The Green Goblin makes his Marvel Age debut. Too bad he's saddled with the Marvel Age version of the Enforcers.
A man rises out of a steaming bath of some strange formula imbued with "newfound super-strength". He puts on the costume of the Green Goblin and rides a bat-glider into the night. He has a rendezvous with the trio known as the Enforcers where he uses a little physical intimidation to convince them to join him. The Goblin then meets with movie producer B.J. Cosmos, giving him a blank check to do a film starring Spider-Man.
The Goblin rides around town until he attracts Spidey's attention and steers the web-slinger to B.J. Cosmos. There Spidey signs a contract (his signature reads, "Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man") for a film in which he will fight the Green Goblin and the Enforcers.
Once out in Hollywood, Spidey is conned into a fight rehearsal away from the film crew where he discovers that his co-stars are the actual Enforcers, not stuntmen, and that the Goblin is a bad guy out for his blood. After a brief skirmish, Spider-Man hides in a cave where he is doing just fine rounding up the Enforcers until the Incredible Hulk confronts him. The Hulk has one line that he says three times ("Get out of Hulk's home!") but he emphasizes it by smashing the walls until the cave collapses. Spidey and the Green Goblin both escape but it sure looks like the Enforcers are killed in the cave-in. (Except I assume they'll be back for the Marvel Age version of ASM #19, December 1964.) B.J. stiffs Spidey, telling him that their contract is "void if we don't finish the shoot" but finds it in his heart to give him enough cash for bus fare home. "Read the fine print" he tells the web-slinger, "And always bring a lawyer, kid."
Imagine what Amazing Spider-Man #14, July 1964 would have been like if Lee and Ditko had known the Green Goblin's identity and back story from the very beginning? Mike Raicht tries to give a little taste of that in this issue and he does a fairly nice job. We first see the Goblin as he rises out of the goblin formula bath that gives him his power rather than having to wait 26 issues to see Professor Stromm's formula blow up in his face as it does in ASM #40, September 1966. This gives us a taste of his origin without revealing his identity. Mike then mixes in a clue by having B.J. Cosmos accept a blank check to make his film, thereby letting us know that the Goblin is filthy rich. Unfortunately there seems to be a failure to communicate between Mike and penciler Shane Davis in this scene. Mike has B.J. on the phone saying, "This guy gave me a blank check to fill out if I would help him film this movie. Who? You wouldn't believe me if I told you." But Shane shows the Green Goblin flying away. We can also see that the blank check is signed "Green Goblin". Surely the check should be signed "Norman Osborn". Who, after all, would take a check (blank or otherwise) signed "Green Goblin"? Mike's hint that the Goblin came to B.J. Cosmos in his civilian identity and that he was somebody wealthy whom B.J. recognizes is therefore spoiled. Too bad. It was a nice idea.
But Mike has some other nice touches in here. When Spidey first meets the Goblin, he says, "You could have just taken an ad out in the paper... that's what other guys have done, at least"; an amusing reference to Mysterio last issue (and other villains in other issues). B.J. Cosmos is updated from the blustery buffoon of the original to a savvy if sleazy Hollywood type who is willing to let the webhead sign the contract as "Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" but just as willing to dump him when circumstances force a change. (B.J. also seems to be the director of the film as well, which feels right. But I have to wonder where Spidey found that cave right in the heart of Los Angeles. In the original the location shoot is out in New Mexico.) I also enjoyed the moment when the Enforcers worry about pursuing Spidey into the dark cave and the Green Goblin gives them miniature flaming pumpkins to light their way.
Shane Davis' artwork complements the story nicely. The Goblin is suitable creepy (if a bit too reminiscent of Jim Carrey in The Mask), especially the grinning silhouette on the bottom of page three. B.J. Cosmos is slick and slimy. Peter is young and slight, even as Spidey. The Hulk is appropriately immense. And Aunt May is back to being grandmotherly, as she should be. All the moments of impact from Spidey getting smacked by the Goblin's glider to explosions of pumpkin bombs to the Hulk knocking down the cave have force and weight. I also enjoy the unmentioned details in the art, such as the framed picture of young Peter with a dog on page 10, panel 4 or the turtle taking in the action on page 15 panel 3.
So, then, what's bad about this issue? Well, first the Enforcers remain bland and undifferentiated much as Mike tries to spice them up; a legacy of Todd's disastrous Marvel Age #9. And then it's the same problem I have every issue (and will have again with the next one)... the fight scenes pale next to the original. Look at what you get in ASM #14. Twelve mostly- uninterrupted pages of battle between Spidey and the Enforcers, between Spidey and the Goblin, between Spidey and the Hulk. What raises the original from average to great is these fight scenes. Let's face it, the Goblin's plan to pull Spidey into a phony movie is ridiculous but when you get the web- slinger dodging Montana's lasso, avoiding Ox's punches and evading the Goblin's stun-grenades who cares about the set-up? And who can beat four pages of an overmatched Spidey trying to hang in with the Hulk? Somehow, though, the Marvel Age issues seem to continually miss the point. Okay, so Mike modernized the premise, making the movie scheme feel a little more realistic but there's barely a battle with the Enforcers and the Goblin and there's no battle at all with the Hulk. When the point of the set-up is to lead into cool fights, the lack of cool fights makes the whole thing fairly pointless.
A decent effort but as long as the fight scenes are gutted, the rating can't get much higher than Three Webs.