Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Joe Rubinstein (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)
The Plot: As Spider-Man carries Hobgoblin to the police station, he’s spotted by Demogoblin and Doppelganger. The villains attack, forcing Spider-Man and Hobgoblin to hide inside a church. Meanwhile in the sewers, Ghost Rider and John Blaze stumble across Venom while searching for Hag and Troll. Venom abducts Hag and Troll, leaving Blaze and Ghost Rider behind to fight the Deathspawn. They follow Venom to the surface, leading them to the church where Spider-Man’s hiding. A fight soon erupts between Spider-Man, Hobgoblin, Demogoblin, Doppelganger, Venom, the Deathspawn, Blaze, and Ghost Rider. The fight moves back into the sewers, as the Deathspawn kidnap the church’s priest.
The Subplots: None.
Web of Continuity: Hag and Troll are in the sewers, apparently as a part of their scheme to bring Deathwatch back to life. Venom is chasing them to avenge the Vault Guardsmen they killed last issue. The Deathspawn, an army of shadowy demons, are described as Deathwatch’s “progeny.” Hag and Troll disappear during the fight in the church. I don’t mean the story shows them slipping away, I mean they’re literally not seen again once the fighting starts.
*See _________ For Details: Spider-Man notices a blackout is hitting the city; Spirits of Vengeance #3 has the details. Hobgoblin previously helped Spider-Man against the Doppelganger in Spider-Man #25. Spidey remarks that the Doppelganger should’ve died with all of the other duplicates in Infinity War #6. In the sewers, Ghost Rider claims “other lives are at stake down here.” A footnote points towards Spirits of Vengeance #5. Venom is angry at Spider-Man for “betraying” him following their battle against Carnage in Amazing Spider-Man #363.
Review: Why, it’s almost 1993 and Marvel still hasn’t gotten around to running Venom so far into the dirt absolutely no one will care about him for at least ten years. And, what’s this? Spider-Man hasn’t been sucked into a pointless crossover with Ghost Rider yet? Something must be done, and the solution, clearly, is “Spirits of Venom.” The premise already reeks of The Bad ‘90s, but the inclusion of Demogoblin and Doppelganger makes the story even more intolerable. I’ve mentioned earlier that the ‘90s Spider-office seemed to have an odd attachment to Demogoblin, but the same could be said about Doppelganger as well. For reasons I’ll never understand, this dud ended up making a few dozen appearances during the early ‘90s. I can almost understand someone latching on to Demogoblin in the hopes of rekindling some of the popularity that once surrounded Hobgoblin, but who thought Doppelganger was a good idea? It’s a dimwitted monster with no discernable motives, no personality, and a throwaway design. It can’t even speak! When was I ever supposed to care about this thing?
As much as I dislike the villains, theoretically, pitting Spider-Man and Hobgoblin against their evil twins has some potential for a decent action story. Unfortunately, the opening fight scene just has Spider-Man and Hobgoblin evading the duo for a few pages before they crash into a church. The story then cuts to Blaze and Ghost Rider running into Venom, who’s now hunting Hag and Troll, two Ghost Rider villains who want to revive another Ghost Rider villain. The story’s already crowded with characters, and when a massive coincidence allows Venom’s pointless fight to intersect with Spider-Man’s pointless fight, the issue becomes a total mess. It’s impossible to keep track of the characters, the action is hard to follow, and most of the dialogue is awful. I assume the priest character was added to humanize the story somehow, but the guy’s never even given a name, and he spends most of the issue spouting lines like “Stop! What are you doing here? This is a church. Hallowed ground. There is no place for your kind here. Blessed Father, protect me!” Yes, Blessed Father. Please listen.