Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Penciller: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Colourist: Antonio Fabela
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Virtual Calligraphy’s Chris Eliopoulos
Previously, in Amazing Spider-Man: Phil Urich murdered Roderick Kingsley and took on his identity as the newest incarnation of the Hobgoblin. Urich now works a double life, both as a reporter for the Daily Bugle and as the Kingpin’s top enforcer. Yet, it is revealed that Kingsley is not dead, and that Urich murdered his brother Daniel instead. Kingsley returns to New York in order to exact his revenge on Phil and reclaim his Hobgoblin persona.
Horizon Labs scientist Tiberius Stone has been working undercover for the Kingpin, and has stolen plans for a spider-sense jammer developed by the genius think tank during the Spider-Island fiasco. Using the machine, Stone is able to overload Spider-Man’s Spider-Sense so that he sees every little danger as a high level threat. To make matters worse, it seems that Urich has deduced Peter’s identity as Spider-Man, and has kidnapped him as a result.
Now that’s more like it! Alpha is but a bad memory at this point as the Danger Zone rockets Amazing Spider-Man back up the quality charts to where it belongs, sitting around the top rating points rather than just about managing the middle ones. This issue has everything you’d want from a Spider-Man book — thrills, action, funny jokes, witty banter, a corker of a cliffhanger, and some great art. There’s only one thing missing: Spider-Man.
This issue doesn’t star Spider-Man at all. In fact, Peter Parker doesn’t do very much until the last few pages, to be honest. Our main character for the majority of this issue is in fact Max Modell. But that’s not to say that this is a problem. The fact that both Slott and Gage’s character work is so strong and that Spidey has such a great supporting cast already means that taking the focus off of Peter for a bit doesn’t hurt the book in the slightest. His presence is still felt, and it’s still his story, but it’s nice to see him need rescuing for a change and some other characters step up to the plate to do it.
Max has been a constant presence in this book since the Big Time era began almost 50 issues ago, but he hasn’t really stepped into the spotlight much. He, like some of the other Horizon scientists, has been important but not to the same degree as others who have played a more active role in storytelling, like Grady or Uatu Jackson. This changes here as Max makes some conscious decisions to be more active, challenging the Kingpin and the Hobgoblins at their own game and almost coming out on top. It’s really great to see him in this more active role, and I feel like it is preparing him for the time when he eventually realizes who Peter Parker really is, which will hopefully mean that he won’t react the way most other people would and fire him on the spot.
Whilst this arc was touted as a Hobgoblin war, this storyline has been anything but so far. This issue does see the two Goblins get down and dirty, but not for very long, and it’s certainly not the focus of the plot either. The differences between both Goblins is well realized, both visually in their costumes and fighting styles, but also in their mannerisms and ways of speaking. Kingsley’s Goblin is mocking of Urich’s handling of his secret identity, pointing out all the flaws in his plans and his ways of acting, whereas Urich is critical of Kingsley’s old-fashioned approach. Unlike some of the other legacy villains Spidey has faced, the Hobgoblins have a legacy that isn’t too taboo that it can’t be touched, but is still important enough that when it is altered, it has an impact on both the character under the mask and Spidey himself. This is never more evident than in these two Goblins going at it.
The same artistic problems persist with this issue as last time; either the new inker or the new colourist are doing something that is causing Camuncoli’s strong linework to be drowned under a sea of colour — it needs either thicker inking, or a less sweeping colourist to elevate it back to the level it was when D’Armata and Janson were working on it. Camuncoli’s work is always great, but it needs that little extra push to get it up to excellent.
You’d never have guessed that Spidey’s title would bounce back after Alpha so quickly, and even without him present in it. Spidey may be missing, but this issue is one of the best of Slott’s run so far, with credit to Gage for his wonderful dialogue. Amazing Spider-Man is back to being amazing again.
GO Rating: 4.5/5