Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #161

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

Coming right off the heels of the company-wide "Acts of Vengeance" crossover, this issue kicks off a new story arc that will pit Spider-Man against the combined might of Hobgoblin and Carrion.

This issue is sort of a bookend to the Spectacular Spider-Man #150 storyline "Guilty". In that issue, Robbie Robertson was sentenced to prison for his role in covering up a crime committed by the mob enforcer known as Tombstone. (It turns out these two go way back, but that's a story for another time.)

In Detail...

"Pardoned"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #161
Feb 1990 : SM Title
Summary: Hobgoblin & Puma
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  Sal Buscema
Cover Art:  Sal Buscema
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 Reprinted In: Complete Spider-Man (UK) #1
Articles: Hammerhead, Hobgoblin IV (Macendale), Jameson, J. Jonah, Nick Katzenberg, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Mercado, Joy, Puma, Robertson, Joe "Robbie", Tombstone

Our story begins with both men free as a bird, Robbie by presidential pardon and Tombstone thanks to a jailbreak orchestrated by his new boss, Hammerhead. While Robbie's family and friends celebrate in the warden's office, Hammerhead and Tombstone discuss the situation in a swanky limo coincidentally parked right outside the prison walls.

The scene then switches to the Baxter Building, where Spidey is visiting with Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. He's hoping Reed can figure out a way to cure the new Carrion, who's alter ego is ESU grad student Malcolm McBride, who became infected with the Carrion virus way back in Spectacular Spider-Man #149. (Gerry Conway is using this issue to tie up a lot of loose ends that have accumulated in the series over the past year or so.) Reed isn't too optimistic.

Enter the Hobgoblin, who is visiting a rather swanky uptown club and causing quite a stir. This his first Spider-title appearance after he was granted supernatural powers by demon N'astirh in Spectacular Spider-Man #147 during yet another company-wide cross over known as "Inferno".

(I say first Spider-title appearance, because he made an appearance in an issue of Doctor Strange during the "Acts of Vengeance" storyline. In that issue, Doctor Strange put a spell on Hobgoblin that made him believe his appearance had returned to normal. So now he's walking around in public without a mask, but still sporting scaly skin and red, glowing eyes. Hence, the ruckus...)

Anyways, Hobby eventually meets up with Hammerhead, who has put a contract on Robbie Robertson's life due to the potential threat he poses to Tombstone. Tombstone's not happy with the idea, however, saying if anyone's gonna kill Robbie it should be him since they have such a history.

Later that same night, Robbie Robertson is holding a party celebrating his release. The guests are a veritable Who's Who of supporting characters - Joy Mercado, the Bugle's intrepid reporter; Ben Urich, the Bugle's resident muckraker; jolly old J.J.J. himself, and even Nick Katzenberg, the Bugle's other, more sleazy photographer. Everything's going along fine until Thomas Fireheart (A.K.A. Puma) shows up.

(This ties into yet another subplot. In a nutshell, Fireheart staged a hostile takeover of the Daily Bugle to pay back a debt of honor he owes Spider-Man for a wrong he did to the webslinger some time ago, although I forget which issue this occurred in. Fireheart figures if he can give his old enemy some good publicity, his debt will be repaid. Jonah doesn't take all this lying down, however, and decides to start a new news magazine, hoping Robbie will come over to his side now that he's a free man. Fireheart undercuts him, however, by offering Robbie the Jonah's old position of Editor-In-Chief at the Bugle.)

Okay, enough soap opera stuff. Hobgoblin finally arrives on the scene and we are treated to battle between the new and improved demonic Hobgoblin and our back-to-basics, non-cosmic powered Spider-Man.

First Hobby comes gunning for Robbie and his wife who are out in the yard sharing a private moment. The explosions from his pumpkin bombs alert all the partygoers that something is wrong and they all rush out of the house. Evidently, it takes Peter a while to find and get into his Spider-Roos because MJ has to convince Fireheart to help out by turning in to Puma and saving Robbie's skin (and then promptly getting swatted into some nearby bushes).

This causes just enough of a diversion, however, for Spider-Man to make his entrance. Spidey quickly tags Hobby with a webline and tosses him through a window into either Robbie's house or one of his neighbors (you can't really tell which, but I'd definitely feel sorry for anyone who wakes up to find Hobgoblin in their bedroom).

By this time, Hobby completely forgets about his prior arrangement with Hammerhead and instead decides to get his revenge on Spider-Man. He starts off pretty strong, but then Puma gets back in the game. Also, there's a mysterious sniper that is taking potshots at him from a nearby roof.

Well, eventually Hobby gets blinded by one of his own goblin-blasts and flies off on his goblin glider screaming "My eyes... I can't see!" But not before he happened to pick up a piece of paper that fell from Spidey's costume during the fracas (I didn't know that his Spider-duds even had pockets!) I believe this is the first contract-killing that Hobgoblin fails to follow through on. Unfortunately, his record doesn't get any better the future.

In General...

Overall, this was a fairly average issue. There's a lot of compelling subplots, and several loose ends are revisited, but the issue's main event - the battle between Spidey and Hobgoblin - doesn't really have that old time pizzazz. Of course, the events of this issue are really just a lead-in to next issue's Carrion/Hobgoblin team-up.

Overall Rating...

Footnote...

So where do we go from here?

There's still the Spider-Man/Puma debt of honor to be hashed out (see Spectacular Spider-Man #171 & Spectacular Spider-Man 172).

Speaking of debts of honor, it seems Robbie Robertson and Tombstone (who turns out to be our mysterious sniper) still have a score to settle. I don't think this particular subplot, however, was ever fully resolved by either Gerry Conway or any future Spider-writer.

And there's also the continuing fallout of the Gang War storyline that took place in both the Spectacular and Web of Spider-Man titles over the past year. We see how the Kingpin's organization reacts to the new status quo beginning in Spectacular Spider-Man #164.