Monday, December 1, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Artists: Ron Frenz, Jerome Moore & Scott Hanna
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Joe Andreani
Editors: Glenn Greenberg & Tom Brevoort | Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

The Plot: While the Hobgoblin plots with Roderick Kingsley, Jonah Jameson screens security footage of Jason Macendale's death to the Daily Bugle's top reporters, then sends them off on the Hobgoblin's trail. However, despite Betty's request to be included in the investigation, Jameson orders her to remain sidelined.

Having witnessed Betty's argument with Jameson, Peter Parker changes to Spider-Man and catches up with her outside the Bugle, offering his assistance in clearing Ned. He then runs into Flash Thompson arguing with Jacob Conover on the street, and recruits Flash as well.

Meanwhile, as Kingsley and Osborn's Donald Menken plan a takeover of Osborn Industries by Kingsley International, George Vandergill calls Menken and attempts to force himself into the deal. Later that night, the Hobgoblin destroys Vandergill's manufacturing plant, killing forty people, including Vandergill himself, while the magnate is on the phone with Senator Bob Martin.

The next day, Peter, Mary Jane, Flash, and Betty go over several potential angles on the Hobgoblin and decide to investigate the men he attempted to blackmail years before. Equipped with spider-tracers provided by their ally, Spider-Man, the group splits up. Peter speaks with Ben Urich about Roxxon, the Brand Corporation, and Jonas Harrow, which leads him to suspect Jacob Conover, who had a rivalry with Ned over chasing down corporate corruption years before.

Elsewhere, Mary Jane meets with Roderick Kingsley while Flash speaks with Liz Osborn. Betty goes after Senator Martin, but he is scared witless. Desperate, Betty appears on a local television program, claiming she has evidence that will exonerate Ned. This brings Conover to confront her, but all he wants are his notes back. However the Hobgoblin shows up as well, to kill Betty. But Spider-Man intervenes and fights the goblin, who electrocutes him with his glider and drops the wall-crawler into the East River.

The Sub-Plots: Kingsley and Menken continue their Byzantine scheme together. The plan is for Menken to set up several dummy corporations and use them in an attempt to take over Osborn Industries, allowing Kingsley International to swoop in and "save" the company by taking it instead.

When Mary Jane meets with Roderick Kingsley for lunch, his brother Daniel comes and aggressively pulls him away, prompting MJ to observe that she always thought Daniel was the meek brother.

Hobgoblin Clues: During their scene together, Kingsley notes that he owes the Hobgoblin his life.

During her conversation with Flash, Liz states that she strongly mistrusts Donald Menken, who was originally hired by Norman Osborn. And every time the Hobgoblin strikes in this issue, we see Menken shortly beforehand looking devious. Though the same can be said for Roderick Kingsley, but as noted last time, he can't be the Hobgoblin since the two have been seen on-page together multiple times, even as recently as the opening scene of this very issue.

Continuity Notes: Every issue of HOBGOBLIN LIVES features copious end notes, originally printed in black-and-white on the inside back covers of the individual issues. These notes were reproduced, expanded to include accompanying artwork, for the 1998 trade paperback collection. Rather than list all the endnotes myself, I have provided scans of the trade paperback's endnotes here:

In addition to the above, at the issue's start when Kingsley meets with the Hobgoblin, he mentions that the streets outside are "all torn up" -- a reference to the recent "Onslaught" event.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "When I wrote the HOBGOBLIN LIVES limited series, Peter seemed different to me. It was like running into an old friend that you knew in college. He had changed and wasn't as happy as he used to be. I guess he just had a lot more on his mind." -- COMICS CREATORS ON SPIDER-MAN, Titan Books, 2004

Ron Frenz Speaks: "I spoke to Roger about it and asked if that was something he might want to do -- jazz up the Hobgoblin a little bit. But I completely understood that since we were going back to the root of the character, that we’d probably want the character to look like the character. And ultimately, that’s exactly what Roger told me he wanted. And he was absolutely right. If this was going to be the guy, he had to look like the guy." -- "When Hobby Met Spidey", BACK ISSUE! #35, 2009

Also On Sale This Month: Our hero meets Nate Grey, the "X-Man", in AMAZING #420, travels to the Savage Land in SENSATIONAL #13, battles Morbius in PETER PARKER #77, deals with the Chameleon in SPECTACULAR #243, and fights the Puma in SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #15.

