Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #122

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This story is part of an Arc: "Death of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

Under the combined pressures of a collapsing corporation and his son's drug abuse, the increasingly hostile Norman Osborn cracks. His full memory is restored - including the knowledge the he's the Green Goblin. He blames Spider- Man personally for his misfortunes. Since he knows he's actually Peter Parker, he decides to pay him back in the most personal method possible.

Kidnapping his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, the Goblin puts Spider-Man in the ultimate no-win situation. He throws the unconscious woman off the top of the George Washington Bridge seconds before Spider-Man can reach her. This forces Spider-Man to web her in an awkward manner that results in a broken neck, killing her instantly.

As the Goblin gloats over his latest victory, he promises that they'll be reunited soon. Spider-Man screams at the top of his lungs that the Goblin will die for this.

In Detail...

"The Goblin's Last Stand!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #122
Jul 1973 : SMURF 122.500 : SM Title
Summary: Death Green Goblin
Arc: Part 2 of "Death of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn"
Editor:  Roy Thomas
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Gil Kane
Inker:  John Romita, Sr., Tony Mortellaro
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
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 Reprinted In: Marvel 75th Anniversary Omnibus #1
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #192
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #99
 Reprinted In: 100 Greatest Marvels #22-18
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #6
 Reprinted In: Death of Gwen Stacy (TPB)
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin (TPB)
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Annual (UK) 1984 (Story 1)
 Reprinted In: ToyBiz: Marvel Legends 13 - Onslaught: Green Goblin
Articles: Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

The Goblin hovers on his glider a short distance away from Spider-Man awaiting his initial attack. Instead of attacking, Spider-Man swings down to the nearest pier to place Gwen's body away from the upcoming brawl. He then returns to the Goblin with an uncontrollable rage.

He easily outmaneuvers the Goblin and lands on top of him while circling the tower on his glider. He locks his legs around the Goblin's neck and begins to pummel him relentlessly. The Goblin learns that Spider-Man is more powerful than he previously thought.

As Spider-Man continues to beat him mercilessly, the Goblin flies underneath one of the main cables, ramming Spider-Man headfirst into a main cable. This causes him to loosen his grip and fall backwards toward the Hudson River. Thinking quickly he saves himself with his webbing and wishes he could have done something else to save Gwen. Once he regains his bearings, the Goblin is long gone.

He notices a crowd of people gathering along the pier along with a squad car near Gwen's body. In his heightened emotional state, he swings down to the pier, yelling at people to stay away from her. He holds her lifeless body, wispering that everything will be ok. Just like it was before.

One of the police officers (a sergeant) reads the situation better than his overeager rookie partner and gives Spider-Man a moment to grieve. In a time span no longer than one minute, Peter relieves his life with Gwen. He remembers the good, the bad, and unfortunately the end. The sergeant walks up to him and regretfully informs him that the ambulance has arrived. He finally says that she doesn't need an ambulance. "She's dead", he says flatly, "and Spider-Man killed her".

The rookie takes this statement literally, despite the protests of his seasoned partner. Finally the sergeant asks Spider-Man to accompany them to the local precinct to answer some questions. He refuses stating that he has other business elsewhere. This is not the response that they want and try to arrest him. This in turn leads to Spider-Man assaulting two officers and web- swinging away. The senior officer gives his partner the order of "shoot to wound", but the bullets don't come close to hitting the intended target. Peter finds a safe place to change clothes and then heads to Osborn's townhouse with a crazed look in his eyes and revenge on his mind.

He arrives at his destination but can't find Norman anywhere. Harry is at home by himself, suffering from a recent drug overdose. He walks into Harry's room with the intention of asking him if he's seen his father. When he sees Harry tossing and turning in his bed and rambling incoherently, he realizes that he's completely useless to him in this state. Harry eventually recognizes Peter and begs him to stay and help him through this. Peter is so consumed with rage that he barely slows down while walking out the door, ignoring his roommate's pleas for help.

Peter changes to Spider-Man and web-swings to Robbie's office at the Daily Bugle where he's just received the news of Gwen's death. Robbie is shocked and saddened by her passing. He's slightly less shocked when Spider-Man appears at his window, asking for a favor. He asks Robbie to use his contacts to see if Norman Osborn owns any unusual properties and if he's been seen anywhere in the last hour. He quickly learns of a warehouse off of 23rd Street and Ninth Avenue, where he was seen 40 minutes ago. Spider-Man thanks Robbie for his help and as he prepares to leave, Jameson - overhearing the conversation - barges in accusing him of Gwen's murder. Instead of exchanging verbal barbs, Spider-Man opts to web his mouth shut and swings away.

