Tuesday, May 12, 2015

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #259 - July 1998


Goblins at the Gate Part 1 - Survivor of the Big Lie!
Credits:  Roger Stern (plot), Glenn Greenberg (plot/script), Luke Ross (penciler), Al Milgrom (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Comicraft’s Liz Agraphiotis (letters)

The Plot:  Norman Osborn goes on a publicity tour for his book, “Survivor of the Big Lie.”  Roderick Kingsley sees a televised interview and is incensed that Osborn is free while he’s incarcerated.  He informs his lawyer that he has one copy of Osborn’s journal left, which will prove Osborn truly is the Green Goblin.  Kingsley hopes to give the information to the DA in exchange for parole.  Word leaks to Osborn.  Soon, Kingsley is released to a secret location to discuss the plea bargain, but is ambushed by the Green Goblin.  Spider-Man intervenes, but is shocked when Kingsley sides with the Green Goblin and attacks him.  Kingsley escapes with Green Goblin, and is taken to meet Norman Osborn.

The Subplots:  Jonah is still eyeing the handgun he keeps in his desk drawer, cursing Norman Osborn’s name.  Jill Stacy senses something sinister about Osborn when watching his TV interview.  Peter and MJ’s romantic night alone is spoiled when Betty Brant arrives and tells him about Roderick Kingsley’s plan.

Web of Continuity:  
  • Apparently, this issue marks the debut of Willis Gottfried, Roderick Kingsley’s lawyer.
  • Norman Osborn’s book has somehow dispelled the public’s belief that he was ever the Green Goblin.
  • The Green Goblin seen this issue fighting Spider-Man is presumably the same replacement who appeared during “SpiderHunt.”

*See _________ For Details:  Kingsley’s entire collection of Osborn journals was supposedly destroyed in Amazing Spider-Man #251.  The prison guard that Betty Brant used as an informant in Spider-Man: TheHobgoblin Lives! #3 notifies her of Roderick Kingsley’s potential plea bargain deal.  

I Love the ‘90s:  Osborn appears on the “Reggie & Katie May Show,” which is a parody of Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee.  MJ later remarks to Peter that Party of Five is a rerun tonight, so you know what that means…

Miscellaneous Note:  Glenn Greenberg wrote a hypothetical introduction for this arc, discussing its origin and evolution, when it was reprinted in the second edition of Spider-Man: The Hobgoblin Lives!  You can read it on his blog.

Review:  The premise behind this storyline is a sound one -- the original Green Goblin is back, and the original Hobgoblin has been revealed, yet no one has done a story featuring them together so far.  Thankfully, this arc isn’t being handled by some of the, well, less consistent writers assigned to the titles during this era.  Roger Stern himself has agreed to return, co-plotting a story spearheaded by Glenn Greenberg.  That leaves some hope that the arc won’t be as directionless and half-hearted as many of the other stories from this period.  And the Black Tarantula won’t show up.

The first chapter picks up where Hobgoblin Lives! left off, which was itself a sequel to the earliest Hobgoblin material penned by Stern back in the early ‘80s.  The current status quo of the titles is also reiterated, explaining in careful detail to the reader what Norman Osborn has been up to lately.  (Which admittedly, isn’t much.  He wrote a book and faked the kidnapping of his grandson.  Yeah, he annoyed Spider-Man with the $5 million bounty, but Osborn himself hasn’t gotten his own hands dirty in months.)  That leaves the reader with a hefty amount of exposition in the first chapter, which isn’t a huge problem, but it does make for a rather slow opening.  My major reservation going into this arc is if Roderick Kingsley is a strong enough villain to justify the years of build-up and continuity games that went into the Hobgoblin reveal.  I thought Hobgoblin Lives! was a lot of fun, but the weakest element was actually intended as the series’ selling point; Roderick Kingsley as the true Hobgoblin is just a difficult pill to swallow.  Yeah, I know that was the plan all along, but I also think Tom DeFalco had good reasons for ditching it.  I also have to question if Luke Ross is the best artist to be doing this story.  Given his McFarlane influence, he would presumably draw a fearsome Green Goblin, but his Goblin is actually a bit tepid this issue.  Ross, to his credit, is drawing a pretty fantastic rendition of the supporting cast at this point, so I don’t want to single him out for criticism.  I just wish he brought some of the energy he injected into villains like Mad Jack into the Goblin.  

All that said, the first chapter of the arc is a decent opening.  There’s a classic Spidey feel to the issue, with various supporting cast members popping in and out, old plotlines being addressed, and the promise of a Green Goblin/Hobgoblin confrontation.  In comparison to the largely forgettable work being done in most of the other titles, it’s a relief to read a story that actually feels connected to the history of Spider-Man, keeps the supporting cast members in-character, and has more than a little ambition going for it.  

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