Monday, November 17, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #251

"ENDINGS!"
Plot: Roger Stern | Script: Tom DeFalco
Pencil Breakdowns: Ron Frenz | Finished Art: Klaus Janson
Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: Christie Scheele | Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spider-Man and the Hobgoblin continue their fight within the goblin's burning warehouse as firefighters battle the blaze outside. Hobgoblin gets the drop on the spider-senseless wall-crawler, subduing him and escaping the scene in his battle van. But Spide-Man grabs hold of the fleeing vehicle and eventually makes it inside for a rematch with his foe. As the van rockets through the city under control of an auto-guidance system, Spider-Man's spider-sense returns, allowing him to turn the tables and stun the Hobgoblin. But when the van drives into the Hudson River and begins taking on water, Spider-Man is forced to evacuate. He dives back into the water to search for the Hobgoblin, but finds only his mask drifting to the surface.

Later, Peter Parker has dinner with Harry Osborn and assures him that all proof his father was the Green Goblin was destroyed in the warehouse fire. After Harry leaves, Peter suffers an agonizing blast of spider-sense and follows it to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, where an enormous futuristic structure has appeared. The web-slinger is drawn to the bizarre edifice and as soon as he enters it, he vanishes.

The Sub-Plots: Jonah Jameson, having printed his confession regarding his role in the Scorpion's creation in the Daily Bugle, steps down as the newspaper's editor-in-chief, turning the job over to former city editor Robbie Robertson.
Hobgoblin Clues: Once again, the villain fears the disgrace to his family, should he be unmasked by Spider-Man. Later in the story, while stunned, he babbles that he is not crazy; Norman Osborn was.

Continuity Notes: Hobgoblin reminds Spider-Man and readers that he robbed the wall-crawler of his spider-sense in issue 249.

The Green Goblin's journals are officially destroyed this issue, severing the Hobgoblin's ties to his predecessor once and for all. The battle van, stolen by Hobgoblin in issue 239, is also finally put to use, though its first action is also its last as it crashes into the Hudson. It will be seen again as salvage later during the Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

Hobgoblin is written out of the series for a time at this point; DeFalco and Frenz will spend a handful of issues establishing other villains before returning to this one. The character's next full appearance will be AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #259. 1996's SPIDER-MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES limited series, which we'll cover next week, features flashbacks explaining how the Hobgoblin survived his apparent death here and reveals what happened to him next.
As noted above, Jameson resigns as editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle this issue. Peter muses over how much he will miss seeing the crusty newspaperman regularly despite his faults, though Jameson's transition here is more "illusion of change" than actual change. Robbie takes over as EiC, but Jameson will remain a very "hands-on" publisher, to the point that very little will appear different about the Bugle from a reader's perspective. Nonetheless, this feels like a big deal when reading these issues in a vacuum, without subsequent stories to water Jameson's resignation down.

When Peter suffers his massive spider-sense attack, an editor's note refers readers to issues 249 and 250 for the previous instances. And of course, at the story's conclusion, Spider-Man is teleported away to the MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS limited series.
Uncle Rog Speaks: "I'd already plotted ASM #251 and #252 when I decided to leave the book. Shoehorning in a revelation about the Hobgoblin's identity wouldn't have worked. Besides, I wanted Hobgoblin to be a continuing, viable adversary for Spider-Man. That's why [John Romita, Jr.] and I created him in the first place. And Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz did a great job with him." --The Spider's Web Exclusive: Interview with Roger Stern, early 2000s

Tom DeFalco Speaks: "My first reaction was 'I can't write SPIDER-MAN!' Spider-Man needed a certain kind of personality, a witticism that only Roger Stern could capture. I wasn't sure I could do it." -- "Black and White and Read All Over: The Spider-Man Extreme Makeover", BACK ISSUE! #12, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005

