Monday, September 22, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #239

"NOW STRIKES THE HOBGOBLIN!"
Scripter: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Frank Giacoia
Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Editor: Tom DeFalco
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Over a span of weeks, the Hobgoblin raids several Osborn Manufacturing facilities, grabbing all the Green Goblin gear he can find, and culminating with the theft of an armored battle van the Goblin had built but never used before his death. When Spider-Man hears about the string of robberies, he heads out to check the only two former Goblin lairs of which he's aware. He finds the first already empty, but at the second he hits pay dirt, coming face to face with the Hobgoblin.

Spider-Man and Hobgoblin fight it out in Greenwich Village, and the web-slinger easily gains the upper hand despite the Hobgoblin's improvements to his predecessor's bombs and gas grenades. When it appears he is about to be unmasked, the Hobgoblin blasts a gas main and Spider-Man is forced to let him go while he locates the feeder line and cuts it off.

As the Hobgoblin glides away, he realizes that the Green Goblin must have had some edge in order to fight Spider-Man one-on-one. He vows to find that secret and use it to defeat his newly inherited foe.

The Sub-Plots: Harry and Liz Osborn become aware of the Hobgoblin's raids, and Harry declares that his father could easily have secreted something in his various facilities which another party has now uncovered. Elsewhere, Spider-Man checks on both the Black Cat and Madame Web at the hospital. Web has seemingly lost her psychic powers and apparently suffers from amnesia, claiming to have forgotten the web-slinger's secret identity.

Lance Bannon shoots some tasteful nude photos of Amy Powell, and Amy attempts to spur some professional jealousy toward Peter Parker by comparing Lance's photos to the latter's. Amy then attempts to make a date with Lance for that night, but he unconvincingly tells her he will be busy on an assignment for Jonah Jameson. However after she leaves, he considers that he truly loves her but is afraid to say so.

Peter worries that the Green Goblin may have kept journals revealing his secret identity. Soon after, Amy calls him for a date but Peter declines, much to Amy's disbelief.
Hobgoblin Clues: The man behind the Hobgoblin's mask is acquainted with his local newsstand operator, who addresses him as "sir". He also owns shares in Osborn Manufacturing and considers purchasing more as "repayment" for all the damage he's caused lately while stealing his Goblin gear. Additionally, during their battle, the Hobgoblin fears being unmasked because "...the disgrace would be too great!"
Lance's excuse to Amy is played as a story he's made up on the spot, clearly meant to make readers somewhat suspicious of him. And while his subsequent worries about being afraid to commit to her help to make him sympathetic, they do not preclude his putting on an orange costume to raid an old Green Goblin hideout that night.

Continuity Notes: Donald Menken, an executive with Osborn, makes his debut. Menken barely factors into Stern's remaining issues, but he will subsequently return years later for the HOBGOBLIN LIVES limited series, after one or two more minor appearances in the eighties.
The Black Cat is in the hospital following an injury at the hands of Dr. Octopus's men in SPECTACULAR #76. Down the hall, Madame Web has regained consciousness following her encounter with the Juggernaut in AMAZING #229 - 230. Also seen at the hospital, ordering Spider-Man home to get some rest, is NYPD Captain Jean DeWolff.

When Amy calls Peter, she mentions that they met at the Daily Bugle "the other day," which would have been in issue #234.

As Spider-Man investigates the Osborn break-ins, he recalls the warehouse fire last issue. Later, as he heads for the last possible Green Goblin hideout, he notes that it hasn't been used since issue #96.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "...Denny O'Neil and John Romita Jr. had created [Madame Web]. She was a neat looking character with interesting powers, but it bugged me that she knew Peter Parker was Spider-Man, and I'm sure it also bugged Pete. ... The next time we see Madame Web, it looks like she probably still knows his secret, but Pete doesn't know that she still knows. At least he didn't have to worry about it any more... which is what I wanted to accomplish in the first place." -- COMICS CREATORS ON SPIDER-MAN, Titan Books, 2004

John Romita, Jr. Speaks: "First thing I did when I heard the name 'Hobgoblin' was cringe. I didn’t care for the name, but I didn’t care for the Green Goblin, either. I thought both of their names were goofy! ... [But] once we actually started working on the Hobgoblin stuff, I accepted it and bought into it." -- "When Hobby Met Spidey", BACK ISSUE! #35, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2009

The Spider's Web: Readers weigh in on the second chapter of the Brand storyline from issue 234. One letter calls for the death of Aunt May, while another provides praise for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #16 and its spotlight on the new Captain Marvel.

Also On Sale This Month: Spider-Man goes against Dardevil's foe, the Gladiator, in PETER PARKER #77, and then fights alongside Captain America in MARVEL TEAM-UP #128.

My Thoughts: Having spent the entire previous issue setting the Hobgoblin up -- a rarity for a comic of this vintage -- Stern now brings us his first mask-to-mask encounter with Spider-Man. They have of course met before, though Spider-Man is unaware of that fact at this point. The inaugural clash between these enemies-to-be is rife with great little touches: besides the above-noted hints as to the Hobgoblin's stature as a pillar of the community, we see the villain astounded and intimidated by Spider-Man's skill. Spider-Man, meanwhile, is perhaps a bit less jovial than normal, having come face to face with an evil he believes himself partially responsible for creating.

In particular, I've long adored the very first page where the two meet. Spider-Man bursts into the Green Goblin's theater hideout to find the Hobgoblin rummaging through a crate, holding a long brown wig in his hand. It should be an absurd sight, but the moody lighting -- courtesy of Glynis Wein -- coupled with the striking design of the Hobgoblin (including an instance of Romita brilliantly illustrating only his red eyes on a completely black shadow inside his hood) make it incredibly eerie, instead. It's also fun knowing in retrospect that these men have met before, but only one of them is aware of that fact.

Romita's artwork continues to be some of his best ever. Perhaps working with his legendary father last issue and in the recent Annual spurred him to new heights, but there's something about Spider-Man's poses and fluidity of movement which seem more dynamic than before, and the Hobgoblin's sinister, constantly hunched posture is a great choice as well. There is one shot in particular, as the villain departs big fight and mulls over his defeat, where he is out of energy, on the verge of collapse, and the pose looks so effortlessly natural that it evokes shades of John Buscema, the master of graceful comic book body language.
And besides the figure work, Romita's New York City has this worn, lived-in look about it which many artists of the era were less inclined to capture. This is not any old city -- this is the dark, crime-ridden New York of the seventies and early eighties. Not even the mismatch of Frank Giacoia on inks -- who isn't terrible, but who just doesn't quite nail the "civilian" faces as well as previous embellishers -- can take away from Romita's accomplishments here.

Stern has created a truly memorable opponent for Spider-Man in the Hobgoblin. He could have taken the easy route and put yet another person in the Green Goblin's costume, but as Stern himself has noted, writers had gone to that well too many times over the years, and the time for something new, but still recognizable, has arrived. Aided by the brilliant artwork of John Romita, Jr., Stern has accomplished his goal in spades. And on top of all that, this issue is packed with some of the strongest continuity and sub-plots of Stern's run so far. Stern only has about a year left on Spider-Man at this point, though he doesn't know that yet -- but it seems that he plans to make every issue truly count in any event, and as a kick-off for that final stretch, the Hobgoblin's first encounter with Spider-Man is a resounding success and concludes with a promise of even greater things to come.

Next Issue: The Vulture returns (again)!

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