The last time Spider-Man clashed with the Rhino was in Amazing Spider-Man #344, where the Rhino is working for Justin Hammer.
This issue starts a short (but indeterminate) time after last issue’s story. Dr. Kafka and Harry Osborn are in the middle of a therapy session. She holds the Green Goblin mask in her hands. Harry is acting rather nonchalant about the whole thing. That is, until she puts the mask on herself. Then he goes berserk and starts smashing the glass wall that separates them, screaming “Give it to me!”
Some security guards rush in. Then Spider-Man and a detective from the NYPD suddenly show up. The detective informs Dr. Kafka that Harry is too dangerous and he’s being transferred to the Vault (Marvel’s prison for super-powered menaces). While he’s being taken away, Harry busts out with a nursery rhyme, “Peter, Peter, pumkin eater” just to taunt Spider-Man.
Our hero swings off into the fog-filled night. Then, suddenly we see the Rhino emerge. He runs through a stack of barrels, then busts through a wooden fence. His appearance doesn’t go unnoticed, however, by a couple of cops in a police cruiser. True to his name, he also smashes through it. The cops are okay, though. They get out and start shooting the Rhino, but their bullets just bounce off his super tough hide.
Then we cut to a scene between Mark Raxton (aka Molten Man) and Liz Osborn talking about Harry. Liz is in a bit of denial about the whole Green Goblin thing, blaming Spider-Man for the trouble their family is going through. Next we see Harry sitting in his cell, just grinning manically in his metal straightjacket.
Back in our main story, Peter Parker is now walking the streets worrying about what to do about Harry (I guess he must have got tired of swinging around on his webs). Anyway, his spider-sense alerts him to danger. He looks behind him and who does he see? The Rhino, duh. He nimbly jumps out of the way, but in order to protect his secret identity he decides to play dumb and let the Rhino catch him.
The Rhino grabs him by the cuff of his collar and says, “I know all about you, Parker. All your dirty little secrets. And soon, everyone’s gonna know.” It seems Peter’s worst nightmare has come true, and Harry has told the underworld about his secret identity after all.
Then the Rhino kicks a hole in another wooden fence and tosses Peter through it. When the grey gargantuan peeks his head into the hole, though, it is Spider-Man he sees. This is the second time in recent issues that Peter has pulled the ol’ falling to his death/switching into Spider-Duds trick (the first time was during his fight with the Vulture in Spectacular Spider-Man #187).
Spidey, upset by this turn of events, immediately goes on the offensive. First he webs the Rhino on the head and knocks him off his feet. Then he lifts him up and body slams the Rhino through that same poor fence!
Spidey says, “I’ve had about all I can take.” He punches the Rhino a couple of times, then knocks him into a ditch. After a couple of more punches he gets the Rhino to spill the beans. The Rhino says he’s only interested in Parker because the Green Goblin paid him to rough him up and deliver a message. But he didn’t know what it meant. Spider-Man hits him again for good measure, knocking him out, and then webs him up for the police to find.
We close on Harry Osborn in his straightjacket. He only says one word, “Gotcha.”
This is a very nice one-and-done issue. After last issue’s harrowing ordeal, it seems the Green Goblin is not going to make things easier for our favorite Webhead.
I like this new take on the Rhino. Usually he’s just a big dumb guy that battles heavyweights like the Hulk or Iron Man. Here, his background is fleshed out for the first time, and we get a more sympathetic view of him. After the fall of communism in Russia, it seems he just wants to make enough money to move his family to America where he start a new life for himself and get out of crime.
J.M. DeMatteis is really good at taking one-note villains and giving them a whole new angle.
The Rhino next appears in Web of Spider-Man Annual #8, where he’s back to working for Justin Hammer.