Comics : The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Green Goblin (Origin Storybook)

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This review was first published on: Nov 2012.

Background...

This book is square-bound card, 8" x 8", and 24 high-quality full-color pages. It is one of a pair of illustrated story books produced in 2011 which share a general look and feel with the Spider-Man origin retelling featured in the Marvel: Origin Story Books which came out around the same time. Clearly the intention is to expand on the Spider-Man Origin story by producing similarly reworked versions of classic super-villain encounters.

This version of Spider-Man features Peter still at Midtown High School. The youthfulness of our protagonist is matched also by a simplistic (almost childish) clarity in the writing, and with a similarly refreshing art style which offers a generally soft appearance reminiscent of water-color brushwork. It isn't water-color though, as the occasional panel which breaks out into a bright strength and clarity of line reminds us from time to time.

Despite being a supposed high-school student, there is a confidence and alertness in this young Peter Parker which owes very little to the mopey, moody young Peter which Steve Ditko was so fond of emphasizing in the original.

In Detail...

The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Green Goblin (Origin Storybook)
Feb 2012 : SM Title
Find ISBN 9781742832333
Publisher:  Scholastic Australia, Inc.
Illustrator:  Storybook Art Group
Cover Art:  Brian Miller, Pat Olliffe
Adaption:  Steve Behling
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 Adapted By: The Amazing Spider-Man Origin Storybook Collection (Story 4)
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man: Storybook Collection
 Adapted By: Spider-Man 3D Comic Sticker Book (Parragon)

Our story opens with a cursory cameo from Midtown High and the supporting cast. Sports Jock (and Number One Spider-Man Fan-Boy) Flash Thompson mocks Puny Parker while Peter's friend Harry Osborn simultaneously announces that "The Enforcers have broken into the Empire State Building".

That takes care of the gratuitous non-Spidey references for now, and our hero quickly swings off to the Empire State Building to face the Enforcers. Importantly, Spider-Man is followed by the Green Goblin, though the web-slinger's Spider-Sense fails to inform him of this fact.

His journey ends at the Empire State where he finds the villainous Enforcers standing on the observation deck... which confuses me. The observation deck of the Empire State Building is open to the general public, isn't it. So what kind of "breaking in" has taken place? Did they stiff the elevator operator? Mind you, I can't see any other visitors on the deck, so maybe the area was closed for painting, and the Enforcers have been touching all the wet paint and leaving marks of criminal proportions?

Well, whatever. Spider-Man doesn't worry about little things like figuring out if any crime has been committed. He launches right into "beating people up" mode. And indeed he does quickly incapacitate the Enforcers - but not before Dangerous Dan has managed to catch Spidey with a gas cannister which emits an ominous green fog.

His "work" done despite the gas, Spider-Man swings off, leaving the hapless Enforcers for the police to try and pin some sort of crime on. He heads home to Queens and to Aunt May. But this time, the Green Goblin is able to follow him unobserved, thanks to the effects of the gas which have "weakened Spider-Man's Spider-Sense". The Goblin follows Peter all the way back home to Queens in order to learn his secret identity.

Woah, hang on! If it's the effects of the gas which allow the Green Goblin to follow Spidey, then how come we also saw him secretly follow Spider-Man earlier as he swung from Midtown High to the Empire State... BEFORE the gas cannister affected our hero?

Furthermore, the story text is quite explicit that the Green Goblin originally started following Spider-Man "within seconds" of him changing into costume. That means the Goblin must have been at Midtown High and knew that Peter was going to leave and go to fight the Enforcers.

In which case... the Goblin must already know Spider-Man's secret identiy, and the whole trip to Queens is completely pointless!

As loosely per the original story in Amazing Spider-Man #39, the Green Goblin takes advantage of Peter's weakened Spider-Sense to defeat him in battle and drag him off to his lair. There, the Goblin first reveals his own secret identity (Norman Osborn, naturally), secondly talks for long enough to let Spidey recover, and finally frees Spider-Man in order to have another fight.

This time (as per the template) Spider-Man wins, and Norman is knocked into a batch of chemicals which explode and cause amnesia. Norman recovers and Spider-Man "where is Harry?"

Yes, Norman has forgotten all about being the Green Goblin. What's more surprising, is he doesn't think to ask "Why am I lying at Spider-Man's feet in a destroyed underground lair, dressed up in a green and purple rubber Green Goblin suit, and covered in bruises the size and shape of the a teenager's fist?"

In General...

This re-telling of the classic Green Goblin tale does have a couple of advantages over the original. The art work is reproduced to a much higher printing quality, and it fits much more conveniently into an 8" x 8" box.

Unfortunately, the disadvantages somewhat outweigh the positive. The original version benefited from the preceding 38 issues which had developed a depth of characterisation which is necessarily absent from this stand-alone story. Also as noted, there are a number of glaring plot holes in the new which I find impossible to ignore.

Overall Rating...

I want to make it clear that I greatly enjoyed the re-telling of Spidey's origin in The Amazing Spider-Man: An Origin Story, and I absolutely agree that there are many good reasons to re-tell these classic stories in a new format.

Illustrated storybooks can evade the shadow of disreputability that comic books still bear in the eyes of some parents. What's more, not everybody wants to read 38 stories just in order to get to read a Green Goblin story. And the classic comics are quite dated both in language and visual appeal. It's a datedness which I personally find incredibly charming, but many others may not share that aesthetic.

But for whatever reason, I just can't feel any affection for this re-invention. I loved the original Romita artwork, so despite the clarity and freshness which modern printing affords the new illustrations, I can't see them as a massive improvement. The writing is simplified for a younger audience, but really I'm not sure that "dumbing down" comics is a high priority.

Nope. This is attractive, but flawed. Two webs.