Four years earlier in Amazing Spider-Man #238, the Hobgoblin was introduced, and like the original Green Goblin his identity remained a mystery for some time. Until now... (or at least until the Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives mini-series after yet another ten years. But for all intents and purposes, this was supposed to be the conclusion.)
This story takes place immediately after the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1 one-shot.
In that issue the Daily Bugle (or at least its sister publication Now magazine) sent Ned Leeds and Peter Parker on an assignment to Berlin to investigate the return of Charlmagne - a "mysterious freelance operative from the Cold War days".
Aside from the usual guilt that Peter trudges around with him, there's two things in particular that he feels responsible for from this issue:
Thing Number One: The Death of Charlie.
Charlie (short for Charlmagne) was an ex-KGB (and ex-whoever else hired her) operative who had been marked for termination. She basically wanted to beat them to it, and had gone pretty much all over the world offing her old KGB associates. Everyone in the journalistic community had naturally assumed that she was a he. In fact, she was an old girlfriend of Wolverine, hence his involvement. At the end of the issue, once she'd killed off everyone she's needed to, she knew it was only a matter of time before she was caught and tortured to death. Wolverine wanted to spare her that fate, and was all set to kill her himself when Spidey shows up to stop him. During their fight, Charlie taps Spidey on the shoulder. Thinking it's Wolverine he lands a fatal punch in her face. The result? Lots and lots of guilt.
Thing Number Two: The Death of Ned Leeds.
In Berlin, Wolverine passes Peter Parker on the street and knows from his scent straightaway that he is Spider-Man. He shows up at Peter's hotel room while Ned's out, and the two go out together leaping across the rooftops. Wolverine tries to talk Peter into going back home with Ned, as they are in way over their heads. Peter then returns to his hotel room to find that Ned Leeds has been murdered, with his throat slit. The result? Lots more guilt.
Many readers had been guessing for months that Ned Leeds was the Hobgoblin. Check out any letters page in Amazing Spider-Man since 1985 and you'll see that most readers had the Hobgoblin pegged as Ned. But he's dead. So now that the major suspect in the Hobgoblin mystery is out of the running, who could the man behind the mask possibly be...?
The main story is told in Amazing Spider-Man #289, but two months later Web of Spider-Man #29 came out, which was set around the events of the ASM issue. The ASM story makes perfect sense on its own, but just like the Director's Cut of Aliens and Bladerunner, it's far more enjoyable with the extra footage.
Here's how they fit together...
|Pencils:||Alan Kupperberg, Tom Morgan|
|Cover Art:||Tom Morgan|
ASM Page 1: Set before Spider-Man versus Wolverine, Jason Macendale (aka Jack O'Lantern) is sitting with The Foreigner in his office, and expresses his desire for him to have someone terminated on his behalf.
ASM Page 2: Set during Spider-Man versus Wolverine. The two gents are sat together again, when the Foreigner receives a call that the termination has taken place right on schedule. The fee is one million dollars, to which Macendale understandably reacts: "Are you nuts? I don't have that kind of money!" The Foreigner calmly replies: "Of course you do. In Switzerland, Account #055673. I've already had it withdrawn." The identity of their victim is then revealed - it was none other than the Hobgoblin.
ASM Pages 3-6: JFK International Airport. Peter, Robbie, Betty, Jonah and Marla watch as Ned Leeds' body is brought out from a plane in a large box. Peter is really beating himself up over Ned's death, and Betty is beginning to act a tad strange. As her husband's body is taken away, she cries out "Marla, stop them! They're taking Ned away! He'll be alone!" So poor Betty's not in the sanest of moods right now.
I had a bit of a problem with Betty being portrayed in this way. I don't accept that Ned's death would've pushed her over the edge in this way. She's lost so much over the years - from her brother being gunned down right in front of her eyes, to being shot at by Sin-Eater - and she's always pulled through it. It's difficult to believe that the death of her husband, who she was cheating on anyway, should be the thing to send her over the edge.
But while she's being comforted by the others, Peter sees the Hobgoblin flying past on his glider. So hang on... if the Hobgoblin's dead - who's this guy?
