Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #280

 Posted: 2009
 Staff: Adam Winchell (E-Mail)


The main thing going in the Spider-books of this time, particularly Amazing, was who exactly the Hobgoblin was. This is a mystery several writers stretched over many years, with the help of lots of fake reveals, red herrings and pseudo-suspects. Turns out Flash Thompson was unmasked as being Hobby (Amazing Spider-man (Vol. 1) #276) and thrown in jail for it. So who's the guy still running around on the outside as Hobby?

Story 'The Sinister Syndicate!'

Our story starts off with a narrative box claiming the time is: now! The place: Coney Island Park! The object: murder! (object--wha?). A splash-page has Spidey bounding up from behind and rescuing Silver Sable from a series of explosions. Silver marvels to herself how Spidey was able to leap twenty feet in the air, even with her in his arms. But she chastises him out loud, saying she could've saved herself. Spider-man tells her she might be hot stuff on the international bounty hunting circuit, but she's rookie when it comes to avoiding the blasts of a super-baddie like The Beetle. Beetle's flying overhead--he calls out that he's spotted them on the roof. Rhino, Boomerang, Speed Demon and Hydro-Man all get panels to introduce themselves. Spidey and Sable scatter from the roof, a stretched- out punch from Hydro-Man knocks Spidey out of the air & into some trash. Regarding the bad guys, Spidey wonders if it's old villains week and how he got in this mess.

Flashback a few hours ago, Spidey's jumping on the rooftops, thinking it's great to be home and that he doubted he would ever see Manhattan again after the last adventure (the Missing In Action arc over in Web). He says his red and blue costume is gone for good, but that he can't worry about that now. He opens the Daily Bugle, where Silver Sable has posted an ad saying she wants him for something. According to the paper Sable stays in the Symkarian building of the United Nations, so he meets her there. Sable says she wants his help in apprehending a most dangerous international terrorist--Jack O' Lantern. Spidey asks why him, and Sable says she's looking to collect a hefty reward for bringing him in, and that she'll pay him a substantial fee, in cash. Spidey says forget it, he's not for hire. Sable asks why not get paid for battling Jack O' Lantern? Spidey says he doesn't fight for money and leaves out the window.

Over at the police precinct, Flash is entreating Sha Shan to testify on his behalf. Shan says Flash betrayed her by seeing Betty Leeds behind her back, basically refuses and leaves. On the way out, who should she run into but..Betty Brant, also coming to visit Flash (awkward). Flash's lawyer, Sharon Banks asks Shan to talk for a minute, but Shan refuses her too saying she hopes they throw away the key on Flash. Peter arrives, and asks Sharon how the defense is going. Sharon says she can't even get Flash's ex-girlfriend to testify for him and that things are looking bleak--that a good defense could cost big money and Flash could use a rich guardian angel right about now. Pete resolves to help Flash no matter what, so he goes back in costume to Sable's, agreeing to help her catch Jack O' Lantern. She says they'll find him at Coney Park at midnight, that Lantern told her himself. Spidey says it's obviously a trap. Sable says that's why she wanted Spidey along.

Back in current time; Spidey dodges another barrage from Hydro-Man. Spidey asks Sable if the odds concern her, she says she's more concerned there isn't a decent bounty among any of them. She asks aloud where Jack O' Lantern is. Beetle says Jack O' Lantern was detained elsewhere, and that he sent them instead--"The Sinister Syndicate!". Chattering among them, they say they all want Spidey dead, and they can make a reputation killing Sable. Sable runs, chased by Beetle and Boomerang. She strategizes that they'll have a better chance to win by dividing their foes. Spidey takes on the rest.

Betty Brant is walking home thinking about Flash, and even feels sorry for Sha Shan. She sees husband Ned outside the front of their apartment building with a suitcase. He says tired of waiting for her to decide between him and Flash. Ned asks her cold if he himself is the man she really loves, and she says nothing. He says "didn't think so!" and gets in the back of a cab. She thinks to herself that she did love him, but perhaps not enough. A few blocks away from Coney Island in Brooklyn, the Cassada household is just finishing up dinner. They have a new lodger in Flint Marko, who's going by the pseudonym Sylvester Mann (and still wears nothing but the green and black striped shirt and the tan Dockers, apparently); Marko offers Mrs Cassada his help in washing up the dishes. She says he does enough around the house, so he goes out for an evening walk by himself around the neighborhood. He thinks appreciably how much quieter his life is now that he gave up being Sandman.

Back in the park, Boomerang is flying around hunting for Sable. She swings out and up from behind a doorway and kicks the crap out him, scoffing that he's what passes for a professional assassin in this country. Beetle says she saved him the trouble of taking Boomerang down a notch himself, and fires his blasts at her. She fires some bullets back, but they bounce off his exo-suit. Rhino, meanwhile, is bashing a carnival ride to pieces trying to nail Spider-man, who banters and jumps around avoiding both him and Hydro-Man.

