SPIDER-MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES (Marvel, 2011; Softcover)
Collects Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives Nos. 1-3 and Spectacular Spider-Man Nos. 259-261 (cover dates January, 1997- September, 1998)
Writer: Roger Stern and Glenn Greenberg (co-plotter/scripter Spectacular Spider-Man #259-261)
Artists: Ron Frenz, George Perez (Inker- Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives #1), Bob McLeod (Inker- Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives #3), Luke Ross (Penciler- Spectacular Spider-Man #259-261), and Al Milgrom (Inker- Spectacular Spider-Man #259-261), and more.
Fortunately for me, there were a healthy number of Roger Stern Spider-Man books released a couple of years ago. Like fine wine, I allowed these books to be rotated through my backlog organically, knowing that they were only going to get better with age. I had already read this material before and so there was no sense of urgency for me to do so again, comfortable with the knowledge that whenever I got around to reading them that they would be great reads. It turns out I was only half right in the case of this book, as The Spectacular Spider-Man issues collected in this book were not a part of the original trade paperback release which I dumped on eBay prior to this re-release.
Roger Stern had created the Hobgoblin as a sort of throwback to the original Green Goblin, with the identity being such a tightly guarded secret that he wouldn't even divulge it to then-editor Tom DeFalco or even his own wife. This information and more is all detailed in the Afterword in this book. I witnessed the Hobgoblin saga unfold in front of my impressionable eyes beginning in 1983, with the climax, issue 289, being released in the Direct Market on Valentines Day, 1987. Four years later and it turned out it was Ned Leeds?!? But I was so sure that it was Lance Bannon...
Well, it turns out that Ned Leeds was Tom DeFalco's choice. Roger Stern's choice was...ah, but that would be telling. And so it was that this three issue prestige format mini-series came to be. Stern had been given the chance to set the Hobgoblin saga right, albeit a decade later. This time out Stern had to deal with a number of recent developments, such as Norman Osborn (the original Green Goblin)'s unlikely return from the grave, the marriage of Peter Parker to Mary Jane Watson, and the then-dead Aunt May. It was a treat to see Roger Stern, half of the Stern/Romita, Jr. team on the book, team up with Ron Frenz, half of the DeFalco/Frenz team who followed them on the title in the '80s. It's like Paul Simon teaming up with Paul McCartney or something.
In true Roger Stern fashion, he goes about naming all of his suspects and then lets readers follow the trail of breadcrumbs without ever feeling like they're being spoon fed the answer. Again, I won't tell you who the Hobgoblin is. Ideally, I'd like you to buy the forthcoming Spider-Man By Roger Stern Omnibus Vol. 1 upon it's release in 2014, devour it, track down the back issues for Amazing Spider-Man #252-289, Annuals 18-20, Spider-Man Vs. Wolverine #1, and then buy and read this book. Not much for a homework assignment, is it? I promise that it will all be well worth it to read the Hobgoblin saga in its entirety. Don't do it for me, do it for yourself. You can thank me later or buy me a drink sometime.
The Spectacular Spider-Man issues were new to me. Stern only co-plotted them, but they are still really good reads. Luke Ross' artwork was wretched in the Clone Saga trades, but here his style has rapidly evolved just a couple of years later. He is a much better artist still today, but his artwork has a more cartoony, fluid movement to it here which I quite liked. I dug seeing the Hobgoblin go toe to toe with the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn...as well as this other guy who was dressed as the Green Goblin. His identity is not revealed here, and I hope I find out who it is as I dig through all of my backlogged '90s material Spider-Man collected editions.
The only drawback to these Spectacular Spider-Man issues is the then-new computer coloring, where colorists went crazy with their new toys. Spider-man is colored forty shades of pink and light red, never a solid red, and it's annoying. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20 and all that jazz, right?
This was a blast to read, and it should be noted that the material in this book is not included in the forthcoming Spider-Man By Roger Stern Omnibus Vol. 1, which makes me hope that they can cobble together enough material for a Volume 2. Dare to dream, right?
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Some trade paperbacks that are reissued are mild upgrades. Others, like this one, are a significant upgrade because this one contains three extra issues.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Cover to the first edition Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives trade paperback from 1998, as well as the bonus material from the first edition:
Spider-Man/Hobgoblin Timeline As Compiled By Roger Stern (2 pages)
Afterword By Roger Stern
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Restoration is usually not a big job once you get into the all digital era of comic books.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Nice dull matte finish coated stock, the same found in Classic lines and the softcover Marvel Masterworks.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. The usual high quality waxlike lamination found on all Marvel trade paperback releases.