A look at the state of Spider-Man before Joe Quesada turned his attention to fixing Marvel’s flagship hero.
Spider-Man: Revenge of the Green Goblin is a massive trade paperback with a $39.99 price tag. A few pages in, you’ll stop, check the cover and ask, “What am I reading again?” And then, when you finish it, you’ll stop, check the cover and ask, “What did I just read again?”
That’s because while this collection promises the Green Goblin’s revenge, Norman Obsorn’s sinister alter ego doesn’t appear all that much. For much of the book, Spider-Man’s fighting Spider Slayers, an evil senator (for multiple issues!), the Squid, the Enforcers and some dude who faked Mary Jane’s death.
Yeah, remember when Peter Parker thought his wife was dead around the turn of the century? That was a fun time for one of Marvel’s most comedic characters.
I feel like this is a good point to provide a little context on the stories featured in Revenge, because casual Spidey fans are likely to be a bit confused.
There was a time before “One More Day” when Marvel didn’t know how to make Spider-Man single again (#MSSA). So, a few issues into the hero’s relaunched series, they put his wife on a plane and blew it up. Problem solved! Because the only thing more relatable than married Peter is… widowed Peter?
Anyway, Marvel didn’t stop there – they wanted to capture the feel of those classic Spidey stories. So, in addition to being single again, Pete’s got a roommate, Randy Robertson, money problems and single friends, like Jill Stacy – cousin of another one of Parker’s dead former lovers, Gwen Stacy! That’s right, around this time, a whole other bunch of Stacys were in Peter’s supporting cast, including Jill’s father Arthur, brother of the late George Stacy. Jill was also set up as a potential love interest.
It was all very weird and felt so forced. It’s was also upsetting to see Randy, aka Marvel Editorial, pushing Peter to party and date so soon after he lost his wife. Let the guy mourn!
This was right before writer J. Michael Straczynski took over Amazing Spider-Man, replacing long-time Spidey scribe Howard Mackie. I remember enjoying Mackie’s writing when I read these comics the first time around, but now that I’m older, the storytelling definitely feels dated. Also, many of the references are very dated – the curse of writing “witty” Spidey banter, I suppose.
For instance, Spider-Man references The Mummy (not the Tom Cruise version), while Aunt May talks about Al Gore and Hanging Chads. Poor May… U.S. elections are only going to get more complicated.
So why does this collection begin with two issues about Spider Slayers, then tie into Marvel’s “Maximum Security” event for an additional three? Because there are little Goblin story teases here and there, and you want to read the full saga, right?
When we finally arrive at the three-issue mini-series this trade gets its name from, the story’s actually pretty good. Writer Roger Stern and artist Ron Frenz dig into Osborn’s family history and the personal events that made him into Spider-Man’s greatest foe. We see how Osborn, with the help of spiked toothpaste, gets Peter to a point where he’s willing to become the true heir of the Green Goblin. It’s definitely an interesting story, though at times, it felt more like the creators were trying to tell a Batman/Joker story (specifically the chapter written by Paul Jenkins).
And then, the Goblin saga is over and we’re back to some pretty pointless done-in-one Spidey stories. One about the Squid, another about a stray cat and the last one about the Enforcers. They all seem like filler content before Marvel forced a wrap-up to the lingering Mary Jane mystery in the strangest way possible – a guy touched Spider-Man, absorbed his memories, became obsessed with MJ, drugged her with a lolipop, blew up a plane full of passengers to make the world think she was dead, kept her hidden away for months – all to lure Spider-Man so he could finally take over his life.
LOL, what? Thank God this story was released before social media existed.
Also, check out this hilarious scene where Spidey drops off a TV for this witch friend of Randy’s who really freaks Pete out. “Did Randy happen to mention the piercings? The tattoos? The witchcraft?” Peter says upon returning to his apartment.
This is a guy who’s fought Venom and he’s afraid of piercings? If that’s your idea of classic Spider-Man comedy, then this is the book for you. Things only get more bizarre – and editorially forced – in the final issue in this collection. Spidey basically spends the entire story trying to get MJ to have sex with him and the story ends with her leaving him (for the time being) so she can find herself… I guess. Either way, you gotta feel bad for the guy. He spends the entire book missing his wife, then when he finally finds her (and rescues her!), she’s like, “Cool, I’m gonna jet.”
$40 is a lot to spend on a trade paperback. So, I would only recommend this collection to Spider-Man completists and those who enjoy Green Goblin stories. It’s by no means a classic tale we’re all still talking about today, but it certainly features some great art from John Romita Jr., along with the likes of Mark Buckingham and Lee Weeks.
But ultimately, this collection stands as an example of how Spider-Man was a bit lost before Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada turned his attention to “fixing” him. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of what Straczynski did with the character, Spidey couldn’t keep flirting with another Stacy girl and chasing after stray cats.
I think if Peter could read this collection, he just might view becoming the Green Goblin’s heir as a better alternative to delivering televisions to goth girls.