Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #260

"GOBLINS AT THE GATE PART 2: SPIDER IN THE MIDDLE"
Co-Plotter: Roger Stern | Co-Plotter/Scripter: Glenn Greenberg
Penciler: Luke Ross | Inks: Al Milgrom
Letters: RS&Comicraft's Liz Agraphiotis | Colors: John Kalisz
Not the Karate Kid: Ralph Macchio | Chief: Bob Harras

The Plot: After breaking him out of prison, Norman Osborn brings Roderick Kingsley with him back to Manhattan. Meanwhile, Spider-Man spends the night searching for the Green Goblin and Kingsley, but turns up nothing.

The next day, Kingsley and Osborn make a deal: Kingsley will provide the journal which proves Osborn was the Green Goblin, as well as manipulate the stockholders of his company to turn the entire conglomerate over to Osborn, in exchange for safe passage out of the country. Osborn agrees, and provides Kingsley with a Hobgoblin costume and gear to carry out his mission. The journal is in the custody of Kingsley's brother, Daniel, who is being held by the police at the Big Apple Hotel while waiting to testify against Roderick.

The Hobgoblin raids the hotel, but Spider-Man arrives to save Daniel. They struggle as equals until the Green Goblin arrives and knocks Spider-Man out with a tranquilizer dart. Amid the hotel room's wreckage, the Hobgoblin prepares to unmask Spider-Man.

The Sub-Plots: When Peter visits the Daily Bugle looking for Norman Osborn, he's informed by Flash Thompson that Osborn isn't in yet. Peter has some disparaging words for Norman, while Flash defends the tycoon and chastises Peter for taking the wrong side of the argument.
Continuity Notes: Kingsley explains to Osborn that he acquired the journals through his informant, Georgie Hill, in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #238. Osborn then tells Kingsley that he nearly returned from Europe to kill the Hobgoblin early on, a fact revealed in the SPIDER-MAN: THE OSBORN JOURNAL one-shot, written by Glenn Greenberg after the "Clone Saga" to explain certain continuity discrepancies regarding Osborn's return from the grave. Osborn also reminds Kingsley that all the journals were believed destroyed in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 251.

A couple references to HOBGOBLIN LIVES are scattered throughout this issue, including Spider-Man's recollection of Kingsley using Ned Leeds as a pawn, and Roderick blaming Daniel for his ultimate defeat. Kingsley also informs Osborn that he gave the final journal to Daniel around the time the Green Goblin returned from the dead in PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN #75.
At some point between HOBGOBLIN LIVES and this story arc, the name of Kingsley's company changed from Kingsley International to Kingsley Limited.

The story features a brief appearance by junior Daily Bugle reporter Billy Walters, a creation of SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN writer Todd DeZago -- and one of the most "nineties looking" characters ever to grace a Spider-Man comic on a regular basis -- who bumps into Peter and Mary Jane at the Bugle. Also at the Bugle, Peter reflects on the time he and Flash spent as rivals in high school.

Also popping up here, for the first time in a very long time, is Spider-Man's old Greenwich Village police contact, Lou Snider. We last saw him in AMAZING #244. His previous appearance chronologically was in the afore-mentioned PETER PARKER #75, possibly as one of the returning Stern-created characters seeded into the series by editor Ralph Macchio to help set up HOBGOBLIN LIVES, though Snider of course did not appear in that series. Snider here reminds Spider-Man that he was recently a murder suspect, as seen in the "Spiderhunt" crossover which shortly preceded these issues.
Uncle Rog Speaks: "At the time, Norman had his mysterious Goblin-stooge, and no one was allowed to put Norman in the outfit until his big confrontation with Spider-Man. As I recall, we weren't even allowed to hint at who the stooge might be. I think editorial kept changing their minds over the stooge..." -- Stern Talk! (The Unofficial Roger Stern Message Board) posting, 2010

My understanding is that the writers at the time intended this "Goblin stooge" to be Phil Urich, who had briefly spent some time as the heroic Green Goblin in the nineties. But ultimately, after their reboot a few months from this point, John Byrne and Howard Mackie would go a different route and reveal the stooge as some kind of faceless clone.