ASM Pages 7-9: Kingpin's HQ. The Foreigner's playing chess with the Kingpin while they discuss the Hobgoblin's termination. The Kingpin shows offense that the Foreigner would have him killed without consulting him first. (Consulting the Kingpin that is, not the Hobgoblin. Consulting someone before you kill them would be a bit pointless really. Well, I suppose you could out of common courtesy, but you wouldn't end up killing many people. Anyway, we digress...) Fisk is angered by this "lack of respect", and after the Foreigner leaves, the Kingpin tells his secretary to put the word out that he wants Spider-Man to visit. For reasons to be revealed later, he wants to hand him the file on the Hobgoblin which includes (drum-roll, please) his identity.
WEB Page 1: Ned's funeral. All the mourners are... er... mourning.
ASM Page 10 (panels 1-5): Still Ned's funeral. Betty's trying to listen for any sound of movement from the coffin.
There is a very careless inconsistency between these two issues in the funeral scene. In WEB and ASM, Jonah's swapped places with Marla, and Peter's swapped places with Betty. Why didn't the WEB artist just take greater care? I suppose you could get around it by inserting a scene in which Peter says to Betty: "Hey, Betts, why not swap places with me, huh? Ned's starting to smell", and JJ says to Marla "Harrumph, dammit move Marla, I can't see a thing - there could be a story here!" But then again, maybe the artist just messed up.
WEB Page 2: Richard Fisk (aka The Rose, the Kingpin's son) has been standing at a distance throughout the service. As the funeral party begins to break up, he approaches the grave with a rose. Peter leaves with Betty in her car.
ASM Page 10 (panel 6): Jonah is rather disturbed by Betty's behavior as she drives off with Peter.
WEB Pages 3-5: Joy Mercado sees Fisk Jr at Ned's grave and tries to find out why as Lance Bannon snaps some pictures. (Another inconsistency between WEB and ASM - Lance Bannon is seen standing with the mourners in ASM, but in the WEB funeral, he's disappeared, presumably because they needed him to show up with Joy in this scene. If that was the case, it would've been better to show Lance at the funeral - but at the first sniff of a story he doesn't hesitate to hook up with Joy to pursue Fisk Jr. This would have made for better continuity and a good character insight into Bannon and Mercado.)
Richard runs off to the road where Alfredo and Dina meet him in a Porsche. The three of them then drive off together. Dina wants to know why Richard's so cut up about Ned's death. He figures he may as well tell her: "We were partners, Dina... You see, Ned Leeds was... The Hobgoblin!!"
ASM Pages 11-14: Peter's with Betty at her apartment. She sends Peter on his way, reassuring him not to worry as her mother would be coming over soon. Peter makes his exit, after which he remembers that Betty's mom's dead. Concerned about her sanity levels, he uses a call-box to phone Mary Jane to ask her to come over and be with Betty. Unseen by Peter, Flash Thompson is hiding out only a few feet away. (He was framed for being the Hobgoblin in ASM #276 and has been on the run since ASM #281.) He can't cope with being on the run anymore, so he decides to give himself up. He approaches a cop-car, but the cops drive off halfway through his confession. This leaves Flash feeling even more worthless: "I can't even get myself arrested."
WEB Page 6: Peter gets off the phone with Mary Jane and broods about all the recent disasters in his life. He decides he needs to talk things over with Felicia Hardy (aka The Black Cat) who already knows his secret ID and is staying at his place for the time being.
WEB Pages 7-8: Kingsley Limited. Kris Keating and Roderick Kingsley are panicking about what to do now. If Hobgoblin's identity's been found out - how long until someone figures out their involvement? Keating had been turning a blind eye to the Hobgoblin's affairs and helped frame Flash Thompson in return for tips on mob activities, and Kingsley had been manufacturing weapons for him. During their argument, Johnston and Varley turn up with a message that "The Rose wishes to inform you that he's decided to terminate our cooperative working relationship." Kingsley is shot in the arm, and Keating makes an impromptu exit out of the window. (In the light of the Hobgoblin Lives mini-series, it is revealed that Kingsley in this scene was actually Roderick's brother Daniel.)
