|Inker:||Bill Sienkiewicz, Jimmy Palmiotti|
|Cover Art:||Sal Buscema|
The issue starts with a homeless man named Sammy "The Smiler" Skalek running for his life in an alley from a figure with a burning hand. The figure told him that he was a parasite that weakened New York and the figure was going to protect the city from degenerates like him. The figure escaped and Sammy's burning body was found by an officer.
Later, Peter was at Harry Osborn's grave, telling him that a new Green Goblin was in town. Peter left not knowing if Harry was involved with this new Goblin or not but hoped not. He dressed himself as the Scarlet Spider, since his Spider-Man costumes had all been destroyed. (Ben Reilly was in prison, covering for Peter after he had been accused of murdering Louise Kennedy in Salt Lake City.) Peter was feeling overwhelmed by the return of his clone, the Jackal, the Gwen Stacy clone and now a new Green Goblin so he went to talk to MJ.
The Jackal was also aware of the new Goblin and wanted answers as to who he was. He knew that the Osborns were dead but wondered if new clones were being made behind his back. He went out to investigate.
Peter arrived at his apartment and found MJ sewing up his costume. She hadn't been enjoying herself, resenting that Peter was out playing superhero instead of facing the problems that they had. She told him he'd been obsessing over the Jackal and the clones and had been ignoring his family. He agreed that had been caught up with everything and she wanted to talk about their baby. (She was pregnant and the doctor had found an abnormality.) The TV news reported that a tenth homeless person had been burned to death and Peter went to investigate. Meanwhile, the Jackal waited outside in an alley outside of their apartment and observed Spider-Man swinging away. MJ still badly wanted to talk to Peter about the baby but in desperation, she decided to turn to Ben.
In a dirty, run down loft, the new Green Goblin put on his costume. The figure nervously wore the mask, which instantly jolted him with electricity as the circuitry inside reacted with the Goblin formula in his body. The figure was alone and focused on his grim mission. The Goblin arrived behind a homeless man named William Gardener, who had once been a talented marketing consultant. Unfortunately his industry crashed and he lost everything. Goblin had been looking for someone like him, and called him perfect. Before he could move, his pumpkin bomb was webbed to his hand and he was yanked away from William.
Goblin managed to steer his glider through a window instead of the side of a building but crashed into a fancy restaurant. He had to let go of the glove but knew there were more in the loft. He told Spider-Man that they had no fight and Spidey reminded him that he had prevented him from capturing the Gwen clone, was dressed like his worst enemy and was his prime suspect for the homeless people murders. Flying around the restaurant, Goblin tried to avoid the patrons and warned Spider-Man that he was one of the good guys. Spidey kicked him in the gut anyway and Goblin punched him across the room. Peter realized that this wasn't an Osborn that he was fighting but he still punched like a pile driver. He saw that the Goblin was holding back but didn't know if it was due to inexperience or if he was genuinely trying to avoid hurting anyone.
Outside, William Gardener ran from the Goblin and Spider-Man but collided with a grinning figure calling himself Firefist. He called himself a public servant that specialized in burning trash.
Meanwhile, the Goblin escaped from the restaurant but Spider-Man was trailing behind him on a webline. He maneuvered the glider to tangle Spidey in his own web. The Jackal watched in amusement from an alley.
MJ met with Ben Reilly in prison, asking him for advice on what to do with her pregnancy. She didn't know if it was right to bring such a baby into the world. Ben said he wasn't a politically correct person but told her what she did was her own decision. He told her to take her time and get all of the facts. Either way, she wont be alone. She thanked him and was glad to hear it from someone.
Firefist was ranting about how America was no longer the greatest nation on Earth because of people like William. He was saved from incineration by the Goblin, who grabbed him and flew away. Spider-Man dealt with Firefist and asked if he was going to attack the sick and elderly next. The Goblin took William to safety and went back to check on Spider-Man. The webhead had been buried under some rubble and was about to be burned alive when the Green Goblin returned and distracted Firefist with his sonic laugh.
The Jackal watched in the darkness, glad that Peter hadn't been killed, as he still needed him. He also realized that the Green Goblin that he was observing was obviously no Osborn. He left to return to his lab after seeing that Peter would be safe. Spider-Man finally escaped from the rubble and the Goblin fled after seeing how he was taking Firefist apart. He considered the day to be a waste and hoped it couldn't get worse.
Spider-Man webbed up Firefist and went home to Mary Jane, hoping to talk about the baby.
Jackal arrived back at his lab and was confronted by the new Peter Parker clone, soon to be called Spidercide.
I'm sure that I'm alone in this but I enjoyed this issue. It was definitely a dark story and I can see why it would have rubbed a lot of fans at the time the wrong way. MJ was contemplating ending her pregnancy and the Firefist subplot could have turned people off with it's political subtext. Even the art itself is very dark in it's coloring. If you wanted a colorful, funny Spidey story then you would have been massively disappointed.
The story definitely goes to some heavy places but Marvel comics have never shied away from controversial topics, just look at some of the issues that Stan Lee wrote in the late 1960s. I agree that it was unwise for MJ to go to Ben with her problems when she knew so little about him, other than he was connected to one of Spider-Man's enemies. Still, the situation that she was in was intensely difficult and she needed a friendly ear. That doesn't justify her actions but it's understandable.
Issues like this are divisive, I know. I'm a Green Goblin fanatic so I love the second appearance of Phil Urich's Goblin. There are a lot of subplots, which could be confusing. I read the issue with the benefit of hindsight so there was no confusion for me but back when the clone saga was still unfolding I may have understood less.
It's nothing that will be remembered as a game changer but I like a lot about it.