Spider-Woman (1st series) #38

Issue Date: 
June 1981
Story Title: 
Criminal at Large

Chris Claremont (writer), Steve Leialoha, Bob Wiacek & co.(artists),Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Scheele & Warfield (colorists), Denny o’ Neil (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in chief)

Brief Description: 

After being framed for the robbery at the Mint, Spider-Woman flees from the police. Returning home, she is aware that unless she finds Black Tom and his group – the true culprits – her career as Spider-Woman is finished. She rejoins the party her flatmate, Lindsay, is throwing, only to find it crashed by three X-Men in civilian clothes, who were searching for a new mutant and ask Jessica about her activities as Spider-Woman. Jessica convinces them of her innocence and, with the help of Cerebro, they find Black Tom and his accomplices aboard a freighter. The two groups start a fight, with Siryn holding her own against Spider-Woman and then hypnotizing Angel. Eventually, Spider-Woman tricks the girl and then knocks her out while Storm and colossus take out Black Tom. That still leaves the most powerful member of the villains: Juggernaut. Spider-Woman comes up with a plan to trap him, thanks to her and Storm’s electrical powers and Colossus plays the bait. Together, their powers overload and destroy the ship and they don’t know whether Juggernaut died. Ashore, Black Tom exonerates both Spider-Woman and Siryn from any guilt and asks the X-Men to take care of his niece. A few weeks later, Jessica finally has her private investigator’s license and an office and is ready to start her new life.

Full Summary: 

Spider-Woman finds herself in dire straits and on the news as policemen lead her away in handcuffs from the San Francisco Mint, believing her one of the culprits who robbed the Vibranium. Unexpectedly, Spider-Woman wriggles out of the cop’s grip, tears apart her handcuffs with her super-strength and flies away. The cop she hit intends to shoot her, but his colleague reminds him that spent shells could hit innocent civilians when they fall down to Earth. They have to let her go. Annoyed, the cop orders the reporters to clear out.

Spider-Woman flies upwards in the night air, hurt and angry. She had had such hopes when she came to this city, now all of a sudden she finds herself branded a criminal. She quickly recalls the events that led to this.


She had just met her landlord, David Ishima, at the party her roommate, Lindsay, threw. When David showed her his garden, she was felled by an agonizing ultra-sonic scream. She slipped away and traced it to the Mint, which was being looted. Spider-Woman ambushed the group’s leader - Black Tom Cassidy - only to be confronted by Siryn, a teenager who manipulated sound. Spider-Woman won their battle, but was then was surprised by the Juggernaut. By the time she woke up again, she found herself surrounded by the police.


Flying towards and entering her home, Jessica realizes that her name won’t be cleared until she catches Black Tom and his group. But how can she find them? She toys with the thought of dropping her Spider-Woman identity, but wouldn’t it be a waste not to use her powers? She wishes she could talk to Lindsay about this, but her roommate doesn’t know about her secret life. And Jessica’s afraid that she will react he same instinctive disgust towards her as the New Men at Wundagore did. As Jessica agonizes over her decisions, she is unaware that somebody has scanned and is following her, several members of the X-Men in fact, who wonder whether or not she is a criminal.

Having changed back into ordinary clothes, Jessica rejoins the party, which is still in full swing. Lindsay asks her where she was – they were all worried. Jessica quickly lies that she went for a walk to clear her head and got lost. Something that happens even to natives, David assures her and inquires how her head is. As the doorbell rings, Lindsay first asks Jessica to go but, realizing how entranced she and David are and not wanting to spoil the moment, she goes herself – only to face three people she’s never seen before: Storm, Angel and Colossus in civilian clothes. Storm introduces herself simply as Ororo and Warren, oozing with charm, tells Lindsay that he knows Ben Disraeli – Lindsay’s boss – and was told it was okay to crash their party. Lindsay welcomes them and calls for Jessica, explaining that Warren is on the board of directors at the theatre where she works. Warren greets Ben while Lindsay talks with Peter. The X-Men are, however, there for business and Storm takes Jessica aside, asking if they can talk in private. They’d like to know where she was forty minutes ago and what she was doing as Spider-Woman.

Jessica quickly leads the three X-Men into her own room and tells them she’d like an explanation. So would they, Ororo replies and shows her pictures they’ve taken of her as Spider-Woman. Jessica asks if they are with the police and assures them she is innocent. The X-Men explain who and what they are and that they came to San Francisco to contact a new mutant they’d detected. Their sensor led them to the Mint. Jessica protests that she isn’t a mutant. However, Black Tom, Juggernaut and a girl named Siryn were there as well. Do those names mean anything to the X-Men? Of course they do, save for Siryn. Colossus explains how they have fought Black Tom and Juggernaut before and how he for one wouldn’t mind a rematch to even the score. Angel plays the voice of reason pointing out that Juggernaut alone is bad enough. If he has partners, they need reinforcements.