WEB Page 9: Pete arrives home and is disappointed to find a note from Felicia to say that she's got bored and gone out to play.
WEB Page 10-11 (panel 1): Greenwich Village. Richard Fisk receives a call from Varley about Keating's escape. He tells him and Johnston to meet him at his penthouse in an hour. Alfredo goes off to search out the Hobgoblin's old hideaways to make sure there's no proof there to tie them in with the Hobgoblin's activities.
WEB Page 11 (panels 2-4): Peter is "sitting on the dock of the bay", saddened as he has no one he feels he can talk to or confide in. A mysterious figure in the shadows notices him: "Well, well... There he is..."
ASM Pages 15-17 / WEB Pages 11(panel 5)-13(panel 5): The Rose arrives at his HQ to meet Johnston and Varley. Find them he does, but they're a little on the dead side. The Rose doesn't display any emotion one way or another, and starts trimming his rose-bushes. The new Hobgoblin then shows up with the intention of killing Fisk. However, when the Rose tells about him about his father's intension of giving his file over to Spider-Man, Hobgoblin lets him live. He blasts his way through the wall as he flies out, knocking Fisk to the floor.
WEB Page 13 (panel 6): The Rose is shocked after the explosion and determines that he's going to "burn this stupid mask! The Rose is dead!"
WEB Page 14: Alfredo breaks into one of the old Hobgoblin hideouts in such a suave manner that he says he's "in like Flint". (In Like Flint was a Bond-esque spoof from the 60s about a female secret society planning to take over the world.) Alfredo then uses his technical know-how to disable the computer system intended to eliminate any unwanted visitors.
WEB Pages 15-18: Back at the dock, the figure who's spotted Pete makes himself known. It's none other Wolverine. As they talk, a gang of street punks attempt to rob the super-powered duo. Naturally, a fight breaks out. Wolverine's clearly enjoying himself, while Pete's pulling his punches so none of them get seriously hurt. As the gang run off, Wolverine runs after them and invites Peter to join him. Meanwhile, back at the Goblin hideout, as soon as Alfredo is fully satisfied there's nothing there to incriminate Richard, the new Hobgoblin appears and attempts to kill him.
WEB Pages 19-21: Alfredo dodges all the goblin-blasts and makes his escape in his Porsche. Meanwhile Spidey and Wolvie (both of them now in costume) take care of the street gang. Cut back to Alfredo as he drives away from his pursuer just as the Rose calls him to see how he's doing. Alfredo screams "There's a homicidal maniac lobbing grenades at my new Porsche, and you wanna know how I'm doing?!" We then see the Arranger driving up to Spidey to tell him that the Kingpin wants to meet him. Alfredo's Porsche then races past with the Hobgoblin in pursuit.
WEB Pages 22-23: One of the goblin-grenades connects with the car and it flies off the pier into the water below. The Rose is mortified when he hears these sounds over the phone as he is convinced that Alfredo's just been killed. In actual fact, Spidey has leapt into the water and rescued him, but the Rose runs off into the night overwhelmed by guilt. (As shown in Web of Spider-Man #30, he goes straight to a Catholic church and confesses all his sins to a priest.)
ASM Pages 18-19: Spidey turns up at the Kingpin's office and he is given the file to read. While Fisk disposes of one of the Rose's spies, Spidey learns the horrifying truth...
ASM Pages 20-24: We see Ned back in the Berlin hotel room changing into his Hobgoblin gear, when four of the Foreigner's men break in. A battle follows, during which one of them breaks Ned's arm, and ends with Ned being strangled to death with a chord. Back in the Kingpin's office, Fisk tells Spidey that this new Hobgoblin is Jason Macendale.
ASM Pages 25-26: Spidey swings off to pay the Foreigner a little visit. This is why the Kingpin wanted Spider-Man to see the file - to teach the Foreigner a little lesson in humility. Macendale in full Hobgoblin regalia shows up, demanding the file. When Fisk says that Spidey has it, Hobbie threatens to kill him - but the fifty rifles aimed straight at him convince him otherwise.
