupted by his uncle, Joseph Threetrees, the tribal shaman. Thomas tells his uncle that he wants to be left alone as he has a lot to attone for. However, Joseph insists that these failures are in the past and that he needs to look forward to the future and use his failures as lessons of the future.[Continuity 3] Joseph then begins reminding his nephew of all the things he has accomplished over the years. How Thomas was selected to be the chosen one of his tribe to protect them from a creature from beyond, becoming the Puma. He also provided for the tribe with his business, Fireheart Enterprises, as well as his mercenary work, which also helped hone his skills as the Puma.[Continuity 4] However, things began to change when the Puma was hired to go after Spider-Man, leading to a period where Thomas began questioning his values.[Continuity 5] However, Puma later enlisted Spider-Man's aid in trying to stop the Beyonder, the being that Thomas believed was the threat to his tribe. Unfortunately, when the Beyonder apparently gave the Puma the power to destroy him, Thomas couldn't bring himself to do it.[Continuity 6] The haunted Thomas ever since, allowing the animal inside him to take full control, until Spider-Man helped restore him to normal.[Continuity 7] However, regardless of being restored to normal, Thomas refuses to become the Puma again for fear of the animal taking full control again.
Fireheart soon grows tired of his uncle recounting his failures, but Joseph continues to press on. Saying that he is aware of more than his nephew realizes, Joseph suggests that perhaps the Beyonder was messing with him. He reminds his nephew that things are never quite what they seem when you are dealing with cosmic entities or events. He goes on to tell an ancient story about two brothers who created the universe. The legends say that these brothers were opposites and constantly warring with each other. He concludes by saying this story is an allegory for humans who are constantly at struggle with their good natures and their darker instincts. Although he agrees that his nephew failed in the past when he allowed his darker instincts take over, but insists that he shouldn't let this stop him from giving his good nature a chance. Back in New York City, Spider-Man is still trying to make sense of the strange doll he found in the alley. Suddenly, his spider-sense begins going off as the strange animalistic presence returns. This return is also detected by Doctor Strange and projects his astral form to track it to its source. That's when Spider-Man narrowly avoids an attack by a massive reptilian man-monster calling himself Reptar. Reptar has sensed the fettish -- the doll that Spider-Man found -- and assumed that he was one of the chosen. Discovering that this is not the case, Reptar easily swats Spider-Man aside and continues his search. As Spider-Man recovers, Doctor Strange's astral form arrives on the scene. Unfortunately, Reptar has fled the scene and there is no trace of him anywhere. With the trail gone cold and unable to do anything in this form, Doctor Strange decides to return to his Sanctum to look for spells that can help him locate his foe.
Early the next morning, Joe Windy rushes to Thomas Fireheart's home to tell him that his uncle has gone missing and someone turned his home upside down. Going to investigate, Thomas cannot find any spoor to track whoever took Threetrees. The only clue is a crude drawing of a spider on the wall. Seeing this, Thomas tells Joe to contact his private hanger and have them fuel up his jet. Flying to New York, Thomas places a call to Peter Parker and the pair agree to meet in Central Park in order to save his uncle.[Continuity 8] By this time, Strange has been able to detect the source of the dimensional shift and deduces that it is being done using a cominbation of magic and science. Sensing that the source is close by, Strange sends out his astral form once again. Meanwhile, Thoams Fireheart is waiting for Peter Parker to arrive when he is confronted by a gang of men who then attempt to rob him. That's when Spider-Man arrives and both he and Thomas easily send the muggers packing. Soon they are comparing notes and as they conclude that Reptar had something to do with the disappearance of Thomas' uncle, they are attacked by their mutual foe. As Spider-Man struggles with Reptar, he tells Thomas to turn into the Puma and lend a hand. However, Fireheart is afraid to transform for fear that his animal side will take over again. As Doctor Strange's astral form arrives on the scene, the combatants are enveloped in a strange myst that passes them through the dimensional barriers.
They all materialize on what looks like an alien space ship owned by Reptar. They are surrounded by armed guards who try to attack Spider-Man and Thomas. While these soldiers appeaer to be armored space aliens to them, this confuses Doctor Strange who sees them as an army of mystics. That's when Reptar reveals that he can see Doctor Strange, even in his astral form, and the two engage in psychic battle. With his spider-sense telling him that thair attackers are an illusion, Spider-Man grabs Fireheart and the two flee from the ship. Outside, they discover they are on some strange jungle, which comes as a complete shock to the pair as they assumed they were still in Manhattan. Back inside, Doctor Strange is satisfied that his allies have made their escape and flees the battle as well. In the jungle, Spider-Man and Fireheart argue about what to do next when they are ambushed by a tribe of savages. However, they soon stop their attack and begin worshiping the two intruders when they see Thomas carrying the fetish, which turns out to be the effigy of something the tribes people call Tarata. As the primitives are taking Spider-Man and Thomas back to their village, Doctor Strange is able to locate Joseph Threetrees, who surprises the mage by being able to see his astral form as well. In the village, Spider-Man and Fireheart are brought to the tribla leader. As they are shown cave paintings and statues of a puma-like creature, they deduce that these people have been enslaved by Reptar and his minions and they worship some being they call Tarata, who is destined to save them from their enslavers. Putting all this together, Spider-Man tells Thomas that he has to accept the fact that he may have to become the Puma again even though he doesn't want to.