Cut to Jason Macendale in Kingpin's high rise office. Macendale's offering his services as Jack O' Lantern. Kingpin says he's already hired Nuke (an editorial box says 'see Daredevil', probably referencing the "Born Again" storyline of the time). Macendale says Nuke's a psycho. Kingpin dismisses him. Meanwhile, at a fashion show at Roderick Kingsley's club, MJ's all dolled-up for the runway and trying to reach Pete on the phone backstage. She can't reach him and wonders if he's out on assignment, or with another girl. Someone asks MJ to tell Kingsley they're ready for him. MJ goes to tell him, thinking Kingsley sure spends a lot of time in his workroom. She knocks and Kingsley pops his head out--she relays the message and he says he'll be along in a minute. Back in his workroom, a shadowy figure asks who it was--Roderick says it was one of the models and was nothing to worry about. The figure, holding a pumpkin bomb, remains hidden and says not to be smug, that if they're found out they'll both go to jail. At yet another high-rise in the city, Macendale's hitting up The Rose for work. Macendale says he knows Hobgoblin and the Rose had a business deal, and for a fee he could bust Hobgoblin out of jail or take his place. Rose says he'll consider it and has him shown out. One of Rose's thugs says Hobgoblin won't be happy Macendale's elbowing in on his territory. Rose says no, Hobby won't be happy, but that it would be a pity if the two of them end up killing eachother in battle.

Spidey and Sable manage to find each other in the park, and try to hide underneath the enclosure of a giant wooden roller coaster. The Syndicate spots them, and with all of their combined efforts, bring the entire massive wooden structure down upon Sable and Spidey with a KA-FWASH!. Half a mile away, Flint Marko, still out on his walk, can spot an explosion in the park and decides to intervene. "Elsewhere at that very moment", somebody in the shadows gets word on the telephone that someone named Jack O' Lantern has been nosing around for his job. There's a stretched-out Hobgoblin mask on a dummy heah, pumpkin bombs all around. Hobby tells the Rose on the phone not to worry, Jack O' Lantern won't trouble him again. The figure steps outside his place, and we only we see him from the back still. He runs into Mary Jane, who says he's the last person she expects to run into on the street, and says that he looks deep in thought. The mystery figure says his life has been rather chaotic lately. Mary Jane asks him to tell her all about it, as they stroll of together.

Coney Island: Spidey manages to dig himself and Sable out of the roller coaster wreckage. He says it's a miracle they weren't crushed instantly (you bet, the kind that only seems to happen to our heroes in certain comics). Sable remarks everything seems so quiet, and wonders if their playmates have given up on them. Suddenly the Syndicate appears all around them again. Speed Demon says "Not a chance!".

General Comments

The "who is Hobgoblin?" stuff may not have been everyone's cup of tea after a certain point--I for one loved it. With the benefit of many years of hindsight (combined with Roger Stern FINALLY coming through some ten years later with his own clean-up story (Spider-man: Hobgoblin Lives revealing who he intended Hobby to be), this story is an even better read. I have to say, what they show here interfaces very well with that later story (which typically isn't the case); namely, we know something is shady about MJ's fashion-designer pal Roderick Kingsley--we see him back in a room consorting with a shadowy someone handling pumpkin bombs. We're led to perhaps believe this is Ned Leeds, when in truth, it's Roderick's twin brother, who helped cover for Roderick when he was out in costume as Hobby. MJ even runs into Roderick later in the street here, though we don't see who it is. Very good mystery plotting that actually works (and worked, if you can believe that Roderick had a twin brother that no one seemed to know about or mention the whole time). The icing on the cake this issue is Hobby resolving to go and school Macendale for butting in on his turf.

All of this could threaten to overshadow Spidey himself, but it's the whole Hobgoblin situation, and trying to help clear Flash, that's got him mixed up with fighting with Sable. It's nice to see the very posh Silver Sable and Spidey fighting side-by-side here, especially when they're taking on B-level baddies like the Syndicate. There's nothing much remarkable about them by themselves, but taken together they actually pose quite a match for the webhead and the bounty hunter. Very cool to see Sandman ready to get into the action too; he was a non-criminal but an anti-hero at this point, and he should help to even out the odds next issue.

Overall Rating

Out and out action! Intrigue! This was certainly an exciting time for the Spidey books, and the creators skillfully weave multiple, dense story threads with ease here. They set up an even nicer battle royale for next issue--what more could you ask for?

 Posted: 2009
 Staff: Adam Winchell (E-Mail)