Written by Diane Duane
The Plot: Spider-Man stakes out the Brooklyn Navy Yards, anticipating Hobgoblin will rob a nuclear submarine. When Hobgoblin does appear, Spider-Man is unable to stop him from taking an actuator, the device that triggers the atomic reaction in a fired missile. Later, as Peter Parker, he investigates with Ben Urich an alleged Venom sighting at the rail yards. That night, while searching the warehouse where the homeless man was killed, Spider-Man and Venom meet. Venom claims innocence. After Venom departs to start his own investigation, Spider-Man travels to the ESU campus, expecting that Hobgoblin will next strike its nuclear research facility. He captures Hobgoblin, but when Venom arrives to extract his own vengeance, Hobgoblin escapes in the confusion.
The Subplots: Researching a possible role as a social worker, MJ volunteers with her friend at the Third Chance homeless shelter. While talking to the homeless, she learns of numerous cases of radiation sickness.
I Love the ‘90s: Spider-Man recalls doing “duck and cover” nuclear bomb drills during school. I understand that Peter Parker was supposed to be a child of the ‘70s at this point, but was “duck and cover” still around then?
Review: Over the course of a hundred pages or so, Venom finally appears, Spider-Man has two more fights with Hobgoblin, Ben Urich makes a cameo, and MJ is given something to do. Not bad for “Middle.” Overlooking Spider-Man conveniently locating Hobgoblin so easily on two occasions, and a few more pages spent on the obvious Venom red herring, the story’s holding together well. Duane gets some material out of Spider-Man’s loss of his spider-sense, like his anxiety that it might never return, only to have it rematerialize when he thinks he’s finally caught the Hobgoblin...which of course doesn’t work out because of Venom’s stupidity. It’s a nice use of “The Ol’ Parker Luck” that doesn’t feel contrived.
Duane’s research continues to add some depth to the novel, as we discover that not only has she thoroughly investigated how a nuclear submarine works and how a dirty bomb could be made, but she also knows how a modern homeless shelter functions. Since everyone already has some idea of what a shelter is like, Duane could be excused for skimping on the details, but she’s able to provide very specific information on everything from how the food is prepared to what the job training classes are like, and her characterization skills help to humanize the volunteers and the residents. (MJ’s guilt that she would’ve never even looked these people in the eye if she wasn't researching a role is well played.) Plus, the scene actually ties in to the novel’s main plot, so it doesn’t feel as if MJ’s off in her own novella in the middle of the actual story.