At the run-down warehouse in question, Norman Osborn makes preparations for the inevitable confrontation with Spider-Man. His security system alerts him to the presence of his mortal enemy and leaves through the back door, intending to surprise him. Much to his surprise, Spider-Man has set a trap as well, as he receives a solid kick that unseats him from his glider - by several feet.

As his opening shot, he tries to hit Spider-Man with a sparkle blast. Spider-Man easily dodges the bolt, landing solidly on the glider, bending the wings and flattening the faceplate, making escape impossible. Osborn retaliates by throwing a pumpkin bomb at him - swearing to make him pay for his actions. Peter is astonished at Norman's statement and reminds him - in between trying to separate his head from his shoulders - that his gadget is nothing compared to Gwen's life. The Goblin belittles his loss, claiming that she did nothing more than occupy space.

If there was ever a wrong thing to say and the wrong person to tell, Norman picked both of them. Before he can even blink, Spider-Man grabs him with one hand and proceeds to beat the living hell out of him with the other.

In most of his fights, Peter will pull his punches for fear of actually hurting someone. There are no reservations at this point. The Goblin has enhanced strength; he can take some serious abuse, which is given in spades. Norman can't fight back because Spider-Man's punches are hitting him harder and faster than he ever expected. He finds himself on the receiving end of Spider- Man's full wrath and entertains the notion that he may be literally beaten to death.

Thankfully Peter regains his senses and stops his assault for fear that he'd become a murderer like him. While Peter looks away, Norman activates his glider by remote control for a final surprise. Regaining his composure, Peter tells Osborn he's turning him over to the authorities. Smirking, Osborn says that he won't allow that as he has business elsewhere. As Peter walks toward Osborn, his spider-sense goes off, altering him of the impending approach of the damaged glider. Moving out of the way at the last second, the deathtrap intended for Spider-Man finds a new target as the sharpened metal horns on the faceplate pierce Osborn's chest and slam him against the wall. The glider holds him in place for a few seconds until its fuel reserves are used up. His lifeless body then slides down the wall to the ground.

Peter looks at the scene and feels even emptier than he did earlier today. The Goblin's death - deserving thought it was - won't bring Gwen back. He feels cheated somehow; death was an easy way out. Part of him wanted Osborn to be publicly humiliated by having his identity exposed and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. As he walks out of the back alley, he doesn't notice a figure standing in the shadows.

Peter returns to his apartment where Mary Jane is waiting for him. She tries to express her condolences, but is rebuked by Peter. He thinks "party girl" MJ is incapable of feeling anything for anybody. He asks her to leave. He sits down on the couch, buries his face in his hands and - for the first time since this nightmare began - grieves for Gwen.

As MJ opens the door, she takes one last look at Peter, and turns around closing the door. She resolves to remain with him and mourn their loss.

In General...

This two-part story signalled the end of the "Peter & Gwen" years and a turning point that ultimately lead to the Peter and MJ marriage. This is the first time that MJ has actually shown any maturity whatsoever, hence the significance of the final scene. I'm sure that fans reading this when it came out were surprised at this development.

It doesn't matter whether you're a "Peter & Gwen" fan or a "Peter & MJ" fan, the fact remains that this time remains critical to the Spider-Man mythology.

The scenes with Spider-Man cradling Gwen's lifeless body are both very tragic and very creepy. When you stop and really take them in, it adds a surreal element. He knows she's dead, but he doesn't want to let her go. That is a theme that continues to this day, although less emphasis has been placed on it in recent years.

The scene involving the Goblin getting the beating of a lifetime really sends chills up my spine. The effective use of one-word word ballons to convey the anger in Peter's voice was just brilliant. Although I have to admit that calling someone "worm eating" when you're hitting them like that doesn't make too much sense to me. I think "dirtbag" would have worked better, but again, I'm playing backseat comic book writer.

On another note, I disagreed then and now about Marvel's decision to resurrect Norman Osborn for the conclusion to the 1990's clone saga. Yes it was a twist I wasn't expecting, but to undo this story is a shame. Allowing him to die in this issue only to "get better" later is a cheap trick.

Overall Rating...

5 webs. Not even bringing Norman back can undermine the value and overall quality of this issue. The characters' tension and anger are conveyed perfectly. From Peter's glazed look following Gwen's death to the Goblin's last moments, you really feel what the characters feel. Kudos to the whole creative team for this masterpiece.

Footnote...

I really wish they would have left Norman Osborn dead, but what can I do? Absolutely nothing beyond a recommendation. Get a copy of this issue (reprints are good) and see for yourself why I and many other fans think this way.