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Amazing Spider-Man #21: Review

Feb 1965
Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Story Name:

Where Flies the Beetle...!

Review & Comments

3 stars

Amazing Spider-Man #21 Review by (January 25, 2024)

Review: Spidey encounters the Beetle for the first time, in a goofy if unmemorable little story, much like the Beetle himself! The Beetle started out as a Human Torch villain and seeks his revenge on the Torch in this issue, with Spidey kind of accidentally getting in the middle of it. The Beetle just simply isn’t a very interesting or threatening villain, and that never really changes, as he remains kind of a throwaway bad guy, to be quickly dealt with before the real threat.  He even kind of takes a back seat here, with the personal drama between the various characters being the real crux of the story. This causes Betty to continue to be kind of annoying, once again jumping to conclusions, while Dorrie has her own issues with Johnny.

Actually, given that most of Pete’s supporting cast barely show up, there are times when this feels more like a Human Torch story that Spidey is guest starring in, rather than the other way around! There’s really not a whole lot else to say, it’s a goofy, fine little story, with the heroes catching Beetle almost feeling like an afterthought, though it does include a cute little panel as both heroes collide with Beetle from either side. Overall, it’s definitely not a terrible story by any stretch, but it has been one of the weaker and less standout issues of Spidey so far. They can’t all be winners.

Comments: First appearance of Beetle in a Spidey comic, as well as his second appearance ever, his first being in Strange Tales #123.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Amazing Spider-Man #21 Synopsis by Anthony Silvestro

Our story begins with Abner Jenkins, otherwise known as the Beetle, being released from prison after finishing his sentence. Having not been rehabilitated, the Beetle immediately dons his armor once more and sets off to get his revenge on the one who defeated him before, the Human Torch. The Torch meanwhile, sees the news of Beetle’s release, and flames on to go find him, much to the annoyance of his girlfriend, Dorrie Evans. At the same time, Peter Parker decides to stretch his legs after a long study session, taking to the rooftops as Spider-Man! The public reacts with fear and distrust at seeing Spider-Man, while they cheer and applaud the passing Human Torch, much to Spidey’s frustration. Little do either know, the Beetle has found the Torch and starts silently following him, as Spidey heads in the other direction, none the wiser.

Torch arrives at Dorrie’s house to find her quite upset with him, fed up with Johnny always having to leave in the middle of dates to do hero stuff. She gives him an ultimatum, that she’ll take him back, as long as he doesn’t use his flame for a full 24 hours, and he agrees. The Beetle, meanwhile, was outside listening the entire time, and decides to use Dorrie to get to the Torch. The next day, some kids bump into Dorrie on the street causing her to drop all of her things. Peter happens to be walking by and helps her, noticing only after she leaves that she dropped her wallet. Peter returns her wallet to her, and she invites him in for a drink, finding him pleasant and thinking that Johnny could learn a thing or two from Peter. Johnny returns, seeing Peter leaving, and questions Dorrie about Peter, as the Beetle, as Abner Jenkins, keeps watch outside.

Later, as Peter is out window shopping with Betty Brant, Johnny confronts Peter, telling him to stay away from Dorrie! This causes Betty to leave dejected, as Flash Thompson and a bunch of the other guys witness the altercation. Peter blows up at the Torch, after the misunderstanding caused Betty to become upset, as the other kids start to think that maybe Peter isn’t as puny as they thought. Flash rebuffs them, saying that Peter knows that Torch won’t fight a normal guy, proving his point by taking the opportunity to rib the Torch a little himself. Peter tries to explain things to Betty, but she leaves to be alone, causing Peter to destroy some bricks in frustration. With Betty mad at him anyway, Peter decides to make some moves on Dorrie as Spider-Man, in order to mess with the Torch more.

Spider-Man arrives at Dorrie’s house, just as the Beetle was going to capture her, causing the two to confront each other. Spidey and Beetle spend a bit out maneuvering each other, with Spidey finding the Beetle’s armor tougher than he expected. Dorrie witnesses the scuffle outside and calls Johnny, who thinks it’s just a clever ploy to get him to flame on and lose their bet. Spidey ends up tackling Beetle right through Dorrie’s front window, continuing their fight in her house. Meanwhile, Johnny decides to head over anyway, thinking that she’s had her fun for the day. Back at Dorrie’s house, the Beetle is able to grab Dorrie and fly away, as Spider-Man gives chase. Johnny arrives shortly after, and noticing all of the webs about, concludes that Spider-Man took Dorrie, as he flies after them, quickly catching up to Spidey and attacking him! Spidey uses his webs and agility to keep the Torch at bay, while also trying to lead him in the direction of the Beetle.

Meanwhile, at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson asks Betty to contact Peter, as he hasn’t brought Jameson any photos lately. Betty reaches Aunt May, who says that she thought Peter was with her, causing Betty to assume he’s with Dorrie. Back at the scuffle, Spidey and Torch catch up to the Beetle, proving it was he who took Dorrie, as the Torch rescues her and both heroes pursue the Beetle into an abandoned building. The Beetle does his best to avoid the two heroes, as they get in each other’s way. Eventually, they’re able to hit Beetle from both sides, as their combination of webs and fire, put the Beetle out of commission. Dorrie thinks Spider-Man was in league with the Beetle but the Torch remains unconvinced if unsure. This causes Spidey to storm off, frustrated that no one seems to trust him, as the issue ends with Spidey sulking and wondering if he’ll ever be trusted.

Steve Ditko
Steve Ditko
Stan Goldberg
Steve Ditko (Cover Penciler)
Steve Ditko (Cover Inker)
Stan Goldberg (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Sam Rosen.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Human Torch
Human Torch

(Johnny Storm)
J. Jonah Jameson
J. Jonah Jameson

(JJ Jameson)
May Parker
May Parker

(Aunt May)

(Peter Parker)

Plus: Beetle (Abner Jenkins), Betty Brant, Dorrie Evans.

> Amazing Spider-Man: Book info and issue index

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