Wednesday, September 16, 2015

PETER PARKER, SPIDER-MAN #97 - November 1998

Let the Heavens Tremble at the Power of the Goblin! The Final Chapter Part 2
Credits:  Howard Mackie (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Scott Hanna (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  The Green Goblin flies to his upstate hunting lodge to confront Spider-Man.  On the premises, Spider-Man contends with genetically altered trees and animals.  Eventually the Goblin faces Spider-Man, handing him a copy of the Osborn Journal, which the Goblin says he should’ve found months ago.  Spider-Man watches as Osborn’s written words morph into an accusation that Peter Parker poisoned his aunt when she discovered he’s Spider-Man.  Enraged, Spider-Man knocks the Goblin down and restrains him with webbing.  He enters a bedroom, expecting to find his daughter May.  Instead, he’s struck with a vase by Aunt May.

The Subplots:  MJ is fitted with clothes for her new modeling assignment, but is now unsure if she’s doing the right thing.

Web of Continuity:  
  • This issue marks the full debut of the Green Goblin’s new costume.  It’s the first of many John Byrne will redesign during this era.
  • Osborn claims Spider-Man should’ve found his journal when he invaded Osborn’s office back in Spectacular Spider-Man #250.
  • The Osborn Journal was a one-shot published in 1997 with the goal of tying up some of the loose ends surrounding Norman Osborn’s resurrection.  According to Osborn this issue, the journal was a mix of truth and lies.

“Huh?” Moment:  MJ remarks that the dress she’s trying on costs more than she’s been making in a year.  She hasn’t had a job in a year, right?

Miscellaneous Note:  The Statement of Ownership lists average sales for the year at 108,050 copies, with the most recent issue selling 103,907.

Review:  Admittedly, this issue isn’t as shamefully bad as the previous PPSM, but it’s still terrible.  I’m forced to revert, once again, to bullet points.

  • The issue opens with one of the dumbest clich√©s of the modern age, the villain killing his henchmen for absolutely no reason.  It’s possible that this was a chilling idea once, it sounds like something Denny O’Neil would’ve done with the Joker back in the ‘70s, but I can’t personally recall a time when it’s ever had any impact.  Seriously, did any of these scenes ever elicit any kind of a response out of you?  Did anyone ever mourn the loss of Background Goon #3?  A villain killing his pawn for failing him, sure; but the random murder of faceless underlings is an utterly moronic move for any so-called “brilliant” mastermind.  How is he going to find new flunkies if he keeps killing his existing ones for dramatic effect?
  • Not only is Osborn now acting like a cut-rate Joker, but the story has him stealing gimmicks from a different villain every few pages.  He’s created an evil garden for Spider-Man to swing through, plus freakish mutated animals (which are virtually identical to the demons Romita, Jr. designed back in Daredevil’s Mephisto arc), he’s written a fake journal with the goal of framing Peter Parker, and he has a new plan to detonate a “DNA Bomb” that will reshape the world in his image.  Only one of those schemes actually sounds like something Osborn would do, and it’s the plot that he casually gives up on this issue.
  • Speaking of the fake journal…I’m sure anyone who bought the Osborn Journal a few months earlier in order to piece together how exactly Marvel justified reviving Osborn was thrilled to discover that it had been written in disappearing ink and was filled with lies.
  • The combination of John Romita, Jr., Scott Hanna, and colorist Gregory Wright do a lot to sell the mood this issue.  I would argue that they’re solely responsible for any atmosphere the issue contains.  The pages of Spider-Man confronting the Green Goblin at dusk look amazing; they’re almost pretty enough to distract from the utter nonsense the characters are speaking.
  • Not surprisingly at this point, the scripting is a mess.  The issue opens with one of Osborn’s goons thinking, “He’s letting us help with the new costume,” (as we plainly see the goons dressing Osborn) and things don’t improve from there.  Someone might argue that it’s an intentional effort to evoke the Silver Age, but really, there’s no charm here.  It’s just awkward.  Try reading some of this stuff aloud.  “But, as with any great act of creation there will be some casualties and a significant amount of pain.  To that end you might consider my killing you a gift bestowed upon an old friend of the Osborn family!”
  • “Thanks for the generous offer, Norman, but I’m going to have to refuse…on account of your being a nut case!”  Awful jokes, too.
  • The return of Aunt May…since this is the last page reveal, I’ll hold off on discussing this in-depth until later.  I will acknowledge that as a cliffhanger, this is guaranteed to get some reaction out of the readership.  (People honestly believed at the time that Marvel would never revive Aunt May.)  If someone like J. M. DeMatteis wrote this scene, I would have some faith that something clever is coming next.  Having May call Spider-Man a “horrible creature” and attack him with a vase would’ve been a cute joke if the next chapter revealed that this is some kind of impostor given out-of-date directions, but that’s simply not the case.  Yes, not only is Marvel reviving Aunt May, but we’re getting that Aunt May…


Matt said...

Personally, I like that Aunt May better than the latter day version. To me she will always be a doddering old simpleton.

That said, I was really upset Marvel brought her back following the tear-jerking AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 400. But since you're saving your thoughts until next issue, so will I. Instead I'll just say that the Green Goblin's new costume is totally ugly and completely unnecessary.

G. Kendall said...

All of Byrne's redesigns were misguided, as I recall. The Dr. Octopus one was ridiculously awful.

Comicbookrehab said...

In retrospect, the garden might've been inspired by Blofeld's "garden of death" in Ian Fleming's novel of You Only Live Twice.

I don't recall hating this issue, but they were promoting the Spider-Girl series around the same time, and I recall thinking that this Aunt May might've been an illusion, since Norman was seriously stealing Mysterio's shtick throughout this issue...and in the next installment...Byrne was!

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