This issue begins directly after the Blood Brothers saga. Hobgoblin, by order of the mysterious Gaunt, has framed Ben Reilly by torching his workplace, the Daily Grind, robbing his apartment, and generally destroying what little reputation our hero had. Now Ben, without a piece of furniture in his place, or the ability to show his face, has to find some way to repair the damage to his newly-found identity.
|Pencils:||John Romita, Jr.|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Jr.|
This issue is the first of the self-contained stories in the monthly titles. It begins in an abandoned warehouse where Hobgoblin (revealed to be Jack Macendale) and is having words with Cell 12. He flies away, leaving a pumpkin bomb behind that destroys the warehouse, and the cybernetic mercenaries.
At the same time, Spidey is shaking down Vinnie, an underworld surgeon who helped repair Hobgoblin's hench-freaks. After a couple rounds of "drop him and save him at the last minute" routine, he finally reveals the Hobgoblin's hideout. Spider-Man then pays a visit to the burned remains of the Daily Bugle to assure Shirley Washington and son that Ben wasn't responsible for the arson, and that Spidey's going to catch the real culprit.
Meanwhile, Peter and MJ pay a visit to the Daily Bugle. They walk through the city room, and Peter sees all his old friends on staff at the Bugle. From Betty Brant to Robbie Robertson, Peter is struck with the familiarity of the place. Robbie shuffles the Parker's into Jameson's office. J. Jonah offers Peter his position back, and he says he'll think about it. As they leave the Bugle, Spider-Man gets their attention shining his spider-beam on them. Spidey asks Peter for a favor.
Back at Hobgoblin's abandoned warehouse, Macendale is arguing with the evil Gaunt. Hobgoblin is torqued because he underwent cybernetic enhancement, and now Gaunt is 'cutting him loose', telling him not to attempt any further contact with him. Just as Gaunt leaves, warning Hobgoblin to stay away, Spider-Man crashes in through a skylight, drawing Hobby outside. Unlike Ben's and Hobgoblin's last meeting, where ol' web-head got creamed, Spider-Man dominates by teasing him, webbing up his eyes and hands. No matter how many fire-blasts and energy charges he threw, Ben kept going. After whipping Macendale into a frenzy, Spider-Man and Hobgoblin go falling back into the warehouse, where Spidey has spun a gigantic web. Spider-Man gets Hobgoblin to confess to burning the Daily Grind and framing Ben. It's all caught by Peter Parker and Ben Urich, who were hiding in the warehouse.
The issue ends at the disaster-recovered Daily Grind with a promising event. Ben, having been cleared of all charges, is enjoying some java with MJ and Peter. They tell him that they've decided to stay in New York, and everyone is having a good time, when Peter's hand spams, making the glass shatter in his hand. When Mary Jane and Ben express their concerns, Peter plays it off, blaming it on defective workmanship.
The thing I liked the most about this story was...it ended in the same issue it began! There were a lot of other things I liked about it. Those freaks from Cell-12 bought the farm (good riddance), Peter and Mary Jane decided to stay in New York, and Spider-Man got his revenge on the upgraded Hobgoblin and cleared his name all in one swoop. What more could you ask for?
The collaboration that went into this issue is most definitely expressed in the end product. The pencils and the colors in this issue were exceptional, with a realistic style and dynamic battle scenes. Hobgoblin looks very evil and wretched with his cybernetics. The way the story developed kept the reader interested without giving anything away. It kept the mystery concerning Gaunt and his even-more-ominous employer going, and strengthened the bond between Peter and Ben. My favorite part was when Peter and MJ were walking through the city room, showing all the people who have served as the backdrop for young Parker's life for so long. It gave the reader the sense of not only Spider-Man's but Peter's rich history.
The fact that it was self-contained is enough to earn it an average rating, but the story-line (complete with subplots and foreshadowing), the art, and the action are enough to give it four webs. This particular issue was more than just an average Spider-Man story, however. It resolved many outstanding questions (like, 'who's underneath that Hobgoblin mask?'), and tied up loose ends without that being the issue's primary concern. The thing that puts it in the 'five webs' category is the cover. The way the webs conceal the Spider-Man title, and the way Spidey is hanging down, looking at his 'prey' seal it up for me. I'm giving it a perfect five webs, so shoot me.