Phil Urich would, however, become the third Hobgoblin some years later, during Dan Slott's run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

Glenn Greenberg Speaks: "Roger and I worked out a scenario in which we would hash out the plot for each issue over the phone, I would write up a full plot based on our conversation, then e-mail it to him, and then he'd provide notes, revisions, suggestions, etc. The revised plot would go off to the artist, Luke Ross, and once the art came in, I would write the full script and e-mail it to Roger for his input." -- "Greenberg Gets Repackaged", Greenberg's Grumblings, 2011

Also On Sale This Month: Spider-Man meets Generation X in AMAZING #437, joins Black Cat to battle Arcade in SENSATIONAL #30, learns that the Enforcers' Ox is still alive in PETER PARKER #94, and encounters Frankenstein's Monster in SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #21.

My Thoughts: Just as last time, not a whole lot happens in this issue. The story is dedicated mostly to Spider-Man searching for Kingsley, while Kingsley and Osborn make their deal. But this time, there aren't any sub-plots to keep the reader engrossed. The fight between Spider-Man and the Hobgoblin at the issue's conclusion is fun, however, depicting them as the equals they were shown to be in the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 249 - 251 trilogy. It's only the underhanded interference of the Green Goblin, sent by Osborn to secretly monitor Kingsley, which tips the scales against the web-slinger.

The appearance of Lou Sinder, while a fun touch, feels a bit out of place; almost anachronistic. At this point, and for quite some time, Spider-Man had no contacts with the police; at least not any that we ever saw on page. So to have him suddenly drop in for a chat with Sinder just seems off, somehow. Greenberg does, however, play up the fact that Snider is none too pleased with the wall-crawler, playing him as the most hostile we've ever seen him due to the fact that Spider-Man is fresh off of being suspected for murder.
And since I didn't touch on him last time, let's talk just a little bit about Glenn Greenberg. At the time, he was an editor with Marvel who had taken on a handful of writing and/or scripting assignments, usually for the Spider-Man office. Here he turns in a script which, while perhaps not as polished as something from a full-time writer, gets the job done. His dialogue is decent and he has a good grasp on Spider-Man's character -- and a strong sense of the character's history, to boot. My only real complaint about this story arc is the number of times Kingsley refers to his "financial empire". I don't know why, it just feels off to me for a billionaire to call his own business an empire. Maybe I'm off base on this; it just strikes me odd.

The artwork is great, however. Luke Ross, whose real name is Luciano Queiroz, got his start -- I think -- as part of the Mike Deodato Studios before breaking out on his own. When he first came aboard SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, he was drawing in a pseudo-manga style, as was the trend at the time, and while there was some talent to be seen there, the style didn't suit him. By this point, Ross's artwork has evolved away from that faux-Joe Madureira look, into a cartoony but not overly exaggerated style. His angles are fun, his characters have expressive faces, and, while drawing in a style all his own, he keeps everyone on model.
I'm especially impressed with Ross's rendition of Roderick Kingsley, who, exaggerated Ron Frenz chin aside, was drawn fairly realistically in HOBGOBLIN LIVES. I was unsure Ross's artwork could capture the Frenz design, but Ross turns in an admirable job here. Oh, and his Hobgoblin is nothing to sneeze at, either. The same cartoony realism works here, too, and this Hobgoblin, while far removed from the John Romita, Jr. and Ron Frenz versions, is unmistakably the same character. Ross even homages Romita's cover to AMAZING 250 twice during the issue.

Unfortunately, great art isn't enough to save a story in which very little happens. We'll see how much occurs in part three, but right now I can't see any reason -- aside from the fact that editor Macchio was specifically looking to fill three issues -- why this story couldn't have been told in two parts rather than three.


Note: All images above come from my original copy of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #260, because that was a lot easier to scan than the HOBGOBLIN LIVES trade paperback.

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