Thursday, January 22, 2015

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #255 - March 1998


Something Goblin This Way Comes…
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (plot), J. M. DeMatteis (script), Luke Ross (penciler), Dan Green & Al Milgrom (inks), John Kalisz, Mike Rockwitz, & Mark Bernardo (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  Spider-Man rescues the Punisher and a group of mercenaries from the collapsing building.  He’s targeted again by Shotgun, but manages to escape.  Later, the Green Goblin invades the Daily Bugle offices and roughs up Norman Osborn.  He demands Osborn deliver $10 million to him on the Brooklyn Bridge or else he’ll never see Normie again.  Later, Spider-Man observes the exchange from a distance and steps in when the Goblin double-crosses Osborn.  Spider-Man chases the Goblin and captive Osborn to a nearby warehouse.  When Spider-Man leaves to pursue the Goblin, Override discovers the $10 million.  Meanwhile, Punisher and Shotgun, who have now teamed up, rescue Jimmy-6 from a group of Osborn’s mercenaries.  Clarence Fielding follows Spider-Man and the Goblin to the Goblin’s hideout, and during their fight, rescues Normie.  The Goblin disappears in a fiery explosion after crashing into a pile of scrap.  Later, Osborn holds a press conference, thanking Clarence and Override for their help.

The Subplots:  Paul Stacy is angry with his father for considering Norman Osborn’s offer.  Behind closed doors, Jonah accuses Norman of staging the kidnapping.  Ben Urich notices that Jacob Conover is unusually interested in the new Green Goblin’s secret identity.  Flash Thompson and Betty Brant are convinced, after seeing Norman’s response to the Goblin, that he sincerely has nothing to do with the Green Goblin.  Later, Professor Angst treats the Goblin’s wounds.  Norman Osborn enters, congratulating the new Goblin on a job well done.

“Huh?” Moment:  I guess the reader is supposed to infer that Osborn and Override came to some agreement off-panel for him to be rewarded a fraction of the $10 million, and for his wife’s medical bills to be paid.  As the story is presented, however, there’s no clear motive for Override to hand the money back to Osborn.

Web of Continuity:  
  • Spider-Man’s webbing mask doesn’t match the design seen in Peter Parker, Spider-Man #89's cliffhanger, since it isn’t supposed to be covering his hair.  
  • Shotgun has mysteriously disappeared in-between issues and materialized several blocks away from last issue’s explosion.
  • Spider-Man overhears Normie refer to the Goblin as “Daddy,” making him wonder if Harry Osborn has returned from the grave.
  • The new Green Goblin, as shown from the back, is a bald, white male.  Osborn refers to him as “m’boy,” which is also his nickname for Flash Thompson.
  • MJ tells Peter that she has an idea for how he can avoid the $5 million bounty, although several issues pass before we learn her plan.

Creative Differences:  In the opening, the art has the Punisher pointing his gun at Spider-Man, even though he gave up the fight last chapter after he realized that he was being played by Norman Osborn. The dialogue covers for his by giving the Punisher a feeble new motive for holding Spider-Man at gunpoint.

Production Note:  This is a forty-eight page comic with no cover enhancements, priced at $2.99.  A variant cover does exist.



Review:  “SpiderHunt” concludes, and aside from a few hiccups, the finale actually leaves the reader with the impression that there was a coherent plan behind this after all.  Splitting the story between Tom DeFalco and J. M. DeMatteis is a novel way to close out the crossover; having DeFalco plot lessens the continuity issues that might emerge from bringing in yet another writer, while DeMatteis’ script is much sharper and emotionally resonant than anything DeFalco has produced lately.  With both writers combining their talents, the reader is getting an ending that makes a certain amount of sense, with a script that’s able to augment the drama and sell the emotional moments.  I tend to think franchise books should have as small a writing staff as possible, especially in a storyline that directly crosses over from title to title.  Even if DeFalco didn’t seem overly enthused by the crossover in his earlier chapter, I have to admit he manages to tie the disparate threads together this issue into a pretty satisfying conclusion.  Clarence Fielding actually has a point after all!  Arthur Stacy’s role is still dangling out there aimlessly, true, but there’s only so much closure I can expect from a crossover co-written by Howard Mackie.

It’s a shame that the Spider-titles of this era rarely feel this coherent.  There’s a lot going on in this issue, making it truly deserving as a double-sized special, and any number of these threads could potentially go somewhere interesting.  Not only is recovering alcoholic Flash looking to Norman Osborn as a role model, but now Betty has bought into Osborn's act.  The new Goblin may or may not be someone we know.  Jonah is beginning to stand up to Osborn.  Ben Urich wonders now if Jacob Conover is up to something, while the Bugle tries to carry on without Robbie.  A price remains on Spider-Man’s head.  The Stacys are almost starting to develop personalities.  Unfortunately, most of these plots either don’t have real conclusions, or they end as spectacular failures.  

2 comments:

Matt said...

I agree with you that a franchise should have a small group of writers. I also believe, as I implied in my comment to the previous chapter, that said franchise needs a strong editor guiding it, too. I know people hate "editorially driven" comics, and I don't necessarily advocate that. But an editor should be like a comic book series' version of a TV "showrunner", helping to coordinate the various writers' ideas and get them to the page as seamlessly as possible.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN tried this approach with the "Brand New Day" era, but there were way too many writers involved by the end (I think something like six or seven) and the editorial guidance didn't seem strong enough. Sub-plots were lost or dropped for far, far too long, and the characterization was not very consistent. Still, that's the closest I think we've seen in a Marvel comic to what I'm talking about. It would have worked better if they'd kept a hard cap on the number of writers, and if the series had gone the "done-in-one" route rather than doing non-stop multi-chapter story arcs.

Matt said...

I'll just add that comics take some well-deserved flak these days for trying to emulate Hollywood too much, but the "showrunner" approach is one area where they could really benefit from that. Look at each year's worth of issues (whether a single series like AMAZING or a group of series like the core X-MEN or AVENGERS books) as a "season". Gather all the writers together to figure out all the plots and sub-plots for the year in advance, then hand the individual issues out to the various writers for scripting. Then, and this is the super-important part, have ONE "head writer" do a polish on the final scripts to keep everything consistent.

But the important thing, to ensure that sub-plots work and don't drag is to get back to done-in-one stories. With occasional two- or three-parters for major events. But treat each individual issue as its own "episode" with a clear beginning, middle, and end (even if that end is a cliffhanger).

It works on TV and it would work in comics. Done well, it would sure get me back to reading new Marvels again. Maybe I'm weird, but more than great art, more than great writing, even more than amazing stories, the thing I need most from comics is strong consistency and contiunity.

Problem is, the never-ending yearly events will prevent this from ever happening. It's fine if it's an event contained to one group, like the X-Men comics used to do in the nineties -- you could build your whole "season" around the event in that case (a "season finale") and it would enhance the whole thing. But as long as the characters need to be dragged away from their own series to participate in a companywide crossover every single year, the model is unfeasible.

Okay, now I think I'm done. One of my favorite TV programs, JUSTIFIED, just came back this week. It always features a season-long main plot, sub-plots, and occasional "adventure of the week" shows. I'll be watching it regularly for the next few months, thinking the entire time about what a great model its storytelling style would be for a comic book series, and how they will never follow its example.