ASM Page 27: Flash sees Spidey swinging away, and since he's been unable to give himself up to the police, he wants to give Spidey a try.
ASM Pages 28-30: Spidey gets to the Foreigner's building. There's no sign of him there, but the Hobgoblin shows up. And guess what - they fight!
ASM Pages 31-35: Hobgoblin takes the fight outside. Flash is watching the battle, and catches one the goblin's grenades which he throws back at Hobbie. The blast knocks Flash to the ground. Hobgoblin realizes that all the fight's been taken out of him so he flies off.
ASM Page 36: Flash thinks he's dying and Spidey shouts a "don't give up" type speech at him.
ASM Page 37: Flash hasn't give up. While we see him recovering nicely in hospital, the DA turn up telling him they're dropping all charges against him.
ASM Page 38: Back at his HQ, the Kingpin is enjoying another game of chess with the Foreigner. When the Foreigner takes the elevator down, it is clear that Fisk wishes to teach him another lesson. The elevator explodes, and in true comic book fashion, all is does to the Foreigner is singe his suit and ruffle his hair. What exactly is this guy made of?
ASM Pages 39-40: In Pete's apartment, Pete's spirits are raised when he sees that Felicia's made him three new costumes to replace the one that was destroyed in his battle with the Hobgoblin. He'd been planning to give up being Spider-Man once all the Hobgoblin business had been resolved. But now he's realized that he can't give up being Spidey any more than he can give up breathing. It's who he is. So he swings off into the night once more... as the Amazing Spider-Man. Who'd have thunk it?
I don't think there's a Spidey fan in the world who wasn't disappointed by ASM #289 when it first came out.
I had three major problems with Ned being the Hobgoblin:
Problem Number One: Far too obvious. After four years of waiting, the Hobgoblin was revealed to be the person who everyone thought it was all along. Check out any letter page in ASM during this storyline, and you'll see most people had it pegged as Ned Leeds. Call me old-fashioned but I believe that a mystery is supposed to be... well... mysterious, not so screamingly obvious that it would take a lobotomized goat not to figure it out.
Problem Number Two: He was killed far too easily. The Hobgoblin was at least as strong as Spidey, but is finished off by four men who have no super- powers. It didn't make sense. (I realize that Hobgoblin Lives solved this, but that wasn't until ten years later. At the time, this was intended to be the conclusion.)
Problem Number Three: What annoyed me most of all is why didn't they make more of the mystery once Ned died. If they let the Spidey titles carry on with this for a few months, the mystery could've been taken to a whole new level. Ned dies in Spider-Man versus Wolverine, so he's out of the running list of suspects. The Hobgoblin's still around for about another 6 issues. Then it's revealed that it was Ned - now that's a conclusion!
All this aside, I have to say that it's a really well written issue. Pete's guilt over the death of Ned is explored very well, and the fight scenes with the new Hobgoblin are great. It's also good to see Flash Thompson bounce back and save the day after being a victim for so long. Web #29 also has some great moments in it: Kingsley gets shot, the Rose is finished, Spidey meets Wolverine again, and there's a great sequence with Alfredo trying to dodge the Hobgoblin. The street punks could've done with being a bit more threatening though, like they were on the cover. Click on the WEB cover above to enlarge it and check out the green guy on the left - that's a scary street punk.
When you read the WEB issue with ASM, it really enhances the storyline, but it does not stand up on its own as a story any more than the bonus features on a DVD stand up as a film. But it does make the ride a lot more enjoyable.
3 webs. The ASM issue would get two and a half webs on its own, but the extra scenes in WEBtake it a notch higher. Overall a well-told story, but after four years of build-up we deserved a conclusion a little more satisfying.
Spidey next encounters this new Hobgoblin in Web of Spider-Man #38.
The whole Black Cat/Foreigner storyline comes to an end in Spectacular Spider-Man #129.
Wolverine's next appearance in a Spidey comic is in a dream sequence with pretty much the rest of the Marvel Universe in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. But the next time the two of them actually meet is in a three-parter in Marvel Comics Presents #48-50, where they team-up to free a captured mutant girl and her father.