Comics : Ultimate Spider-Man #117

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This story is part of an Arc: "Death Of A Goblin"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Last issue saw Spider-Man escape certain doom from a free-fall without web fluid. After the fight, Peter reconciled with Kitty and returned home, only to find Norman Osborn waiting for him. They view a telecast where Harry Osborn denies the allegations made by Norman against Nick Fury.

In Detail...

Ultimate Spider-Man #117
Feb 2008 : SM Title
Arc: Part 6 of "Death Of A Goblin"
Editor:  Ralph Macchio
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils:  Stuart Immonen
Inker:  Wade von Grawbadger
Cover Art:  Stuart Immonen
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Review

Peter wakes up in the floor of Aunt May's living room. He recalls what transpired after he and Norman viewed the telecast involving Harry. Harry told viewers that his father was a liar and that he killed his wife. Soon thereafter, Norman got angry and punched Peter into unconsciousness. He left in a hurry. Peter quickly dresses as Spider-Man and leaves in order to protect Harry.

Meanwhile, Harry and Carol Danvers converse on board the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. Danvers reveals that the telecast was only for Norman's eyes. Carol regrets that she used Harry as bait but feels justified. The Green Goblin arrives in a rage. S.H.I.E.L.D. forces open fire on the crazed villain. Danvers urges Harry to get below deck for his own safety.

The Green Goblin demands to speak with his son. Harry obliges by transforming into the orange tinged Hobgoblin. The two goblins, father and son, begin to battle much to the consternation of Danvers. Spider-Man arrives to interrupt the battle. He slams the Green Goblin across the deck of the ship and proceeds to leap on his back. The Green Goblin manages to lose Spider-Man by setting his back on fire, thereby igniting Spider-Man as well. The Hobgoblin interrupts the proceedings with a well-placed punch to the Green Goblin's face. However, the Green Goblin manages to land a horrific blow on the Hobgoblin.

S.H.I.E.L.D. opens up another round of fire, throwing the Green Goblin off balance into some fighter jets. Spider-Man inquires into Harry's well-being. Harry's Hobgoblin persona is severely weakened by the fight. The Green Goblin refuses to go down. More S.H.I.E.L.D. fire only seems to increasingly anger him. Spider-Man irritates the Green Goblin with his webbing. Spidey puts in a few good licks on his arch-nemesis before an explosion interrupts the fisticuffs. This allows the Hobgoblin to re-enter the battle. He wants his father to stop fighting. Norman retorts that his own son is attacking him after all he has done for him. The Green Goblin throws punch after punch on an exhausted Hobgoblin.

Finally done, the Green Goblin looks up to find he has killed his own son. He stares at the ground for a few moments and transforms back into Norman Osborn. He informs the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents gathered around to kill him. They gladly oblige with a final round of gunfire. Spider-Man gets up and holds the bloodied corpse of Harry in his arms. He lashes out at Danvers. His one true friend is dead. Peter angrily tells Danvers to keep away from him forever and then departs.

The next day, a forlorn Peter sits in class ruminating on the previous night's events. He stands up and gives a speech about what Harry Osborn meant to him. Mary Jane and Liz Allen begin to sob. He proclaims Harry for being a true hero and friend.

In General...

"Death of a Goblin" comes to a close with the surprise revelation of two deaths. It seems as if the infamous Osborns are no more. Bendis had been doing a solid job of juggling the serious and humorous elements of his story. However, this last part was non-stop action and emotional.

The issue succeeded leaps and bounds where action was concerned. Bendis's preferred mode of operation – the decompressed story often rewards readers with a final bang. This issue was no different. Immonen proved up to the task of making the battle feel epic and personal for all involved combatants. Nick Fury's absence from the scene also allowed us to get a greater insight into how Ultimate Carol Danvers operates strategically. She has a sound tactical mind but often fails at considering the emotional impact her decisions bring to bear. Norman is clearly insane but Carol's brash decision to provoke him ultimately was the catalyst for causing Harry's death.

Harry's part in this story was rather muted until this point. I would have liked to have seen him lurking more in the background prior to this point. His death seemed kind of tacked on whereas Norman's death was more emotional. We did not have nearly enough time to care about Harry and his motivations.

This leads us to where the arc ultimately failed. The emotional resonance that Bendis invokes did not convince me. His epilogue with Peter was needed. However, the scene sagged and never really clicked. Peter did not sound like a teenager. In addition, Immonen's art for this sequence was a bit off. Mary Jane and Liz had rather nondescript facial features. On first reading, some may actually struggle to identify that it is indeed Liz Allen commiserating with Mary Jane. Also, one wonders if the school knew what took place the previous night. I suspect that S.H.I.E.L.D. would not want this information to let out given the sensitive nature.

Nevertheless, the action was a strong point. In particular, Bendis and Immonen took great pains to show off the intricacies of the superpowers involved as well as the movement and impact of the battle. For example, Immonen draws a half-page splash showing off the Green Goblin and Hobgoblin ready to do battle (with a nice sound effect as well). Immonen follows it up with a three panel sequence showing a quick montage of reaction shots. There does not need to be much dialogue in such an instance. The reader is able to "read" the contents of the panels. Too often, a typical superhero comic book will only give you one of these aspects.

Another noteworthy scene was where Spider-Man fights back with his webbing. Here, Immonen divides the scene into many more panels. The pacing suggested by this decision is rapid. Certainly, this evokes the rapidity at which Spider-Man moves. On a deeper level, this sequence shows off movement (rapid) and impact. Impact is more than flying punches. Bendis's page layout shows us the consequences of each panel's events in a spliced together whole. What is being done is rather ingenious. The effect is somewhat akin to flipping the pages of a book rapidly. The pages may look the same but under a closer eye is a great diversity.

Overall Rating...

I am giving the final part of "Death of a Goblin" four webs due to the excellent sequencing of action. I also liked that both Goblins are presumably dead. This allows Bendis to focus on other rogues as well as Spidey's somewhat neglected supporting cast. I took off one web for some weak emotional closure.