Comics : Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives #3

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Near drowning after being tossed into the river by the Hobgoblin, a list of possible suspects flashes through Spider-Man's mind. The mental images range from the stern J. Jonah Jameson to the pudgy corporate executive Donald Menken, but Spidey realizes he may well die without knowing the answer unless he can make it to the water's surface.

In Detail...

Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives #3
Apr 1997 : SMURF 251.515 : SM Title
Summary: True Hobgoblin Revealed at Last
Editor:  Glenn Greening, Tom Brevoort
Writer:  Roger Stern
Pencils:  Ron Frenz
Inker:  Bob McLeod
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 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives (TPB)
Articles: Betty Brant, Menken, Donald (Cameo), Hobgoblin I (Kingsley)

At Betty Brant's apartment, the Hobgoblin steps over the comatose bodies of the guards and picks Betty up. Hearing a news report that Spidey was seen alive at the water front, the annoyed Hobgoblin vents by incinerating a mirror on his way out. At his lair, the Hobgoblin removes two spider-tracers from Betty and hands them off to Kingsley. "Put them somewhere that will confuse our web-swinging friend!"

While Spider-Man tries to chase down his spider-sense, Betty agrees to give the Hobgoblin what he wants, in exchange for the truth about his relationship with her husband, Ned Leeds. Amused, Hobby agrees to the interview, and even lets her use her tape recorder. He tells her that using a brain-washing machine on Ned, he was able to force Leeds into compliance in any number of things, from petty theft to assuming the mantle of the Hobgoblin himself for particular jobs. But the long-term effects of the machine were far from benign; Ned became irrational and temperamental, and would occasionally, as the Hobgoblin put it, "slip his leash a bit." With Ned becoming a liability and the Hobgoblin himself becoming bored with the criminal life, Hobby decided Leeds had outlived his usefulness. Letting the word out that Leeds was the Hobgoblin, Hobby sat back and waited for someone to take the bait. That someone was the Foreigner, in the pay of Jason Macendale, the man who would become the next Hobgoblin.

Finished with his story, the Hobgoblin waits for Betty to uphold her end of the bargain. But Kingsley bursts in, shakily holding a gun and demanding an end to all the violence: "There'll be no more killing, you hear?! No more!!" And Spidey breaks through the door, webbing Kingsley to the wall and heading after the fleeing Hobgoblin. Betty turns to Kingsley and holds out the recorder, telling him that there was one tracer he overlooked; the one inside the recorder itself. "Now talk."

While Spidey pummels the Hobgoblin over the skyscrapers of New York, Kingsley tells Betty that he has always covered for his brother, even before he became the Hobgoblin. And, as Spider-Man whips the mask from the Hobgoblin, Betty pulls off the hairpiece Kingsley was wearing. "You... you're not..."

"No...I'm not. I'm Daniel Kingsley. My brother Roderick is the Hobgoblin!"

With Roderick Kingsley incarcerated in the same cell where Jason Macendale died, and with Kingsley Investment Group collapsing, the mystery is finally over. Betty grimly gets back to her own life, knowing her husband's name has been cleared, but also knowing nothing will ever bring him back.

In General...

Well, what can I say? For years, people have wondered who Stern meant the Hobgoblin to be; now we know that he meant it to be Roderick Kingsley. It does nothing for the continuity of the Marvel Universe, and in fact raises as many questions as it answers (Ned was brain-washed but still able to make demands of the Hobgoblin, demands Hobby felt he had to meet? Kingsley was into big money finance and blackmail; what point was there in creating the Rose and trying to bring down the major gangs? Roderick had a brother who was identical except for hair-line, and no-one noticed? And was this the "family" that Hobby was always so intent on protecting from his criminal life?), but hey! at least we got one question answered.

Unfortunately, answering this question meant making Peter look like an idiot (it took MJ to point it out years later before he realized that the Foreigner's goons should have had a rougher time taking down the Hobgoblin?) and took three detailed-laden issues with only six pages of actual Hobby vs. Spidey action. Jason Macendale, who could take out demons before he got super-strength, is tossed around like a rag doll and eliminated; characters who haven't appeared in the Spidey books for 10 years are paraded out as major suspects, and most of Betty Brant's characterization for the past 5 years is tossed out the window. Kingsley himself, long assumed killed in Web of Spider-Man 29 in 1987, was never more than a minor supporting character. And the Hobgoblin, who could battle Spider-Man toe-to-toe with neither ever gaining an advantage, is taken out with half a dozen punches over two pages? Wasn't something like that what started the whole Leeds-can't-be-Hobby argument? Strong art, well-written dialogue ... but weak, weak, storytelling.

Overall Rating...

Two webs. I liked the art, especially when inked by Perez.