Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #250

"CONFESSIONS!"
Writer: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Christie Scheele | Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spider-Man exits the Century Club, changes back into Peter Parker, and meets up with Harry Osborn inside. Harry informs Peter that the club members have decided not to report the Hobgoblin's extortion scheme to the police.

Later, with no spider-sense to guide him to the tracer planted on Hobgoblin last issue, Spider-Man uses a list of the victims' names provided to Peter by Harry and traverses New York looking for leads, but finds none. Finally he realizes that he can find the tracer with his old receiver device. Peter repairs the receiver and follows it to the Hobgoblin's warehouse, where the two begin a battle which quickly sets fire to the goblin's lair.

The Sub-Plots: Jonah Jameson decides to one-up the Hobgoblin by admitting his culpability in the Scorpion's creation via a Daily Bugle editorial. Spider-Man pulls the editorial from Jameson's typewriter, telling him to keep it to himself, but as soon as the web-slinger leaves Jameson's office, the publisher begins his confession again. On the issue's final page, Jameson gives the manuscript to a copy boy for composing.
Hobgoblin Clues: Once again, Harry notes that the Hobgoblin seems familiar with the inner workings of the Century Club. The number of times this has been mentioned, it's quite clearly a real clue and not a red herring (and I'm pretty sure Ned Leeds has never been a member of the exclusive businessmen's organization). Additionally, the goblin thinks of Norman Osborn as "dear, dear Norman," which could be a hint that he knew the man personally, or possibly simply an opinion of familiarity created from reading Osborn's copious journals.
The goblin is operating out of a warehouse, though it's unclear if he has bought or leased it, or if he's just squatting. He is also seen dismantling a spider-tracer and complimenting Spider-Man on his technological genius.

Continuity Notes: Spider-Man spends the issue's second page recapping the previous installment's events.

The Hobgoblin notes that one of Osborn's journals contained a plan to expose Spider-Man's secret identity, then wonders if Osborn ever succeeded in this venture, confirming for the readers, though not Spider-Man himself, that the goblin does not know his true identity.
Chekhov's -- I mean Osborn's -- battle van, stolen by the Hobgoblin back in issue 239, is seen in the background during the scenes set in his warehouse lair.

Following the incident at the Century Club, businessman George Vandergill books a one way flight to Bimini. He will not return to the United States until SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #14 in 1996, setting him in place prior to the HOBGOBLIN LIVES limited series later that year.

Soon after, when Spider-Man visits Roderick Kingsley for information (somehow getting from Manhattan to the Hamptons in an amount of time described as "shortly"), Kingsley is seen pacing his living room floor, wishing his brother was not out of town. This is the first mention of Kingsley's brother, who will appear on-panel for the first time in HOBGOBLIN LIVES as well.
As he swings over the city, Spider-Man suddenly receives another intense blast of spider-sense, once more heralding the upcoming SECRET WARS. His spider-sense then disappears once more. Later, as he locates his old spider-tracer tracking device, Peter recalls creating the tracers in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #12 to keep tabs on Dr. Octopus.
Uncle Rog Speaks: "Towards the end of the run, Tom DeFalco left to get Marvel’s Star Comics line started, and [John Romita, Jr.] picked up the X-MEN assignment. Danny Fingeroth became the new Spider-editor. Danny is a good guy, but...you have to understand, as far as Spider-Man was concerned, Tom and I were absolutely on the same wavelength. When he left, it just wasn’t the same without him. I didn’t have to explain every little detail to Tom, the way I did with Danny.

"I liked Danny –- I still do -– but I could see that if we kept working together, it would drive at least one of us crazy. Maybe both of us. After about six months, I called J.R. to discuss it with him, and he said that he was thinking of leaving Amazing to spend more time on the X-Men. And that made it easier to leave the book."
-- THE ROGER STERN INTERVIEW: THE TRIUMPHS AND TRIALS OF THE WRITER, 2006

Danny Fingeroth Speaks: "...I suddenly found myself the editor of the Spidey-line ... And, suddenly, I was no longer a mere spectator to the Hobgoblin's evolution. Although, with the talent I had working on the character, I didn't have to do much more than smile and ask for more." -- SPIDER-MAN: ORIGIN OF THE HOBGOBLIN TPB Introduction, 1992

Fingeroth left AMAZING a year or two later, but it should be noted that he returned to the title's editorship in the early nineties, at which time he came up with the idea for the "Return of Peter Parker's parents" storyline, which ultimately saw longtime writer David Michelinie (with almost a hundred nearly-consecutive issues to his credit) depart in frustration as well.

