Two super-sized issues in a row. Yer killin’ me, guys. Long ago and far away, when buying comics on the internet was still a relatively new idea, I decided I would get this issue and see how that whole Hobgoblin thing wrapped up. At that point, I believe I’d seen the Stern/Romita run, and then ASM 252-261, and that was it. I was very lost reading this. Much like the end of The Clone Saga in Spider-Man 75, a misfire that everyone knew wasn’t very good, couldn’t be very good, given what had brought them there, but which was nonetheless hyped as a massive event, the letter page of ASM 288 told you you absolutely could not miss this incredible comic book… that the people behind the scenes were scrambling just to find someone to write, let alone make into a satisfying conclusion. The guy who drew the short stick turned out to be Peter David. Ironically, given that Priest said Jim Shooter never liked his work and wanted him fired. But Shooter is very much embattled at this point. If my understanding of the gap between the cover date and actual publication is right, he’s roughly one month out from being fired himself in April 1987, so I doubt he was paying much attention to this, or most things. The Spider-Office is in shambles, but all of Marvel is in flux, really. Jim Shooter represents a really complicated situation. He rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in taking away the “writer/editor” title that was making books perpetually late, even as he was fighting to get creators some royalties for the first time ever. Love him or hate him, he oversaw a return to greatness for the company, presiding over all-time great runs on most titles. The rise of the X-Men from failed concept to the biggest thing in comics. Stern/Romita’s ASM. Frank Miller’s Daredevil. Walt Simonson’s Thor. John Byrne’s FF. Stern/Buscema’s Avengers. The list goes on. But people seem to agree that the massive success of Secret Wars inflated his ego too much (Especially since it was kinda terrible), and things started to sour. The debacle of Secret Wars II. Diverting talent to the bizarre misfire of The New Universe. Allegedly wanting to replace literally all the heroes with new characters under the mask. I hate that the line from The Dark Knight is so very real, but some people really do either die a hero or live long enough to see themselves become the villain. I wonder if Shooter had gotten the boot just a little sooner, if his replacement (Had it still been Tom DeFalco, or maybe someone else if it happened at a different time) would’ve held firm and not married Peter and MJ, since literally no one wanted to do it. Ya never know. Anyway! Peter David is joined by Alan Kupperberg and Tom Morgan on pencils, Jim Fern on inks, and George Roussos on colors, and away we go.
That would be one Jason Philip Macendale, who I only really just clocked has black hair in this period, but eventually has brown hair later.
Something has gone badly wrong with the attempt to add shading to Foreigner’s face! Well, he says Hobgoblin is dead. Surely that’s not true. We cut to Peter, Betty, Robbie, JJJ and Marla on hand to witness Ned Leeds’ body being offloaded out of a plane. Peter is, naturally, blaming himself.
That white haired guy is really conspicuous for just being some guy. Is that Jim Steranko?
A lot of pages in a row, but I think it’s a well-done sequence, and it looks really nice, too. Meanwhile, Kingpin and Foreigner play chess. Kingpin says he’s aware that Foreigner has had Hobgoblin killed. Hm? He goes on to say that killing Hobgoblin was discourteous to him, that “such a major change to the status quo should be cleared with this office,” and that “men such as ourselves MUST extend courtesy to one another if we wish to co-exist peacefully.” And (Especially written by Peter David, as it really seems like the kind of thing he’d do) this can’t help but read like a finger wagging at Priest for killing off DeFalco’s chosen Hobgoblin without warning. Foreigner wins their chess game, to Kingpin’s surprise, tells him he should lighten up and it was just business, and leaves. A very angry Fisk tells his secretary to bring him his Hobgoblin file. He reveals to us that he figured out who Hobby was, so it’s no surprise Foreigner did, too (“It was so obvious, after all.”). Then he says to make sure Spider-Man comes to see him.
We have seen that this is very much the beginning of a “Betty is going crazy” plot that kind of fizzles out. To confirm this, as he leaves, Peter is thinking back to the early days, the first time he met Ned, and realizes with a start that he knows Betty’s mom is dead. He decides he’s out of his depth, and calls MJ to ask if she’ll come stay with Betty, thinking a woman might be better. As he does so, Flash Thompson wanders out of a nearby alley, wondering why he’s still alive. He recalls Hobgoblin putting a beating on him, but then abruptly leaving. He decides Hobby hates him because he’s famously Spider-Man’s biggest fan, which is absurd, and then decides he can’t live like this anymore, and goes to turn himself in to a passing cop car. But they get an all points and light out of there before he can tell them who he is.
Well, so much for those guys. Rose tells himself he may be next, which, like, duh, and then Hobgoblin appears to tell him how right he is.
