Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams & Mike Manley (inks), Rick Parker & Jack Morelli (letters), Marc McLaurin & Bob Sharen (colors)
The Plot: Molten Man contacts Spider-Man, informing him that Tombstone wants his help robbing the Osborn Chemical Company of a new chemical, Diox-3. They arrange an ambush and confront Tombstone’s men that night. Unexpectedly, they’re joined by the Green Goblin. Meanwhile, Robbie Robertson has been tipped off to the robbery, only to learn it’s a setup from Tombstone. Robbie defends himself by shooting Tombstone, who falls into a pressure capsule with the Diox-3 gas.
The Subplots: Robbie refuses to forgive Peter for staging the Spider-Man shoot. Liz Osborn is incensed when Mary Jane reveals she saw a Green Goblin costume in Harry’s closet (which is now gone).
Web of Continuity: Betty Brant is now Jonah’s executive secretary at the Jameson News Digest. Presumably, Glory Grant is still working for the Daily Bugle, although she seems to disappear from the books at around this time.
Review: Gerry Conway wrote a lot of comics with Tombstone during this era, but almost all of them were in Spectacular Spider-Man. For unknown reasons, Web is given this Tombstone arc, while Spectacular runs a storyline that has Spider-Man traveling to England and encountering the villainous duo, Knight and Fogg. The ongoing saga of Robbie Robertson’s imprisonment and return to society was also covered mostly in Spectacular, so it’s a little odd to see this plot shifted over to Web, as well. Regardless, I love the early Tombstone appearances and the Robbie Robertson storyline that went along with them, so I’m not complaining.
Robbie’s already gone through the arc of facing his fear, paying a price for his actions, and confronting his lifelong tormentor. Most writers would stop there, but Conway now delves into the question of how a man goes forward after these experiences. After a stint in prison, Robbie can’t adjust to the real world overnight. He had to become hard to survive, but the rules that kept him alive in prison are now driving away the people he cares for. He also sees himself in Peter, and just as he never forgave himself for covering up a story for Tombstone, he can’t let Peter off the hook when he commits his own breach of journalistic ethics. Peter thinks he’s become an unfair test case for Robbie’s “new morality” and refuses to roll over for him. Did any writer ever put this much thought into Peter and Robbie’s relationship? How often was Robbie even given something to do, after being introduced as a Sidney Pointier analogue in the late ‘60s? Conway makes the dramas of the supporting cast just as important as the main superhero action, which is a major reason why I’m convinced he’s responsible for Web’s strongest run of issues.