There’s no time, Jessica protests. The villains will probably want to get the stolen Vibranium out of the country as quickly as possible. A delay could be fatal, especially to her. Storm agrees and the four of them leave the party with Jessica, telling Lindsay that she has business to take care of. David wonders if they should be worried and Lindsay tells him off, explaining that it is nice to care – so does she – but Jessica doesn’t need to be crowded at this stage of her life.

Having recalibrated their portable mini-Cerebro to track Black Tom and Juggernaut’s patterns, the heroes have followed the villains’ traces to a freighter in Suisuin Bay, up the Sacramento River. Storm hides their arrival with fog.

Inside the freighter, Black Tom’s busy admiring his ill-gained goods – one hundred kilos of pure Vibranium – and wonders how much the US government – or other states – will pay for it. He already dreams of their riches and shouts for Siryn and Juggernaut to help pack up the booty when, suddenly, something hits the ship from above. “Something” being Colossus, whom Storm simply dropped onto the ship. However, the impact was harder than expected plunging Colossus all the way through the anchored vessel. Fortunately, not needing any air Colossus climbs up the chain anchoring the ship.

On the ship, Tom hands Juggernaut the Vibranium and orders Theresa to go topside but stay under cover until they know whom they face. With all the water entering the ship through the hole, the girl is getting panicky. They aren’t not going to drown, are they? Tom tells her to relax and is reminded that, despite her demeanor, Siryn is still little more than a child. Juggernaut warns them that the ship won’t stay afloat much longer when, suddenly, he gets hit by a lightning bolt. Theresa screams in horror that the bolt disintegrated him. Tom corrects her – it merely knocked Juggernaut into the hole – and he’s got an idea now who’s behind this. He orders the girl to run interference while he handles the Vibranium.

Eager to please her uncle, the girl hurries outside the room, only to find that SpiderWoman’s been expecting her. Spider-Woman jumps straight at her. With the other woman in tow, Siryn cuts loose and flies straight up and out of the ship, her scream paralyzing her foe, who’s holding onto the girl. Helpless, Jessica falls, only to be caught by the Angel, who needles her a bit about her performance and wonders if there is a connection between Siryn and his former teammate, Banshee, given their similar costumes and powers.

Still in the air, he suddenly sees a giant pterosaur appearing in front of him. By the time he realizes that it is merely a sonic hologram, created by Siryn, it’s too late. Employing vibrational harmonics to manipulate the chemical balance of Angel’s brain, she’s hypnotized him. Since the imbalance is akin to poison though, the stunt doesn’t work on Spider-Woman though. She becomes immune to poison after an initial encounter and she’s recently faced a similar situation battling Angar the Screamer.

On Siryn’s order, Angel drops Spider-Woman, who finds that Siryn can’t use her powers on both her and Angel. She is once more in control of her movements and flies over the water chased by the Angel. In the meantime, Colossus has almost finished his long climb up, only to be expected by the Juggernaut, who threatens to “pound his steel bod into so much scrap.”

Elsewhere, Tom finds parts of the ship frozen. Storm’s creating a limited blizzard effect, trying to freeze them. He considers that Siryn and Juggernaut seem to be doing well so far with their foes, but also wonders if that is all there is too come. Could the X-Men be so foolish as to attack with only a hand full of people? He decides to radio Siryn and turn her loose on Storm instead of Spider-Woman. The X-Men will learn that they are not the only ones who can use teamwork. It will be their last lesson, he grimly vows.

Juggernaut tosses Colossus up in the air, reminding him that during their last battle the better man – him – won. That’s not about to change. Colossus corrects him: the stronger man won. Juggernaut sees no difference and suddenly finds his foe gone. Colossus sneaks up on him from behind, tearing away the steel ground beneath his foe’s feet, thus tossing Juggernaut into the water. He has learned to fight with his brains as well as his fists by now, Colossus concludes, hoping Juggernaut will enjoy his swim. He supposes that Juggernaut’s weight will pull him down, taking him out of the fight for a little while.

Up in the air, Storm, unaware that her teammate has been hypnotized, is joined by Angel, who proceeds to attack her. Tom angrily realizes that Siryn has disobeyed, siccing Angel on Storm instead of doing the job herself. Using his power, he shoots a bolt of energy focussed through his shillelagh at Storm and misses. However, as the beam blows through the freighter’s superstructure, pieces of the ship hit Storm, forcing her to crash-land on the ship. Injured, she calls on a hurricane gust of wind to keep Angel and Black Tom away from her.

Colossus joins her, asking if she is all right. He tells her to tend to Angel, he will take care of Tom. Black Tom fires another bolt of energy at the young Russian, boasting that his bio-blasts can wreck a tank. Colossus isn’t a tank, though, and he remains unfazed and knocks his foe out.