Ron Frenz Speaks: "I remember working on my first issue, sending in the early pages, and I got a call from [Danny] Fingeroth, and he said, 'You need to bulk up Hobgoblin. Hobgoblin’s bigger than the Green Goblin, and you’re drawing him too much like the Green Goblin.' By the end of the issue, I’d made some adjustments, because I realized that I was drawing him a little too close to how the Green Goblin looked in the early Ditko stories." -- "When Hobby Met Spidey", BACK ISSUE! #35, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2009
The Spider's Web: Danny Fingeroth bids farewell to Roger Stern and John Romita, Jr., and welcomes Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz aboard as AMAZING SPIDER-MAN's new creative team. Afterward, the fans give their thoughts on issue #246, "Daydreamers". Results are mixed, with one or two readers complaining, as I did myself in my review, that while the story was fun, it felt like a waste of an issue. Hobgoblin guesses this time include Jonah Jameson, Ben Urich, the Black Cat's ex-boyfriend, Roger Stern, and Harry Osborn.

Also On Sale This Month: PETER PARKER #89 sees the Black Cat receiving superpowers, while the still decidedly non-powered Black Widow joins forces with Spider-Man in MARVEL TEAM-UP #140.

My Thoughts: We're going to cover AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #252 on Wednesday because it has Roger Stern's name attached, but that issue is really the beginning of the Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz run, while this issue, as far as I'm concerned, is the official conclusion of the Roger Stern run, even though it too is scripted by DeFalco and drawn by Frenz. But this story concludes the Hobgoblin saga started by Stern, and features Klaus Janson inking Frenz to provide some continuity with the previous installment. Plus it ends with Spider-Man swinging off into the unknown; a better coda is hard to imagine.

As a kid, reading this story in my beloved ORIGIN OF THE HOBGOBLIN trade paperback, it was simply the book's final chapter. There were no individual issue credits in that book and I wasn't yet observant enough to realize it was by a different creative team. Sure, Spider-Man looked a bit different, but, as noted, Janson keeps the look close to what we saw previously from Romita. Nowadays it's easy for me to see that Ron Frenz has a completely different art style from John Romita, Jr. ... and more glaringly, Tom DeFalco has an absolutely different writing style than Roger Stern. And what we have here is DeFalco in "full DeFalco" mode, with characters stuttering constantly, even in their thought balloons, and ending statements with smaller lettered mutters. It's a bit distracting after reading all the Stern material in a row. DeFalco's narration is strong, however; dramatic like Stern without being over-the-top like Bill Mantlo. And his handle on Spider-Man's dialogue, distracting stuttering aside, is fine as well.
The story as plotted by Stern is a bit light, but exciting nonetheless. At this point we're long overdue for a knock-down, drag-out fight between Spider-Man and the Hobgoblin. They've had a handful of minor skirmishes so far, but this is their first chance to truly go at it. They spend pages pummeling one another senseless, and we finally see that the Hobgoblin isn't wrong about Osborn's formula making him the web-slinger's physical equal. The fact that all the action takes place aboard a speeding battle van only ups the conflict's stakes.

However, I would unfortunately argue that, though it has all the above going for it and it features the showdown we've craved between Spider-Man and the Hobgoblin, this is probably the weakest installment of either Hobgoblin trilogy -- the microtrilogy of issues 249-251 and the overarching trilogy of issues 238-239, 244-245, and 249-251. Stern spent a long time building the Hobgoblin up as a coldly calculating, shrewdly manipulative villain. Seeing him resort to non-stop fisticuffs before driving his own van into the water is kind of a let-down. The sequence's final scene, as Spider-Man searches for his enemy in the water, and his discovery of the floating mask, is very creepy and promises greater things down the road, but I feel like that scene could've been the finale to a much stronger issue if not for the creative shuffling behind the scenes.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that Stern and Romita leaving AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is unfortunate. But their leaving before finishing this one final chapter of the Hobgoblin story is a downright tragedy.
Next Issue: Roger Stern's run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN comes to an end as our wondrous web-slinger returns from the Secret Wars with a snazzy new costume.

2 comments:

  1. The reviews for ASM 249 and 250 arent available,
    which is a bit of a shame.
    I assume its a website error.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, I just fixed this! Thanks for letting me know. Those are pretty integral chapters to be missing...!

      Delete