Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #163

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

Our story begins right after last issue's cliffhanger where Spidey is knocked unconscious by the Hobgoblin and dragged into his underground lair.

In Detail...

"The Carrion Cure"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #163
Apr 1990 : SM Title
Summary: Hobgoblin & Carrion
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  Sal Buscema
Cover Art:  Sal Buscema
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Review
 Reprinted In: Complete Spider-Man (UK) #3
Articles: Carrion II, Hammerhead, Hobgoblin IV (Macendale), Nick Katzenberg, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Puma, Tombstone

We start with MJ's reaction to the evening news, showing us the aftermath of last issue's fight. Instead of sitting home worrying about Peter, however, she decides to go out and try to help him somehow. (As an aside, I like Conway's characterization of MJ here. It's more assertive and less damsel-in-distress.) On her way out, she has a run in with Nick Katzenberg, a sleazy tabloid photographer who also works for the Daily Bugle. He waves some pictures in her face of Peter in his Spider-Duds (taken in Web of Spider-Man #63) and tries to blackmail her with them. Instead, she decks him.

Continuing on, MJ first goes to Thomas Fireheart (AKA Puma), the current publisher of the Daily Bugle. She tries to convince him to go to Spidey's aid, but he tells her that his debt of honor doesn't work that way. (This whole debt of honor business is kinda arbitrary if you ask me.) Does MJ give up with Fireheart's refusal? No, she then decides to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, by hopping over to Queens and visiting Martha McBride, who last issue was revealed to be Carrion's mom. We'll leave these two here for the time being...

Meanwhile, Spidey is glued to the sewer wall with some ectoplasmic goop, completely at the mercy of Carrion and Hobgoblin. So what does Hobby decide to do, kill Spidey with one gently lobbed pumpkin bomb? Nope! He leaves Carrion to stand guard while he goes out and tries to find someone who will pay a hefty sum for him to kill Spidey. (Hey, Hobby, why couldn't you just kill Spidey, go out fishing for bids, then come back and scoop up the proof, then collect the dough? I ask you, would you hire this genius to kill anyone?) Showing more bad judgment, Hobby visits the headquarters of Hammerhead, the guy who ordered the Joe Robertson hit that Hobby miffed just two issues ago (in Spectacular Spider-Man #161).

Back in the sewers, Spidey has hastily come up with a plan and is busy taunting Carrion. Eventually, Carrion gets fed up and throws some of his red dust of death at him, thereby dissolving the shackles that are holding Spidey to the wall. Our hero then promptly brings the ceiling down on Carrion and makes good his escape. Unfortunately, Hobby returns just in the nick of time, and starts throwing pumpkin bombs everywhere, conveniently blasting open a hole that leads back to the street overhead. Spidey is blown out of sewers and lands on a lamppost, but is so weakened that he can barely hold on.

MJ and Mrs. McBride run out of the house to see what all the commotion is about. Hobgoblin comes flying out of the sewer and is once again threatens Spider-Man. Then Carrion appears, too. Things are not looking good for our hero.

Spidey uses his last ounce of strength to protect the ladies from Carrion's deadly touch. Hobgoblin decides he can kill three people just as easily as one and readies his pumpkin bomb. Carrion doesn't like the idea of his mother being killed, though, and turns on Hobgoblin. They grapple each other, Hobby's pumpkin bomb goes off, and the two disappear in a big explosion.

Overall Rating...

Looking back at these past three issues, there's not a whole lot of action. At least, not as much as you would expect in your usual Spidey story. But that's made up for by some solid characterization.

I know sympathetic bad guys were all the rage in the 90s, but Conway does a good job with Carrion in this one. By contrasting him with Hobgoblin's general insanity, you can see how tragic his situation really is. Carrion was turned into a monster through an accident, and all he wants is to return to a normal life. On the other hand, Hobgoblin actually sought out his own cursed condition and revels in it.

Overall, this is a solid Spidey story, but it's not that groundbreaking. It still has all the usual ingredients that make the character and series great, though, which is enough to earn it an average rating.

Footnote...

I don't think Hobgoblin appears in this title for the rest of its run. But don't despair, you won't go without your goblin fix, because the Green Goblin is set to make a monster comeback. I think it's a fair trade.

Hobgoblin next makes a brief appearance in the Return of the Sinister Six storyline starting in Amazing Spider-Man #334. Next, he stars in a great two-parter beginning in Spider-Man #6. From there, he shows up in the dreadful Name of the Rose story arc that commences in Web of Spider-Man #84.

Of course, we're getting closer and closer to the Puma debt-of-honor showdown, a storyline that finally comes to a head in Spectacular Spider-Man #171.

Carrion, surprisingly, stays dead for a good long while. (I guess no other writer was really interested in the character after Conway left.) For some reason, however, he is brought back as a bit player in the Maximum Carnage storyline.

Next issue, Spidey gets involved in the aftermath of the big gang war that went on a few issues back. Then, he takes an unexpected side-trip to Merry Ol' London. After that, he arrives back in the states just in time for a rather unorthodox team-up with the Avengers, which I (hopefully) will be reviewing shortly.