Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of crime enlisted the aid of weapons manufacturer Norman Osborn in developing a weapon capable of ridding him of the persistent threat to his empire: Spider-Man. Relations fell apart, leaving Osborn humiliated and scorned. That was several months ago...
An unrevealed figure in cloak, cowl and grotesque mask (the Hobgoblin) equips a laser pistol and flies from his derelict warehouse storehouse aboard a rocket powered glider, cackling manically. Wilson Fisk is being chauffeured to the publicity ceremony of the Fisk School of Criminology – keeping up his public appearance as a charitable man of the city and philanthropist being paramount to concealing his true ambitions as a criminal overlord. Unnoticed, the shadow of the goblin glider tails the limousine.
Harry Osborn is desperate to move out of his fathers’ house so propositions Peter if he wants to co-lease an apartment – Norman will only cover the payments if Harry can find a responsible, driven flatmate. Peter is doubtful as Harry is only an acquaintance but can’t decline the offer. They too are attending the publicity shoot, where Norman will nominate the new NSU building in honour of Fisks’ charitable contribution to the project. As Fisk breaks the first ground of the construction site Peter’s spider-sense alerts him to the approaching Hobgoblin, hurling Fisk roughly out of the shots path. The audience scatters in panic, allowing Peter to slip away in the confusion. Fisk is escorted away demanding someone bring him intel on who his would be assassin is. Spider-Man appears, drawing the goblins’ attention away from the ceremony, yet easily dodging Spideys’ attacks until eventually evading him after a one-sided struggle. His moment in the spotlight ruined, Norman prepares to return to Oscorp – brushing off Harry’s’ concerned questions without even acknowledging his sons’ wellbeing.
At Oscorp Norman berates the waiting Hobgoblin for failing his assignment in taking down Fisk (whom betrayed Norman during the Spider Slayer incident some months ago). Hobgoblin rebuts that Norman failed to tell him Spider-Man would get involved and in light of this new development his rate of pay will increase substantially. Norman doesn’t see a second chance as viable as now Fisk will be on his guard and fires the Goblin, demanding he leave his equipment. Slighted by this the Hobgoblin draws his gun but Norman will not back down, reminding him that were it not for Oscorp technology he’d be just another mercenary in a mask – that he’s the one who made him more than a flunky. For personal security, the true identity of the goblin will be revealed should anything happen to Norman. Realising Osborn holds the upper hand at present the Hobgoblin departs, reminding Norman that he owes him, taking his goblin paraphernalia as a down payment.
That evening the news portrays Peter as a local hero for selflessly saving Fisk during the earlier incident. Aunt May is torn between her pride of Peter and her fear that he’ll continue acting with selfless recklessness once he moves out. As she prepares desert peter is too busy studying the news footage of the Hobgoblin to notice how upset she really is for losing him.
Several days later on the eve of Peter and Harry’s housewarming party, Hobgoblin breaks into Fisk’s offices in search of whatever skeleton he has buried, discovering a secret elevator that brings his right to the heart of Kingpins criminal headquarters. He was expected however, and Kingpin has his armed security surround the intruder. Despite his predicament Hobgoblins’ fascination towards Fisk’s underworld activities’ reach and ability to strike a hard bargain peak Kingpins’ curiosity; he accept goblins’ offer to act as a personal enforcer in exchange for a slice of the profits. Hobgoblin agrees to his terms, giving Osborn up as the man behind the assassination attempt. With an updated arsenal fitting with his goblin theme, Hobgoblin sets about his first assignment; a test of loyalty by taking down Norman Osborn.
Next morning Peter wakes to a ruined apartment and a phone call from May who will be dropping by imminently, sending Peter into frantic cleaning frenzy. May’s arrival coincides with an impromptu attack from Hobgoblin, using the confused panic created by his gas grenade pumpkin bombs and a wounded May to abduct Harry. May is taken to hospital, diagnosed with a seizure from the stress that has rendered her in a comatose state, while Harry is delivered to Fisk as a bargaining chip for him to use against Norman. Smythe is dubious about Hobgoblin, yet his trepidation is unheeded by Fisk who believes the goblin could prove a worthy protégé with the adequate training. Hobgoblin sees this as the completion of his task and demands payment, but Kingpin lays down the law, much to goblins’ chagrin. Fisk calls Osborn, giving him a day to sign over all his inventions, technology and patents or face dire consequences.
Mary Jane visits the Parkers at the hospital. Peter blames himself for what happened, believing this to be the goblins’ retribution for saving Fisk. He thinks back on what little information the Hobgoblin gave away before the kidnapping, realising that he was after Harry all along and that it all links back to Norman.
Hobgoblin secretly visits Norman, bitter about Kingpins’ refusal to pay when payment was due and willing to strike a bargain with Osborn: the return of Harry and safety of Oscorp in exchange for an arsenal that’ll allow him to take over as the new kingpin of crime. Smythe secretly watches the conversation as Peter demands an audience with Osborn to the guards outside. Osborn concedes and presents Hobgoblin with an improved, far deadlier goblin glider. Leaping the walls and entering via the roof, Spider-Man recognises the cackle of the goblin and enters the fray. Hobgoblin uses this as the best way to test out his new equipment and takes flight, bombarding Spider-Man with smart bombs and pumpkin bombs in a double assault from his remote controlled improved glider. The missiles lock onto Spider-Man, tracking him across the city and into the building he takes refuge in. The building explodes in an enormous fireball to the triumphant cackle of the Hobgoblin.
Norman Osborn has declared war on the Kingpin of crime, however his Oscorp-equipped assassin the Hobgoblin switches sides, providing Kingpin with information on his would-be murderer and escalating the war by playing the two sides against each other so as to reap the winnings from both sides once a victor emerges. Meanwhile Peter’s aunt lies comatose in hospital after an attack by Hobgoblin during the kidnap Harry Osborn as a bargaining chip against Norman. Linking the Hobgoblin to Oscorp, Spider-Man confronts the mercenary, now armed with advanced Oscorp weaponry. A fight breaks out, concluding with Spider-Man caught in an exploding building.
Despite the break in cannon to the source material (which is a fairly regular occurrence in this series granted) the appearance of the Hobgoblin prior to the Green Goblin is handled extremely well. It promises the appearance of Norman’s alter ego but with a goblin already established it teases that it could be some time before fans are rewarded with Green Goblins’ debut. No doubt this will annoy some, if not many, but it works. Hobgoblin is devious, intelligent and a genuine threat that runs deeper than just another villain after Spider-Man or some other tangible goal – Hobgoblin wants to establish himself as the new head of New York’s criminal empire and as such makes him a far more three dimensional villain that some of the others that have appeared at this point in the season. Mark Hamill does an excellent job, lending Hobgoblin the same voice that defines his definitive Joker from the 90s’ Batman: The Animated Series, yet avoiding copy-pasting the character in his delivery by having the Hobgoblin more happy-go-lucky and devious than schizophrenic comedian.
A solid story that takes the source material in a new direction while staying somewhat true to its roots. The plot unfolds at a speedy pace despite the relative complexity of Goblins’ double dealing, the goals of Osborn and Kingpin, and character development of the Peter/May/Harry relationship (considering this is primarily was kids Saturday morning TV – the hospitalisation of May and kidnapping of Harry are also quite dark taking this into consideration). After the disappointment of the previous episode this shows the series has not peaked too early.
A complex plot that does not talk down to its mass audience and ties in to previous developments. Solid storytelling and thoroughly entertaining to boot.