Untangled Web - Part 5

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Another week, another issue of Amazing Spider-Man. With the introduction of Menace, the latest goblin-themed character, playing out in the current Spidey storyline penned by television writer Marc Guggenheim, your friends at Broken Frontier have decided to take a look at other denizens of the Marvel U not named Norman Osborn who have rode the glider at one time or another. The first character we’re going to examine has a long running history with the Goblin bloodline and is proving to play a large part in Peter Parker’s life post-One More Day. His name is Harry Osborn.

As the son of the original Green Goblin, Harry witnessed the famous battle that would end his father’s life, unbeknownst to his best friend Peter Parker. After figuring out Pete’s identity by discovering one of his Spider-suits, Harry fired up the old Goblin glider and confronted Spider-Man himself, only to lose and be confined to an asylum. Due to the evil machinations of psychiatrist Bart Hamilton, who later went onto become the third Green Goblin, Harry forgot about his time as a villain and even who was behind Spider-Man’s mask.

He was able to reinsert himself into society and even married longtime Spidey cast member Liz Allen. Together they raised a son named after the deceased Norman. However, once Harry regained his memories he concocted a new and improved Goblin serum that gave him powers unsurpassed by even his father. Unfortunately for Harry, this super serum ended up slowly poisoning him, but not before he lost to Peter in a final battle and ultimately apologized for ruining their friendship.

Despite never reaching the stature of a Goblin like Norman or Harry Osborn, Roderick Kingsley made a good attempt as the Hobgoblin considering he began his career as a millionaire fashion designer. Kingsley built his empire with an army of thugs, one of whom accidentally stumbled upon one of Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin lairs. Kingsley stole the equipment and used Osborn’s computer files to try and wrestle control of Oscorp from son Harry. After years of failed attempts at an NYC underworld takeover, and multiple conspiracies leaving many to believe that Daily Bugle reporter Ned Leeds was the actual Hobgoblin, Kingsley retired to an island in the Caribbean where he remains to this day.

The original Jack O’ Lantern and fourth Hobgoblin, Jason Macendale Jr., was never taken very seriously until the Inferno crossover event in which he managed to combine his soul with an imprisoned demon. Eventually Macendale would rid himself of the demon and the creature became a Spider-Man villain in its own right, known as the Demogoblin. This version differed from previous Goblins in that he often faced enemies of a more supernatural element.

The Demogoblin envisioned himself as a purifier of Earth’s sinners and often came into combat with characters like Moon Knight and Ghost Rider. It wasn’t until the Maximum Carnage crossover of the early 90s that the Demogoblin finally became a serious foe in Spidey’s rogues gallery. After joining up with Carnage, he was eventually brought down by a star studded team including our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, Captain America, Venom and the Immortal Iron Fist. Eventually he was killed during a final confrontation with the Hobgoblin.

It may surprise you to know that the fourth Green Goblin was actually a hero. Phil Urich, nephew to Front Line mainstay Ben Urich, served as the Goblin during the early part of the 90s and in many occasions actually aided Spider-Man. In fact, Urich was actually given a brief solo Green Goblin title before losing his equipment in the massive Onslaught crossover that spun out of X-Men books. This was, of course, due to the imminent return of Norman Osborn over in the core Spider-Man titles. Since retiring as a superhero, Urich and former New Warrior Turbo have gone onto form Excelsior, a support group aimed at rehabilitating former teen superheroes featured in the recent Loners miniseries.

Luckily for Spider-Man, he doesn’t actually encounter Menace, the latest Goblin, in the newest issue of Amazing Spider-Man. Instead, writer Marc Guggenheim weaves an intricate maze of storylines that all build towards a promising showdown next week.

If you read Untangled Web last week, you know that I was originally quite skeptical of the Jackpot character. Since then, Guggenheim has proved that he can writer her quite well, but that plot thread falls a bit this month thanks to the addition of the Blue Shield. Apparently, he’s been hired by SHIELD to track down unregistered superheroes. But don’t they already have field agents, the Thunderbolts, and a plethora of registered heroes to take care of that? It seems more than likely that this character will end up being one of the two police officers from the Swing Shift one-shot released back on Free Comic Book Day a few months earlier; however his inclusion here seems forced at best. I get that the Spider-Braintrust is trying to repopulate Spidey’s cast, but instead of this joker why don’t we get to see what Flash Thompson’s been up to since that dreadful final issue of One More Day?

The other storylines fare a lot better. Despite Dexter Bennett still crippling every page he appears in, the majority of ASM 550’s space is devoted to Menace’s sabotage of a mayoral debate and Peter worrying that Harry Osborn is actually his latest costumed threat. Another thread that’s picked up on is that of the spider-tracer murderer hinted at a few weeks earlier. I could be wrong, but this element has more of a long-term feel to it that could play out over the next several months instead of the next few weeks. This kind of far thinking storytelling may put off some readers but so far this has been my favorite aspect of Amazing Spider-Man since going thrice-monthly. The book feels more like a television season instead of just an endless array of six part arcs that rarely touch back on each other.

Things on the art front have improved this week but only because Guggenheim keeps Peter in the webs for the majority of the issue. As soon as things cut to normal residents of the Marvel U, things quickly become wonky again. Take, for example, the scene involving J. Jonah Jameson. He just doesn’t look right. And it doesn’t help matters that the Spider-Braintrust has really been dragging their feet with this plotline. Marla Jameson sold their shares to Dexter Bennett during the second issue of Brand New Day and JJJ still hasn’t figured it out. This is one of the few cases where the weekly storyline structure hasn’t worked out.

Even with these few minor complaints, Marc Guggenheim supplies us with yet another really solid issue of Amazing Spider-Man. It’s not quite as good as his debut last week, but that has to be expected as the pieces are put into place for an explosive conclusion to the three part storyline next week.

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