Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Goblin's Last Stand!

With his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, meeting her death while being menaced by the Green Goblin (which seems to be the best way to look at the situation, under the circumstances), and the Goblin remaining free while vowing to bring that same fate to his foe, the amazing and no doubt shell-shocked Spider-Man is likely giving serious thought to committing the first murder of his career. Though if you line up the issue's sensational cover with its more restrained splash page, each of which depicts basically the same scene, it's hard to know which Spider-Man the Goblin will be dealing with: the Spider-Man exploding with rage, or the one whose rage is still simmering and kept in check by his grief.

In other words, the question you may find yourself asking right off is:

"Wait--which comic did I end up buying?"

Don't worry, it's not a question we're going to dwell on to any extent. I'd know how I'd be reacting if my girlfriend had been killed by a taunting maniac whose fright mask makes it look like he's enjoyed taking her life, and it wouldn't be anything like the composed guy on the splash page who is mentally checking off "deal with the Goblin" on his things-to-do list.

Make no mistake, though--Spider-Man is coming for the Green Goblin.

In these opening scenes, it looks like Spider-Man is going to settle up with the Goblin then and there, though it's the Goblin who has every intent on fatally dealing with his web-slinging foe once and for all. But writer Gerry Conway and artist Gil Kane instead dedicate this entire issue to the hunt and the retribution--otherwise, the matter is either settled too quickly with the villain getting his just deserts before the story is ready for such a climax, and thereby wasting the dramatic buildup to Gwen's death. As we'll see, there is much for Peter Parker to resolve within himself as he relentlessly tracks down the one who has destroyed his happiness, since the "turning point" caption that blazed across the prior issue's cover might also hold true insofar as how Spider-Man emerges from the next 24 hours.

As it looks now, however, the Goblin will be lucky to survive the next few minutes.

Sufficiently battered, the Goblin wisely decides to withdraw while he still can, leaving Spider-Man to see to the dead Gwen Stacy, who is already being seen to by the authorities. It's a moment that Conway handles particularly well--full of very human reactions from not only Spider-Man, but also the police on the scene who have mostly existed in a state of détente with the wall-crawler and have been cautious when giving him the benefit of the doubt. For Spidey, it's perhaps not the presence of the growing crowd nor the police which disturbs him, so much as the fact that he hasn't yet been allowed the time to say a proper good-bye to this woman who meant so much to him--and that precious time is in jeopardy now that her death has been discovered.

It's probably to no reader's surprise that Peter's mind sifts through the memories of his growing relationship with Gwen, starting from their introduction in college and sustaining him in the good times and the bad. But in his grief, Peter cannot help but begin to blame himself, as Spider-Man, for being at the root of this heart-breaking incident as he has been for so many others--and in so doing, he practically incriminates himself and establishes himself as a fugitive.

Heading directly for Osborn's townhouse afterward, Peter asks himself a question that may very well cross the mind of the reader as well at this point, given how often Osborn has evaded responsibility for his actions as the Goblin: With what the Goblin has done here, what's keeping Spider-Man from giving the police every bit of information on Norman Osborn that he has? For one thing, the Goblin is still at large, and could easily return the favor since he knows Peter and Spider-Man are one and the same; but in terms of this story, Peter has set himself on a path of revenge, and we don't yet know how far down that path he's willing to go. The answer might well be as much a part of this tale's climax as the fate of the Goblin.

The first order of business is to get a lead on Osborn's present location--and the person most likely to have that information for Peter is Osborn's son, Harry. But we saw in the previous issue that, due to drug abuse, Harry was in no shape to form a coherent thought--and with Harry's condition unchanged, Peter's single-minded pursuit of the Goblin forces him to take the first steps toward choosing between doing the right thing vs. what's necessary. Thus, he becomes as deaf to the pleas of a friend as he has to police commands to surrender.

But there are other ways of tracking the movements of someone, and Spider-Man takes advantage of his connections to the Daily Bugle--and one man in particular, who finds himself one of the initial people who experiences the first shockwaves of Gwen's death reverberating among those whom she counted as friends.