The full cover, front and back.
My Thoughts: And thus Jacob Conover is ruled out as the Hobgoblin, though I'm not sure we were ever meant to take him seriously. The guy is a career reporter, recently laid off from the Daily Bugle, and never matched any of the clues Stern had originally presented. So we learn here that Conover simply held a grudge against Ned all this time, which works nicely to set him up as a red herring. But don't worry -- for some inexplicable reason, over in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Tom DeFalco will see to it within the span of a year that Conover will turn out to be a masked villain after all.

We also find Senator Martin, briefly in the mix last issue with his ominous "I despise Spider-Man" comment, to be quickly ruled out as well, as he's on the phone with Vandergill when the latter is killed by the Hobgoblin. At this point the only realistic suspect left is Menken, but wouldn't that be too obvious? I wonder if perhaps Stern has jumped the gun in ruling some of these guys out so soon, even considering that there's only one issue remaining.

Nonetheless, there's some good stuff going on here, too. Stern may not be a fan of married Peter Parker, but he handles the Peter and Mary Jane couple quite well. Also, while I'm not a fan of over-aging comic book characters, and I personally feel that Peter's "sweet spot" is as a college student, it's nice to see all the various characters here behaving like responsible adults. At this point in time, if you had asked me how old I thought Peter Parker was, I would've guessed maybe thirty years old. Stern certainly writes the characters that way, and it's fun to see Peter, Mary Jane, Flash, and Liz "all grown up" and acting the part. This was probably the last time we really got a look at them this way, as soon after, Marvel would begin de-aging the group to somewhere around their early to mid-twenties, a status quo which continues to this day.

Along with the adult cast, the Hobgoblin is fine form this issue as well. This may be his most heinous crime ever, firebombing Vandergill's plant and killing forty people in the process. Previously the goblin was a cold-blooded murderer, but I don't recall him ever partaking in such wholesale carnage. His actions here certainly must up Spider-Man's desire to see him brought to justice. And the villain even gets a moment to shine. We know he'll be defeated next issue; that's pretty much a given since this series was marketed as featuring his unmasking. But before that happens, he gets the better of Spider-Man during their fight, electrocuting the web-slinger and dropping him to his apparent death -- a death, by the way, which mirrors the Hobgoblin's own false demise in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 251.

Unfortunately, this issue is, artistically, a slight step down from the first. The pencils of Ron Frenz are as wonderful as last time, but the lush, dark inking of George Pérez, which gave the story such gravity, is gone. I'm not sure why Pérez left, but his replacements here -- Jerome Moore and Scott Hanna, both decent inkers -- do not quite imbue the proceedings with that same sense of ominous dread that Pérez brought to the first installment. Whatever the reason for his departure, Pérez's work is sorely missed.

Also, I didn't mention it when covering the previous issue, but it's worth noting that this is a Marvel comic from 1997 which is lettered by hand. I'm pretty sure that by this point Comicraft was lettering pretty much the entire Marvel line, so it's a little odd to me that this got the "old school" treatment. Perhaps the editors went with Jim Novak over Comicraft due to the "throwback" nature of the job, or perhaps Novak's rate was cheaper than Comicraft's for what I assume was a project with a relatively small budget. In any case, though I'm a huge fan of Comicraft and I loved the uniform look their style brought to Marvel at this time, I like the idea of using traditional hand-lettering for this job. It helps the story better tie back to the original AMAZING SPIDER-MAN issues featuring Hobgoblin. That said, while Novak does a fine job here, I would've loved to have seen Joe Rosen on the series, simply for continuity's sake. -- though I think may have been retired by this point.

So the art takes a dip and perhaps some suspects have been ruled out too easily and too early -- but the series' cast is in fine form, and the investigation scenes are fun to read. Issue 2 of HOBGOBLIN LIVES doesn't quite live up to the promise of its predecessor, but that's not for lack of trying.

No comments:

Post a Comment