When we last saw Roderick Kingsley, the original Hobgoblin, he had been beaten by the Goblin King (Norman Osborn) around the time of Goblin Nation. Kingsley was defeated by Norman but not killed--that honor went to Kingsley's own brainwashed butler who was the one that was actually in the suit at the time of that battle.
Also, a disclaimer by a thumbs-up-giving Kingsley on the first page that readers should "really read Axis #3 first" to know what's going on shouldn't worry anyone. Basically, the Axis event means hero / villain inversions in the Marvel U (in other words, the good guys are now bad and the bad guys are good--but you knew that already, right?).
As the story opens, Kingsley is giving a rather illustrative monologue in the narrative captions, about how fashion has always been a barometer of the economy. We see a recent college grad, jobless, who goes to answer Kingsley's ad in the paper that promises to help "reinvent yourself". Going to an undisclosed location and getting through a doorman, the exuberant grad, John Myers, announces he wants to be a super villain to the group assembled in the room. Problem is, Kingsley is now a super hero, and some Hobgobiln-garbed guards standing at the door proceed to pummel John.
Kingsley himself is giving the people in the room a telecommed lecture via a monitor. He's far away at another location in his dressing room, explaining to his manager why leasing out superhero identities is his best business plan yet (he also mentions how he's still a wanted criminal). Finishing his lecture to the people over the monitor, Kingsley then goes out to give a speech in person to what looks like an amphitheater of his converts, each in their own colorful hero costume (Kingsley calls his lecture series "Ned Talks" as in Leeds, "the first successful person to take part in the Kingsley program"; when someone in the crowd reminds him that Kingsley's own book says it was Lefty Donovan, Kingsley replies "I said successful").
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, Phil Urich (former good Green Goblin, former Hobgoblin, former Goblin Knight under Norman, now the new Goblin King himself, but forthwith and always for my review purposes, he's Philgoblin) executes another Kingsley convert in costume brought to him by henchmen. He explains that he can't have Kingsley making money off of being a Goblin, not without paying a percentage to Urich. He says he only needs one person to bring Kingsley down. In a series of panels, we see how Lily Hollister, aka Menace, brought Urich into Norman's fold. She was captured and cured by Spider-man, and sent away in a police cruiser, which Philgoblin himself blew up. But Phil thinks the odds are she survived, and we see a woman crawl out of the river, tend to her wounds, and clutching the ad from the paper, goes to knock on the same door that the graduate in the opening scene did--Kingsley's training seminar. The doorman asks for her name, of which Lily has no memory of. Kingsley sends a text message to his doorman: "Let Ms. Hollister in".
While this issue is a fun and breezy read, it's a bit hard to reconcile this take on Roderick Kingsley, here as a self-styled sort of motivational speaker / media figure who shills his own how-to book and DVD's, with the machine-gun-wielding mercenary seen late in Slott's Amazing Spider-man Vol 1 run. Fortunately, Shinick knows his Goblin history. He not only name checks Ned Leeds and Lefty Donovan and brings in relative newcomers Philgoblin and Menace as well, but references Kingsley's fashion mogul / cutthroat businessman past. All in all it works pretty well; I think I'd have preferred a less joking take on the whole thing, but as it is, it opens up a new direction of sorts for Kingsley. He's already been in the villain-leasing business, and with the Axis inversions, why wouldn't he apply the same tactics to superheroes?
On the art side of things, Rodriguez keeps the penciling suitably quirky and the colors varied and vibrant. I've always liked what he brings to the table on art.
The story is fun and it's an interesting setup. Lets see where it goes.
Apparently, the goblin serum makes you immortal. See Norman and Harry Osborn, and now Lily Hollister herself.