Friday, July 24, 2015

To Prowl Once More!

While it's true that Spider-Man and Hobie Brown didn't quite part as friends following Hobie's misguided decisions while acting as the Prowler, they parted amicably, with Hobie even owing Spidey a debt of gratitude after the web-spinner let him off the hook and gave him a second chance to turn his life around. Yet, judging by the cover of the issue which dealt with their next meeting, taking place shortly after the death of Gwen Stacy's father, retired police Capt. George Stacy, it appears that Hobie isn't yet done suiting up as the Prowler--and once again, he and Spider-Man will come to blows.

But, under what circumstances would Hobie reassume the garb and the mission of the Prowler, a one-time disguise that was originally only meant to win Hobie false praise and more promising job offers? Has Hobie's resolve to better his life on his own terms wavered? And how does Spider-Man fit in?

To gain better perspective on why Hobie has revived the Prowler, we need to go back six months to a story where Peter, feverish and delusional, mistakenly claimed to his friends that he was the one and only Spider-Man. To extricate himself from that blunder, Peter calls in his favor with Hobie, and arranges for Peter Parker and Spider-Man to be seen together at the same time.

The ploy works, and, as Hobie promised, he asks no questions and leaves it at that. But Capt. Stacy's death has made a number of people who were once on good terms with Spider-Man have doubts about his role in the incident; and, thinking back to the odd favor that Spider-Man once asked of him, Hobie wonders if he was instead being set up as an unwitting accomplice in Stacy's death.

The scene of Hobie's return as the Prowler is overly dramatic, and misleading, given that Hobie really has no new abilities or weapons and therefore no reason to believe himself to be a more formidable opponent for the likes of Spider-Man, who has proven his match and then some. But while the Prowler's reappearance alone isn't enough to suggest that a rematch between the two will turn out any differently, resolve in a comic book character goes a long way toward building anticipation; in addition, it's likely by now that many readers have sympathy for Hobie, a decent kid who means well and who can be rooted for regardless of the wrong conclusions he's jumped to. Even if the Prowler, by some miracle, gets the best of Spider-Man in this fight, it's difficult not to appreciate the battle to come. (There's also the added bonus of seeing a fight between Spidey and the Prowler, a character originally pencilled by John Buscema, now being rendered by regular Spidey artist John Romita, and inking his own work.)

The Prowler figures his best bet on locating Spider-Man is to check in on Stacy's daughter, Gwen, on a hunch that her safety is now at risk. As it happens, Spider-Man is also checking on Gwen, but for a different reason: he's decided to reveal to her his identity as Peter Parker, feeling trapped by his double identity and perhaps also hoping to ease her mind about Spider-Man being to blame for her father's death. But because of the Prowler's intervention, that plan is derailed.

Perhaps it's just as well, since Spider-Man lurking outside her window and tapping on it to get her attention was likely to have Gwen screaming in terror--not the best of ice-breakers for what Peter had in mind. Regardless, Spidey must now deal with Hobie, who has assumed the worst about Spider-Man and won't be dissuaded from bringing him in.

In close quarters, the Prowler's weaponry might well have decided the battle. But the Prowler has no actual powers, and, in an elevator shaft (yes, it seems someone, somewhere, had the idea that an elevator shaft needed a skylight), must use his limbs to keep himself from falling while somehow going on the offensive against Spider-Man--a super-strong opponent who can adhere to the shaft's surfaces and in all likelihood end this fight at a moment of his choosing. It's only his concern for Hobie's safety that gives him pause, though it's just a matter of time before the inevitable happens.

With Hobie unconscious, Spidey is unable to put him at ease concerning his suspicions and truly resolve the situation--but he can at least see to his care, as well as make a call to the one person who should be at his side--his fiancée, Mindy.

The situation between Gwen and Peter turns out less hopeful--with Peter racing back to Gwen to finally tell her the truth, only to find that she's tearfully departed New York for London to live with relatives. As for Hobie, this issue amounted to a one-shot appearance to follow up with the character after a well-received premiere the prior year. The Prowler would go on to make limited appearances in Spider-Man stories as well as other mags; though, eventually, writers became unsure of what to do with him, even including him in a wake for Stilt-Man because, apparently, Stilt-Man inspired Hobie's creation of the Prowler costume and gear. The scene probably signals the end of the road for this once interesting character.

Amazing Spider-Man #93

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils and Inks: John Romita
Letterer: Artie Simek

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.