Synopsis for “Claws!”
Spider-Man is on his way to a chemistry class and a make-up exam when he is attacked in mid-web-swing by a flock of seagulls. He quickly drops down onto a roof, but before he can fight the birds off, they suddenly fly away. Because someone has obviously used the birds to get his attention, he decides to follow them instead of simply ignoring them.
Meanwhile, at Avengers Mansion, Simon Williams, also known as Wonder Man, has spent the morning reading Raymond Chandler novels. A loud crash from the records room brings him running, and when he enters he finds the Griffin. The winged criminal is looking for the Avengers, particularly the Beast, but Wonder Man says that he happens to be the only one present. Then he slams the Griffin with his fist, and their battle begins. As they pummel each other, Wonder Man realizes that the Griffin is considerably stronger than he looks, and also that the Griffin’s bestial visage is not a mask. Finally, Wonder Man is stunned by a swipe of the Griffin’s claws. But before the Griffin can continue, Spider-Man smashes through the skylight behind him. The Griffin heaves a piece of machinery at him, but he ducks and attacks. Then the Griffin seizes Spider-Man’s wrists in a surprisingly powerful grip and throws him into Wonder Man, who is trying to stand up. The Griffin gloats that he is stronger than ever, and by the end of the day he will be the most powerful thing on Earth. As Spider-Man and Wonder Man watch perplexed, the Griffin suddenly groans and his face contorts with pain. The changes are coming faster and harder, he says in agony. Then he mentally summons the birds to keep Spider-Man and Wonder Man busy while he flies through the broken skylight and escapes.
As the birds fly after the Griffin, Wonder Man introduces himself, and Spider-Man explains that he and the Beast battled the Griffin a couple of months ago. The Griffin was once Johnny Horton, continues Spider-Man, a cheap hoodlum whom the Secret Empire transformed into a monster. The Griffin eventually killed the surgeon who performed the operation, and Spider-Man and the Beast found the surgeon as he was dying. The physician said that his serum would continue to change the Griffin and would eventually drive the Griffin insane. This is what seems to be happening, continues Spider-Man, for the Beast told him that the Griffin had grown a tail since their first fight. Now, says Spider-Man, he seems to be much more savage and even stronger. Then Spider-Man web-swings through the skylight and asks Wonder Man to try to contact the other Avengers for assistance. Wonder Man uses the communicator but is unable to find any of his teammates. Then it occurs to him that when he was created, he was given power enough to stand alone against all the Avengers. So he should certainly be able to help Spider-Man instead of wasting time looking for the others. He heads into a seldom-used weapons-storage room, where he finds a prototype astro-fighter built by Tony Stark. Stark wanted someone to field test it, muses Wonder Man, and now is as good a time as any.
Spider-Man web-swings after the Griffin, who is surrounded by his seagulls, and as he passes by a stadium, he pauses to consider his situation. After some thought, Spider-Man deduces that the Griffin mutates only when he has to battle someone. The serum changes him because his survival depends on it, and this is why he wanted to battle the Avengers all at once. The more people he battles, the stronger the serum will make him. So Spider-Man decides to return to Avengers Mansion to warn Wonder Man that the Griffin must be captured without a fight. But as he leaves, the Griffin and his seagulls attack him from behind. A slash from the Griffin’s claw narrowly misses Spider-Man as he web-swings toward the stadium’s grandstand, but then the Griffin’s birds cut his web-line with their beaks. With nothing to grab onto, Spider-Man plummets toward the ground, but at the last minute he makes a web-cushion to absorb the impact. As he lies, momentarily stunned, the Griffin drops down on top of him, but a sudden energy blast knocks the criminal away. As Wonder Man flies up in the astro-fighter, the Griffin challenges him to fire again. Despite Spider-Man’s frantic warning, Wonder Man once more blasts the Griffin, causing him to mutate to a slightly more bestial form. Then he fires again, wondering what it will take to kill the creature. But the Griffin’s strength and ferocity increase, and he suddenly leaps onto the astro-fighter, rips off its canopy, and pulls Wonder Man out of his seat. The astro-fighter crashes into the ground and bursts into flame. As Spider-Man struggles to clear his head, Wonder Man continues battling. But because they are battling in the air, the Griffin’s element, Wonder Man has a hard time avoiding the Griffin’s arms and tail. But just as the Griffin seems to be gaining the upper hand, Spider-Man snags him with webbing, and he releases Wonder Man. Wonder Man heads for the astro-fighter and its weapons, still not hearing Spider-Man’s warning that he will make the Griffin more powerful if he shoots him. Then Spider-Man’s webbing breaks and the Griffin attacks. As Spider-Man blinds the creature with more webbing, Wonder Man shoves the astro-fighter into position, and when Spider-Man dodges the Griffin’s lunge, Wonder Man hits the Griffin with another blast, which just makes the Griffin stronger and more bestial. Screaming with pain, the Griffin heads for the burning astro-fighter as Wonder Man runs up to Spider-Man, and Spider-Man explains that the Griffin’s transformations occur whenever he is pushed to the limit. But this time, continues Spider-Man, it is beginning to look as if the Griffin may have gone too far.
As they watch, the Griffin picks up the astro-fighter to throw it at them, but the exertion forces another evolutionary change. This time, the Griffin’s mind loses its last vestiges of rationality and becomes like that of a savage beast. Like an animal, he suddenly becomes afraid of the fire of the burning astro-fighter and forgets his desire to destroy his two opponents. He simply drops the plane, but before he can escape he is consumed in the wreckage. There is no way he could have survived, says Spider-Man with pity. In the end, he says, he was completely overcome by an animalistic fear of death. Wonder Man, who once died and was returned to life, understands the fear that the Griffin must have felt.
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