Oooo, that image is not high quality. How did that happen? Probably not obvious in the picture, but it’s visibly pixellated Ouch. I guess the early days of digital were a learning experience. Bob McLeod is on board to take us home on finishes. Not as dead as he seemed last issue, Spider-Man is nonetheless unconscious, falling through a void in his mind ad a giant Hobgoblin head taunts him about never learning his real identity. Then he helpfully presents some suspects:
This late game push for Jonas Harrow feels kind of unproductive. Some suspicion had been cast on everyone else on this page to varying degrees in the original run, but Harrow had nothing to do with it. Was Roger considering Harrow himself back then, and so just threw him in the mix? It feels weird. Well, at any rate, Spidey finally wakes up, and sees he’s way underwater. He begins frantically swimming toward a boat on the surface, thinking he can’t let it end this way.
To be fair, he enters almost every other situation bombs blazing.
And now Betty has to buy a new TV! Rude! A soggy Spider-Man is swinging toward Betty’s, hoping to make sure she’s ok. Well, she’s not, and she is also no longer there, and those dopey Code: Blue guys are there to aggressively act like Spider-Man is a suspect even as one of them finds part of the gas bomb. Spidey takes off to find her and the Goblin.
Uh-oh. Spidey is fretting hard as he searches for Betty, and soon gets a signal from a tracer and heads off in its direction. Meanwhile, Betty wakes up in Hobgoblin’s lair. He, of course, wants the notes she claimed to have found on TV, her gambit working a little too well. She says she’ll give The Goblin what he wants in exchange for the truth about Ned. Amused, he agrees to sit for “an exclusive interview.” Betty even gets out her recorder. Hobby happily offers to begin with how he first met Ned…
Spidey finds a homeless lady in possession of the tracer locket Betty had, saying she found it in a dumpster. Spider-Man races to said dumpster as we return to Gobby’s story, wherein he’s gotten to the part where he convinced Ned to work with him using the Winkler Process mentioned in issue one, which was last seen way back in ASM 59. It’s a brainwash machine, and it did its job.
Stern is a guy who excels at sifting through past continuity and making it all fit, and now he’s having to reframe all that DeFalco did AND the stuff Priest came up with in ASM 289 and so forth to make it all fit with his own plan, and it’s pretty solid, really. And it even kind of redeems Ned for all his raging terribleness as DeFalco was trying to make The Hobgoblin stick to him. Well, Spider-Man’s accosted another innocent, this time surprising the bike rider by finding his tracer on the bike. He asks the guy where he’s been in the last hour, but he says he’s been all over the place. Spidey takes off again, saying there’s only one chance now…
…if not for Macendale’s incompetence, he says. And, again, this really works well to explain why The Goblin never came back in the intervening years. He faked his death and quit. Pretty clean. Stern rules. Well, having done his part, The Goblin demands to know about Ned’s notes, and since they don’t exist, that’s a problem. Betty doesn’t string that on for too long before Hobgoblin realizes she lied. But then Kingsley bursts in with a gun. Hobby says now that Kingsley’s let her see him, he’ll have to silence her, which only rattles Kingsley more. Hobby zaps the gun out of Kingsley’s hand, saying he doesn’t know why he tolerates him, and then moves in to kill Betty.
Our man webs Kingsley to a wall and takes off after Hobby, wondering why he’d just leave all his stuff before coming to the conclusion he’s about to double back and blow it all up. Moving at top speed, Spidey runs up the side of a smoke stack and manages to leap high enough to grab onto Hobby’s bag of tricks. As they spiral through the air off balance, Betty demands to know what Kingsley’s role in all this is, admitting there was yet another spider tracer inside her recorder. As Spidey and Hobby battle through the air, Kingsley confirms everything Betty just heard was true, and that he was working with The Goblin before Ned was.
And here’s where things get… rather hard to swallow…
Pretty funny inversion of the cover to ASM 39. From there, we abruptly jump ahead to Kingsley out in the press and being incarcerated in the same prison Macendale was in when Kingsley killed him. Betty’s evidence is plenty to get justice rolling, and the Kingelys’ link to Menken is going to be bad news for him, too.
An ending 14 years in the making! And… and it almost all worked out. Roger Stern intended the Hobgoblin to be Roderick Kingsley almost from the beginning. He’s said he didn’t know who Hobgoblin was when he introduced him, but he came to realize he had the same voice as Kinglsey, and began writing toward that. He had the whole bit where he had a brother, Daniel, who looked almost just like him, who he’d put a hair piece on and use as a decoy, but Daniel never found his way into an actual comic ‘til ASM 250, when Stern was headed for his endgame. And I think that’s fine, altho DeFalco’s reported complaint that it was unnecessarily convoluted is fair, I think. But, I could roll with it… if it served more of a purpose, and if this series didn’t have Hobgoblin constantly referring to Daniel as “Kingsley” in private, where there was no reason not to call him “Daniel,” and while Daniel was wearing the hair piece, also for no reason. I don’t know how they could’ve gotten around it, aside from just not showing them interacting until almost the end, but that comes off silly in retrospect. It’s the only misstep, logically, regardless of whether you think Kingsley is the right guy to put under the mask.
And, you know, as we have seen Tom DeFalco, then editor, didn’t. When Stern left and Defalco took over writing, he pushed in a different direction. He decided the Hobgoblin would turn out to be Ned Leeds. He also introduced The Rose, who he just thought of as a new villain, but when fans began speculating who was under the mask DeFalco decided it would be revealed as Roderick Kingsley as a nod to Roger. We’ve seen in-depth what happened from there. And then, a decade later, Stern was invited to come back and tie this up. And while I have my quibbles about this last issue, it worked pretty well, and the real Hobgoblin was once more unleashed on the Marvel U, and continues to be a player even now. A rare, rare chance at a course correction in a situation like this. Ron Frenz is on record as saying Hobgoblin turning out to be Kingsley made no sense, and also saying this series came out great. I can see thinking both things at once. But now, finally, one of the spectres that’s haunted this blog for years is finally put to rest! I guess there’s really only one big thing left to reveal… and I suspect part of it’s pretty easy to guess… but that’s for another post.