Power plays between Richard and Kingpin could’ve been interesting if Priest hadn’t turned him into this weird, confusing anti-mob boss thing. Speaking of, Spider-Man has arrived at Fisk’s office, demanding to know what he wants. Kingpin assures him there’s no catch for the info he wants to give him, passes him the Hobgoblin file, then leaves the room. Out in the hall, he kills a goon for bugging his office on behalf of The Rose, and then Spider-Man reacting angrily to what he’s just read. And then…
Yes. In a twist so disappointing it boggles the mind, Ned Leeds WAS The Hobgoblin, and is already dead when we find out. Because who else could it be? Lance Bannon? He’s an idiot. Captain Keating? Ridiculous. We knew it wasn’t Flash, and almost all the other suspects Roger Stern set up haven’t even appeared in the book in years. Satisfying, plausible, believable or not, Ned was all they had, and then Priest killed him. What could they do? And, I mean, thusly, it’s obvious that The Hobgoblin who just saw The Rose was Macendale, even if we didn’t know he took up the identity later. So Hobgoblin could still be flying around in this issue even though Ned is dead. Fart sound.
Ned is certainly correct that this is insane and not supposed to happen this way. Like Priest, I don’t like Ned for Hobgoblin. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, even with Peter David doing his level best to make that stuff about becoming Hobby for Betty’s sake fly. And, I mean, he did, he’s really doing the best he can in the position he’s in here. But Ned had too much positive history with Spider-Man, and Peter for that matter, after he got married, to suddenly turn around and become a supervillain out of hatred for both of them. When I first started reading comics, I thought Peter & Ned were best friends based on ASM 148, to cite just one example. It just doesn’t fly. But… it’s the corner everyone was backed into. Priest says Roger Stern was furious about it.
With not much else to work with, David begins tying this tighter to what he was up to in TAC before all the filler started. After being diverted to a weird Kingpin story, the 4+ year saga of the Hobgoblin concludes by furthering a newish plot from a different comic. But, again, not many other directions to go from here. At least Foreigner gave them a plausible way to have Ned killed in Germany. His name is literally “The Foreigner.” Anyway, Kingpin continues dressing down Macendale and then points out that he’s completely surrounded by armed goons, forcing the newly-minted Hobgoblin to flee. It’s kinda funny, really. Spider-Man, meanwhile, actually feels a little better. He’s still upset about Ned’s death, moreso, if anything, but no longer blames himself. Now he’s got 2 perfectly good targets for his anger, and he’s on his way to see one now, thinking Felicia will be shocked when she finds out Foreigner sucks. Poor Spidey. Flash Thompson sees him swinging by and chases after, hoping to be turned over to the cops by his #1 guy. Breaking into Foreigner’s building, Spider-Man finds it’s Swartz Party Supplies, and the guy inside claims to know nothing about The Foreigner. But not for long, because Hobgoblin kills him from behind.
Spidey webs onto the glider, and now sufficiently enraged, swings Hobby right into the side of a building. And then another one. And then another one, all yelling about how this is finally the end.
Spider-Man suddenly wising up about gas is almost funny, really. Spider-Man once again webs onto the glider of his fleeing foe, and is now slung around town into some building himself before falling onto a roof that catches fire due to some pumpkin bombs, which Flash sees from the street.
Why, that sounds like just the kind of speech that’ll make Peter realize he doesn’t want to quit being Spider-Man, because that’s yet another thing David was saddled with in ending this mess. We cut to Kingpin and Foreigner playing chess, leading to a weird gag where Kingpin gives him a note, tells him to open it downstairs, and when Foreigner opens it in the elevator instead, it explodes, leaving him singed in a kind of Wile E. Coyote way. He comes back to grouse at Kingpin, who just asks if he’ll be back to play again next week. Foreigner says he wouldn’t miss it.
And there you have it. Despite being killed months ago, publication-wise, Ned was The Hobgoblin after all, and also, now Macendale is The Hobgoblin. And, hey, even though he literally would not shut up about how much he hates being Spider-Man for like a year or more of comics, Peter suddenly couldn’t love it more. And even though he and Black Cat seem to be back together, he’s gonna propose to MJ literally next month! And so this unwieldy, often nonsensical 4-year story comes to a dissatisfying conclusion, and the character of Hobgoblin just keeps on going, sort of. What started out as the most exciting Spider-Man story since the early 70s comes to a close with a wet thud. And, again, I don’t blame the folks who made this issue. They did their best. But what a mess. What a mess. Apparently, they say, with Ned dead and both writers who’d shepherded The Hobgoblin through his career gone, editorial told Peter David to reveal Hobgoblin was The Foreigner, but David refused, rightly, because it made no sense. Stern, DeFalco, David, they all thought it should be someone who existed when Hobgoblin was introduced, now more than four years prior. This was never going to end well after all that came before. And didn’t! But it technically did end, after all this time…
Or did it?