Back abaord the alien ship, Doctor Strange is instructed on how to free Joseph, who admits that he has clashed with Reptar in the past. This surprises Doctor Strange and when he asks how this is possible, the shaman explains that it is a long and complicated story, repeating his story about cosmic events not being what they appear to be and once again telling the story about the two brothers who created the universe. While at the camp, Thomas refuses to become the Puma or go back to the alien ship. Since it is their only ticket home, Spider-Man gets fed up of trying to convince him and the two head off to the ship. As they fight past the guards, Strange and Joseph continue searching for Reptar. Along the way, Doctor Strange's questions about Joseph's origins, his relationship with Reptar, and his magical abilities only raise cryptic answers from the elderly shaman. Spider-Man and Thomas, meanwhile, have split up to try and find the controls to the ship. Unfrotunately for Thomas, he runs into Reptar in his human form. The villain expains that they are both the chosen ones of their people and that they have been selected to be the champions of their people. Not only this, but they are only two of many such guardians who do battle across the universe and beyond.
Helped by Doctor Strange, Spider-Man gets past the guards and finds the transportation gate that brought them to this alien world. Meanwhile, Reptar transforms into his reptillian form and attacks Fireheart. No match against his attacker, Thomas Fireheart has no choice but to allow himself to transform into the Puma. He quickly defeats Reptar in battle and is reunited with his uncle who tells him the ship is about to explode. They soon catch up with Spider-Man and the astral form of Doctor Strange. Once reunited, the wall-crawler uses his webbing to activate the teleporter and they are all returned to Central Park just seconds before the alien ship self-destructs.
In the aftermath of the battle, Thomas reveals to Spider-Man that not only will he become the Puma again, but he has elected himself to be the champion of the tribe on the alien world they were on. Should Reptar threaten them again, he will find some way to get back and protect them. Spider-Man wishes they could have figured out what Reptar was up to, but Thomas figures they'll find out should he return again, even though they couldn't trust the answers repeating his uncle's addage about things never being what they appear when dealing with a cosmic entity.
- There are a lot of continuity issues with this opening sequence:
- This story is depicted as taking place on the week between Christmas and New Years. It's of note to point out that the last time Christmas was depicted was in Spider-Man Holiday Special #1995 when Ben Reilly was Spider-Man. Per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616, both of these publications fall under the four-year span of "Year 9" of the Modern Age. As such, the fact that Christmas is celebrated twice during the same year doesn't make any sense. To explain this contradiction is a matter of interpretation. However, one could assume that the holiday being celebrated here is a topical reference as opposed to a literal one.
- Peter and Mary Jane are referred to as husband and wife here. However, years later, their marriage is erased from existence by Mephisto in Amazing Spider-Man #545. As such they should be considered a common-law couple here.
- The "losses" that are glossed over all occured during the Clone Saga including the deaths of his unborn child (Amazing Spider-Man #418) and his clone Ben Reilly. (Spider-Man #75)
- At the time of this story Doctor Strange has been on a rather complicated mystical trail that ran from the Siege of Darkness Event until the War of the Seven Spheres (Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #70–80.
- Thomas makes an off hand comment about taping episodes of Babylon 5, the X-Files, and Xena: Warrior Princess. These were all popular television shows at the time they were aired. These and the fact that Joseph recorded these TV shows on VHS tape should be considered topical references per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616.
- The Puma's origins here were originally chronicled in Amazing Spider-Man #256.
- Puma initially clashed with Amazing Spider-Man #256–258.
- The Puma tried, and failed, to kill the Beyonder in Amazing Spider-Man #272–273 and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #111.
- Puma's animal side took full control during the Back From the Edge story-arc.
Back From the Edge Spider-Man Unlimited #7 Amazing Spider-Man #395 Spectacular Spider-Man #218 Amazing Spider-Man #396 Spectacular Spider-Man #219
- Here, Peter thanks Thomas for sending flowerst to his Aunt May's funeral. At the time of this story, everyone believed that May Parker died in Amazing Spider-Man #400. However, it is later revealed in Spider-Man #97 that this woman was an impostor.
- First and only known appearance to date besides flashbacks
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