At times, Conway is a little too thorough for his own good. What city editor is going to be caught off-guard by a news piece in his own paper? It's clear from Kane's panels that the news of Gwen's death has taken Robertson by complete surprise--not from reading a reporter's column on the subject, but from a note that someone on staff had placed on his desk.

Regardless, Robbie's info to Spider-Man bears fruit, and we finally join the Goblin at the warehouse in question, where he, too, is making preparations to confront his enemy. But as vengeful as the Goblin feels toward Spider-Man, it isn't a tenth of the vengeance that his foe brings to his doorstep now.

As has been evident throughout this story, and briefly mentioned in the prior post, Spider-Man shows no trace here of the debilitating virus that he came down with just before he discovered Gwen had been taken captive by the Goblin--a virus that suddenly vanished without a trace when the time came for Spider-Man to be effective in taking on the Goblin for keeps. It's admittedly difficult to revisit the subject in light of the battle shaping up before us here, especially since we want to see Spider-Man at no less than his best when delivering his retribution to Osborn--an enemy who has always been one step ahead of him, until now.

Despite all the times the maneuver has been used, I've never been clear on how a ball of webbing can have the impact of a punch. Are those web-shooters powered by repulsors?

Thanks to his ill-chosen words, the Goblin finds himself on the receiving end of Spider-Man's flailing fists. Kane has outdone himself in these panels--while Conway has finally unleashed Peter's rage after spending most of the issue keeping it under wraps. Peter has come to the point where he stands on the precipice of choosing between revenge, or justice. Will he still think of them as one and the same?

No suspension of disbelief is going to possibly help us to swallow what's playing out before our eyes here. Any jet-propelled device that emits that much exhaust is going be noisy enough in flight to be easily heard on its approach, no matter how focused Spider-Man is on his foe--yet look how close it's able to come undetected, its jet engine propelling it across the room without so much as a pause from Spidey. With the fight suspended, it stands to reason that if you can hear each other's words, you're going to hear a jet engine. Fortunately, Spidey has his spider-sense making up the difference--and the Green Goblin meets the gruesome end that he had planned for his nemesis.

Contrary to Spider-Man's closing words, you could assign a good deal of meaning to Osborn's death--an end reached after a long criminal career that saw him succumb to schizophrenia and then finally to financial ruin and madness. A senseless accident? -- or the justice that would both satisfy Spider-Man and, in a way, balance the scales vis-à-vis Gwen? Also, through his own doing, the Goblin would never menace another innocent person, or cause others like Peter to live with the shattering grief of their loss.

It's indeed that sense of loss which becomes the focus of Part 3 of this saga, where Peter attempts to find his way back to some semblance of his life--and unfortunately discovers that it means going through Luke Cage first.

Amazing Spider-Man #122

Script: Gerry Conway
Pencils: Gil Kane
Inks: John Romita and Tony Mortellaro
Letterer: Art Simek


Gvieto said...

A terrible way for a Spider Man villain way to die.

Jared said...

One of the ten best battles between a hero and his arch enemy ever. Beautiful art. I actually like the Goblin's "death". After killing Gwen, the Goblin is pretty much cashed out. The story had to end with his death. It's a genius way to accomplish this without having Spider-man cross the line.

I still find myself angry that Norman Osborne was brought back to life in the utterly pointless Clone Saga. His role as the adversary in the Dark Reign era, however, turned out some very strong character work. Not sure it is good enough to overcome overturning such an iconic issue, though.

Comicsfan said...

Jared, I liked Osborn's character quite a lot in the "Dark..." books, particularly given how sensitive he proved to be at any reference to his past as the Green Goblin. I'll have to refresh my memory on the issues where Spider-Man or Peter came into contact with him--I can't imagine Peter would just go about his business as though Osborn walking around scot-free didn't bother him. The only time I can recall where it rankled Spidey to any extent was during the publication of The Pulse.