You knew this review was coming the moment Zechs heard Marvel was re-releasing this!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Writer(s): Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, and Bill Mantlo.
Artist(s): John Romita, John Romita Jr, Ron Frenz, Mike Zeck, Marie Severin, and Al Milgrom.
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #238-239, 244-245, 249-251 and Spectacular Spider-Man vol. 1 #43, 47-48, & 85.
Format: Trade Paperback
Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin is dead. Rising out of his legacy of evil comes: the Hobgoblin! This collection of stories features the hell fiend spreading his evil through all corners of Spidey's world (both in his heroic and civilian identity). Of course, this is also the starting point of the greatest mystery ever to plague the Spider-Man books: Who was the Hobgoblin?
It took Marvel almost twenty years, but they've FINALLY put this baby back into print. They even added new material to this version over a hundred more pages than the previous (clocking in at a whopping two hundred and fifty-six pages! The material in the book includes: Amazing Spider-Man #238-239, 244-245, 249-251, and Spectacular Spider-Man vol. 1 #43, 47-48 & 85. Now the whole world can finally see Roger Stern's full Hobgoblin opus again, since earlier this year they re-released Hobgoblin Lives, which is the finale to this work.
So how does this new book stack up to the past trade? In the original 90s version, Marvel cut out any subplot and just kept with the main Hobgoblin story. It felt like something was missing and it hampered the actual story. In this current trade you get it all. Madame Web recouping from the famous Juggernaut story, the Black Cat/Doc Ock subplot that went on in the books during the initial Saga, Pete's romance issues, and you get the actual true end with Peter being whisked away to fight in the Secret Wars. This does add some texture to the story as the world doesn't fully revolve around the Hobgoblin; and Spider-Man has other issues to deal with besides him.
The biggest complaint I'd had with the original trade was the coloring, it just wasn't good. There be various points throughout the book when the Hobgoblin would be sporting red lips (He's not the Joker! There's no madness to his method!) or his red eyes would be white. I was curious to see if Marvel would use the revamped coloring they had done with two of the issues (Amazing #238-239) that appeared but two months ago in Spider-Island: Emergence of Evil one shot. In it, the stories are given a fresh new coloring job and the Hobgoblin's red eyes glow. However, the same inconsistency with white eyes shows up in the same spot, but the red lips are gone. So as to my utter surprise when opening this book, Marvel has given the book a completely new coloring job! All of the issues I had with the original trade are gone! There are pair of grevious printing errors in the book, found in Amazing Spider-Man #251. Still Marvel did a spectacular job giving this story the proper treatment it truly deserves.
As for the added extras; this particular version has an additional three issues showcasing the first "Kingsley" stories (Spectacular #43, 47-48). As a true Hobgoblin fan myself, I've never read these issues and the actual stories seem so hilariously campy. A fashion model decides to become a supervillian and attain her vengeance against Roderick Kingsley since he is a corrupt bastard. So Spidey has to protect "Kingsley" (I keep using since we never know if it's actually Roderick since the dialogue throughout the stories suggests it might be his brother Daniel in his steed, save for possibly the final issue of the new material).
Any new fan wanting to jump into this mystery they will instantly be scratching his or her heads at why this was included. For hardcore Hobgoblin fans like me, this is a nice treat to read. I'd suggest that new readers skip these first three chapters and start at Amazing Spider-Man #238. After reading the Hobgoblin Lives trade they can return to read those first three issues and decide for themselves if Stern was already planting the seeds of his Hobgoblin Saga in those issues.
This version also contains little summaries before each important arc. They're a nice touch, but after the third caption they get a bit boring and I'd just skip to the actual story. They took out the foreword by Danny Fingeroth (Editor of the Spider-Man books in 1980s), which is a darn shame; I understand why they did it given it's now outdated. The trade was released when Ned Leeds was considered the Hobgoblin and it goes on to talk about the other (now forgotten) goblins. Instead, Marvel decided to add the entry of the Hobgoblin from the old profile collection (the name escapes me). That is a nice treat onto itself. I do kind of wish they put in some more notes or outlines from Roger Stern as they had in Lives, or even a new foreword or afterword from him. However, with what you get here is well worth the money alone.
Now for the story itself: This is the Roger Stern Era of Spider-Man and the biggest story arc he ever accomplished on the book! The story is flawless! The way he establishes the Hobgoblin is still original and classic. The story doesn't even feel dated and holds up when compared to other big Spider-Man villain origins, like Venom or the numerous stupid villains introduced in the Mackie/Byrne run, or even the goblins who've come after Kingsley. Stern does a great job of establishing this new rogue of Spidey and why he is one to be feared. He shows why the Hobgoblin's addition to that villain gallery of Spider-Man's was a great one. There's a reason why these stories are fondly remembered by me and by others. The Hobgoblin Saga, save for its original ending (until Stern fixed it in Hobgoblin Lives) was and still is one of THE greatest Spider-Man stories of all time. This trade itself has some of Roger Stern's best work on the character. Factor in the art from top level artist like John Romitas Sr. and Jr. and Ron Frenz. How can someone not want to pick up this book and take a gander at it?
Overall, the wait for this trade's re-release was worth it. Everything about this trade, from the re-coloring to the new material, shows that Marvel treated this project with respect and care. Again, the only thing that would complete this collection would be a word from Roger Stern himself; or even someone who worked on the book during this era of Spidey. Other than that, this was a nicely retooled trade that finally gave this great story its due. So kudos to you Marvel!
9.5 out of 10
Review by: Zechs
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About the Author - Zechs
Zechs is the lord and master of The Toy Shed, Character Spotlight, and Cartoon Reviews. He's also an aspiring comic book writer trying to get some of his works published on the Outhouse. If there's any greater quality to Zechs, it's that he's an avid fan of comic book characters and would defend them to the bitter end against the companies that use them wrongly. Zechs walks the lonely path in Chicagoland area.
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