Siryn, in the meantime, is still chasing Spider-Woman through the ship. Using her power like a sonar, she catches a glimpse of what she believes to be Spider-Woman behind her and uses her sonic powers to cut right through her foe. Too late, she realizes what she has done and screams in grief, until she is knocked out by the real Spider Woman’s sonic blast. Jessica had just used her costume stuffed with packing material as a decoy while she hid in the shadows.

After tying Siryn up and getting dressed in what’s left of her costume, Spider-Woman takes Siryn ashore and flies back to join the X-Men, only to be told by Angel that she looks a mess. They realize that Juggernaut is still free and he is the one foe who makes all the difference, Warren points out.

Spider-Woman has an idea. She asks Colossus to wrap a length of wire-cable around the steel masts and Colossus obliges. Warren asks “what gives, webs?” and Colossus, who’s noticed that Angel has been picking on Spider-Woman all night, suggests he start using her name. Spider-Woman explains that she can generate bio-electricity and Storm generates lightning. If they lure Juggs between those two poles, perhaps they can create an artificial arc strong enough to stun him. Colossus agrees, offering to lure Juggernaut into place. When he gives the signal, Angel is to fly him out.

The others hide as Juggernaut digs his way out to be faced by Colossus. Juggernaut tells him they are a lot alike: big, strong, slow-talking, but neither of them is stupid. Colossus facing Juggernaut alone is stupid. He smells a trap… Colossus taunts if he is afraid and throws a solid steel hatch cover at his foe. Juggernaut catches it, presses it together and threatens to do the same to Colossus. Juggernaut tackles Colossus while the others watch helplessly. Colossus surprises them all by switching into his smaller human form, allowing him to wriggle out if the Juggernaut’s grip. Angel flies in and grabs Colossus and the ladies do their thing generating electricity at the two poles Juggernaut resists as they give their all, until finally the ship gets blown apart by the energy they generated. The X-Men and Spider-Woman escape to the shore, wondering whether Juggernaut survived, only to be expected by the police and paramedics.

Seeing the stunned Theresa, Tom threatens they’ll regret it if they’ve harmed her in any way. She’s just stunned Spider-Woman, explains, but if he truly cared for her, he shouldn’t have allowed the girl to follow into his footsteps. Surprisingly, Tom agrees. He turns to the officers and exonerates both Siryn and Spider-Woman from any guilt, claiming that he and the Juggernaut alone were responsible for the robbery. He turns to Storm, asking her to take care of his niece.

One of the policemen grudgingly tells Spider-Woman she is free, but tells her in the same breath that they don’t much care for vigilantes. In this town, the police enforce the law, not the heroes. She’s not their enemy, Spider-Woman protests. Maybe not, the cop replies, but she’s a long way from being a friend. Nice guy, Angel states sarcastically. Surprisingly, Spider-Woman defends the cop and wonders whether he hasn’t got a point. Are superheroes more of a hindrance than help when operating outside society? Storm gently asks whether they should idly stand by when society is threatened because of their lack of official sanction.

Questions that haunt Jessica over the next weeks as she puts the finishing touches on her new life. The X-Men, in the meantime, have returned to Westchester with Siryn to reunite her with her long lost father, Banshee. Jessica envies Siryn a bit. The only family she has is the one she’ll make for herself, but a least she has wonderful friends. She also has an open invitation to visit the X-Men and intends to take them up on it soon, once her business is running.

She enters her new office, which she chose because the building was built the year she was born. She thinks to herself that if she hadn’t spent thirty years in suspended animation at Wundagore, she’d be middle-aged now. Instead, she’s only starting out. She unpacks her newly-framed private investigator license and hangs it on the wall, thinking to herself that this is the best solution to her questions: as a PI. She’ll work within the system, but yet in her own way.

Characters Involved: 

Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman
Angel, Colossus, Storm(all X-Men)

Lindsay McCabe (Jessica’s flatmate)

David Ishima (Jessie and Lindsay’s landlord)

Ben Disraeli (Lindsay’s boss at the theatre)

Neighbors and Lindsay’s colleagues


Black Tom Cassidy



Story Notes: 

Though Spider-Woman hasn’t told her flatmate Lindsay about her secret identity yet, Lindsay’s willingness to cover for her here already hints at Lindsay having guessed Jessica’s secret – something which is indeed revealed a few issues later.

Spider-Woman fought Angar the Screamer in Spider-Woman (1st Series) #35.

Colossus last tussled with Juggernaut in X-Men (1st series) #102.

Black Tom Cassidy is the cousin of Sean Cassidy aka Banshee, the former X-Man.

Siryn is reunited with her long-lost father Banshee in Uncanny X-Men #148. In the same issue, Spider-Woman pays a visit to the team.

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