I wanna say the first shiny foil cover I can remember is Jim Lee’s WildCATs (Covert! Action! Teams!) #2, and it looked a lot like this.Silvery with the rainbow hologram effect. That one’s holograms were circles instead of webs, tho. I had obviously not been buying this book, and almost never did in the days before the clone saga forced me to, but we 90s comic nerds were suckers for these big time anniversary issues, so here I was, for better or worse. Spoilers: For worse. At the time, I was not even remotely into Sal’s art, and my young opinion of DeMatteis was about the same, so only a big important number on a big important cover was gonna drag me in. Or, you know, an interminable line-wide crossover. But that’s for next time. Well, the gang’s all here as we rewind just a bit to Green Goblin approaching MJ before once again saying they have to talk.
Back at the house, Peter once again asks Liz where Harry went, and little Normie is still torturing a Spider-Man doll (I mean, I know Liz is all messed up, but you don’t think she’d notice?), and then Peter is off, switching to Spider-Man and on the hunt, recapping, recapping, recapping. This story, their history, etc. Meanwhile, Goblin has flown MJ to, you’ll never guess the very bridge where his dad killed Gwen.
Pretty complicated. It’s hard to reconcile Harry’s good feelings for everyone in Peter’s life except Peter, but I guess being insane is being insane. Spider-Man hasn’t found any clues about Harry, but he does happen on a robbery, and breaks it up brutally, taking out his frustrations before realizing he’s going to far as he has been wont to do over the years.
Pete & MJ have a nice fight over what to do, because there’s nothing they can do, and make up immediately. Harry returns home making up excuses about why he was gone so long. We get another look at the insane levels of denial Liz is living in. Which, I guess, is a somewhat realistic look at what can happen in situations of domestic violence. Thankfully, no physical violence occurs, but there is the usual yelling and intimidation presented as love by Harry. The next day, Peter goes for a walk, only to find Harry flying up behind him. Just to say hello. Then flying away. Keeping up the pressure.
The situation is not getting any better. Soon, Peter is getting some pizza, still thinking overtime about what, if anything, he can do, when he spots Green Goblin watching him from the roof across the street.
Sal’s really doing his thing in this issue. As a kid, I didn’t much like his art, and I definitely didn’t like his Green Goblin. It looked off-model to me. After all, one of my first 2 comics ever, ASM 180, had plenty of Green Goblin in it, and I imprinted on that Ross Andru look. But as an adult, I think Sal draws the most deranged looking Goblin of pretty much anybody, and that really works for this. We skip ahead a few weeks, and find The Osborns touring the site of Harry’s new foundation, well on its way to completion. Harry has a little episode, almost falls down, but recovers, barely breaking his litany of great things about his dad. He sends Liz home and keeps Normie at the building with him, talking to a portrait of his dad about how he’s been harassing Peter, and then reveals that he plans to blow this building and everyone in it to bits at the gala opening event to get revenge on all he feels have wronged him.
Spidey swings around thinking there’s no way he can do anything to Harry until Harry does something first. He considers taking MJ’s suggestions and revealing his secret, to take it away from Harry as leverage. He finally accepts that his friend is gone, and he has to find a way to stop all this.
And so, the battle is finally joined. They start really beating the crap out of each other in Bombastic Buscema fashion, Harry revealing he’s taken a more advanced and unfinished version of his father’s strength formula (Making him even more crazy), Peter saying he can reveal his secret on TV for all he cares anymore. Harry gets Peter down on the roof and reveals a newly added retractable spear on the front of his glider, almost skewering our hero, but he rolls away.
As a young lad, I did not understand that Harry died here. Maybe that reveals me for a dumby, I don’t know. I’ve seen various people talk about how powerful those last 2 pages are, and seen DeMatteis talk about how he stripped out all his planned dialogue when he saw Sal’s pages because he couldn’t add anything to them, even. But I was a young and naive person, and the medics wheel Harry into the emergency room, and why would they kill such an important character? So when I opened Spider-Man Unlimited #1 to a funeral shortly after this came out, I was shocked. Well, anyway, my personal stupidity aside, there you have it. No denying it’s a powerful issue. But is one good comic worth killing off such an important member of the cast? Never have thought so, never will. And, of course, Harry is eventually brought back. They all come back. Death is meaningless in comics. There’s a period in the mid-2000s where Peter dies only to be reborn a page later twice in the space of a year! But, in spite of everyone always coming back, and also kind of because of it, I think killing off major characters is lame. Cheap, fleeting pathos that leaves a hole in the series until they inevitably return. And DeMatteis killed Kraven, Harry, Doctor Octopus AND Aunt May! He was working hard to remove every single toy from the toy chest! And for what? One good issue? How is that worth it? Doc Ock’s death was a particularly terrible issue, Spider-Man’s greatest foe jobbed out to show how scary that loser Kaine is. But, you know. Everyone DeMatteis killed came back, so who cares, in the end? Comics will be comics. And that’s it for this block. Funny how I only got 2 ASMs in, but the 6 Venom comics made it feel like a lot more. Next post, we’re headed back to 1964 for more Steve & Stan. 30 years apart! Gonna be quite an adjustment.