John Romita, Jr. Speaks: "I don't remember why I was leaving, but I think it was because of the X-MEN, and I couldn't pass up a chance to work on the X-MEN. ... It was becoming the top-line book, and it was a chance to try something different after three or four years on SPIDER-MAN." -- MODERN MASTERS VOLUME 18: JOHN ROMITA JR., TwoMorrows Publishing, 2008
The Spider's Web: Danny Fingeroth explains that this 250th issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is not double-sized simply because the current Hobgoblin story needed the page count of three full normal-sized issues to be told. Then readers praise issue 245's confrontation with Lefty Donovan and one fan begs Marvel not to make the Black Cat Spider-Man's permanent partner or sidekick. Lastly, our Hobgoblin identity guesses this month include Lance Bannon, Stilt-Man, Ned Leeds, Mysterio, and, in a very intriguing proposal which I could easily have seen, District Attorney Blake Tower.

Also On Sale This Month: Mr. Hyde is back in PETER PARKER #88, while Spidey, Nick Fury, and a Dreadnought walk into a bar in MARVEL TEAM-UP #139.

My Thoughts: This story seems an odd choice for the 250th anniversary issue. The return of the Hobgoblin was last issue. The final showdown is next issue. It's peculiar to have the middle portion of a three-parter, concerned more with moving pieces into place than with providing any sort of major conflict and/or resolution, serve as the content of such a milestone issue. The cover, too, should really belong to issue 251 (though if it did, we'd be deprived of a very iconic image there). It feels like something weird happened behind the scenes; like perhaps this issue was intended to feature the final Spider-Man/Hobgoblin fight, but it got shuffled around for some reason.

Whatever the reason, however, at least this is a strong second chapter for this final Hobgoblin storyline. We get the aftermath of part one at the Century Club, followed by some intriguing set-up for the final chapter. Stern is in strong form, presenting us with a determined Spider-Man who will do everything in his power to track the Hobgoblin down once and for all, and we get probably my all-time favorite scene between the wall-crawler and Jameson, as Spider-Man calls his nemesis out on his hypocrisy, crusading against vigilantes while covertly conducting his own vigilantism against Spider-Man all these years.
The issue is so strong that the lack of sub-plots, normally a big deal for me, is barely noticeable. The fact that all we have here is an "A" story, and that "A" story is merely the middle section of a three-parter -- usually the weakest installment under even the best of circumstances since it's often simply a time-killer -- makes the fact that it's so engrossing all the more impressive.

The downside, however, to this being a middle chapter, is that there really isn't a whole lot to say about it. As noted above, all Stern is really doing here is moving his characters where they need to be for next issue's extravaganza. And with the bulk of the action consisting of Spider-Man swinging around town and not finding any leads until the eleventh hour, the story's substance, while engrossing and compelling, is not really screaming for analysis. Other than the Jameson scene mentioned above, there aren't any overly strong character moments to speak of here. Everyone is behaving as you'd expect, from the blustery Jameson to the sniveling Kingsley, but what you see is what you get.

And what you see is quite beautiful, I'll add. Not long ago, I voiced some dissatisfaction with the Romita Jr./Janson team at this point in their careers, but here they seem to mesh much better than before. Perhaps it's just the content of the story bringing out their best, as both men seem to be most at home with "street level" action, but Spider-Man trying to solve a mystery never looked so appealing. Janson provides just the right level of dark grittiness to complement Romita's clean storytelling. This really is a beautiful looking issue.
This is also, it must be noted, Roger Stern's final issue as regular scripter on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. He gives some reasons for his departure above. I'll give my own thoughts once the run is definitively over, as we still have a couple more AMAZING issues to go, scripted over Stern's plots by his former editor, Tom DeFalco. Stern may have one foot out the door, but the ride's not over just yet.

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