Comic Review: Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin

Published: May 18th, 2017
Written by: Tom DeFalco, Bill Mantlo, Roger Stern
Art by: Ron Frenz, Al Milgrom, John Romita Sr., John Romita Jr., Marie Severin, Mike Zeck

Marvel Comics, 266 Pages

Review:

One thing that’s been pretty consistent with Spider-Man comics over the years is that there have been great origin stories for the title hero’s major villains. 

Origin of the Hobgoblin may seriously take the cake, though, as this is a beefy collection and by the end of it, it’s still not clear who the Hobgoblin is, even though the first few chapters make it obvious and because I read the big reveal years ago.

This collects his first ten or so appearances and even then, his ability to trick and dupe Spider-Man is so damn good that his true identity remains unknown to the hero.

Hobgoblin has always been one of my favorite villains and this just made me love him more and it’s easy to see why he became so popular throughout the ’80s until Venom came along and stole everyone’s thunder for a solid decade.

In this collection, we meet a guy that is pure evil, calculated, smart and able to stay several steps ahead of Spider-Man and his rivals on the crime side of things like The Kingpin. And while Hobgoblin may appear as if he’s simply ripping off Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin persona, which he most definitely is, he also takes the gimmick and improves upon it. Hobgoblin is born out of stealing another man’s legacy but with that, he builds his own, unique identity and he’s still a very different man behind the mask.

The best thing about this collection of issues is the writing. It’s just so damn good and makes me wish that modern mainstream comics could muster up just a tenth of this creativity. The plot is well-structured, layered, unpredictable and not even a wee bit derivative or redundant.

While the year is still young, this is the best comic book that I’ve read so far in 2021. 

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other Spider-Man comics of the ’80s, specifically stories involving the Hobgoblin.

Video Game Review: Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (NES)

While not all licensed property video games are created equal, most in the 8-bit era were terrible. While this isn’t as good as DuckTales or the ’89 Batman game, it is actually better than most games like it. It certainly blows that Nintendo X-Men game out of the water! It’s also a lot less frustrating than the Silver Surfer game, which gave me an ulcer and a permanent lifelong migraine when I was eleven years-old.

This Spider-Man game is fairly okay but it pales in comparison to the 16-bit games like the first Genesis Spider-Man title and the much beloved Maximum Carnage.

Still, this brings together the Sinister Six and lets you fight through them all in an effort to stop their nefarious plan.

This version of the villain group consists of Doctor Octopus, Hobgoblin, The Vulture, The Sandman, Electro and Mysterio. All of them are regular Sinister Six members so I was pretty happy with the lineup, as we didn’t get stuck with some schmo like Carrion, Boomerang, Tarantula, Vermin or Shocker.

As far as design goes, the levels are pretty basic and a bit tedious to work through. Granted, the game certainly isn’t unbeatable and you can get through it with enough practice or if you’re just an 8-bit platform master.

The biggest thing working against you though, isn’t the level design and overabundance of enemies and projectiles, it’s the clunky, shitty mechanics. Spidey is a bitch to control and the physics are terrible.

When it comes to boss battles, most of them seem pretty hard the first time but once you figure out the enemy’s pattern, they aren’t too hard to beat. I actually thought the final boss, Doctor Octopus, was one of the easiest in the game.

Overall, this is both fun and frustrating. For those who grew up in this game’s era and who loved the Sinister Six story arcs in the comics, you’ll most likely enjoy this. Even if it overwhelms you about midway through, it’s not a hard game to adjust to and eventually conquer.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling 8-bit era action games based on comic books characters.

Comic Review: Spider-Man/Red Sonja

Published: 2007
Written by: Michael Avon Oeming
Art by: Mel Rubi, Michael Turner (covers)
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, 144 Pages

Review:

Man, I really wanted to like this but it left me mostly, underwhelmed and baffled.

A long time ago, back when Marvel had the full-time publishing rights to Red Sonja, they did a one-off story about Mary Jane being possessed by Sonja and then had her team-up with her boyfriend, Spider-Man.

This longer, five-part miniseries is just a rehash of that story, as opposed to having Spidey actually team-up with the real Sonja in the flesh.

Still, it’s not the worst idea for bringing these characters together but doing it a second time seems lazy and uninspiring. But then, so does the rest of this story.

Red Sonja’s villain Kulan Gath shows up in modern day New York City to create havoc because that’s what villains do. He then uses Venom to try and take out Sonja and Spidey but ultimately, he steals the Venom symbiote for himself because this story is already cookie cutter as shit and aiming low seems to be what they were going for.

We also get suped up magical versions of well-known Spidey villains because why wouldn’t we?

I don’t know, more often than not, crossovers like this are really bad and half-assed schlock made to grab a buck from multiple fan bases. I guess this one didn’t strive to be anything different.

I mostly liked the interior art though and the covers were solid.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja crossovers or stories that put her in modern times.

Video Game Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (Gameboy)

The Amazing Spider-Man was the game that made me want to get a Gameboy for Christmas the year it came out.

I was really hardcore into Spidey at the time and having the ability to play a Spider-Man game was something that excited the hell out of my eleven year-old brain.

This beat the superior Genesis game by a few years but it was still a really fun game for the time even if it was pretty hard due to wonky controls, poor mechanics and really simplistic graphics and level design.

I think the thing that captivated me the most, at the time, was that it had a good amount of enemies from Spider-Man’s deep rogues gallery.

This featured Mysterio, Hobgoblin, Scorpion, Rhino, Doctor Octopus and Venom, who was new at the time and the favorite comic book character for most boys circa 1990. There are also Lizard cameos throughout the game. Well, I’m assuming it’s either Lizard or people he infected with his condition, as he/they appear at every manhole in the game.

Sadly, the game hasn’t held up well. I don’t think that it was necessarily great for its time either but being that I was such a hardcore web-head, I excused the game’s flaws and just tried to immerse myself into the role of Spider-Man.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as the Spider-Man game for the Sega Genesis and the Maximum Carnage game for multiple consoles.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Revenge of the Sinister Six

Published: 1991-1992
Written by: Erik Larsen, Terry Kavanagh
Art by: Erik Larsen, Scott McDaniel

Marvel Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

I was really digging re-reading all the earliest Sinister Six storylines. But then I got to this one, the third of the three I wanted to re-experience and it really took the wind out of my sails.

This was a complete clusterfuck, narratively speaking.

I guess there is a big difference between the skill level of David Michelinie and Erik Larsen when it comes to writing. The two teamed up for the storyline, The Return of the Sinister Six, a year earlier in The Amazing Spider-Man. In this arc, Larsen took the reigns pretty much solo, as he had been moved to the Spider-Man title while Michelinie was still working on The Amazing Spider-Man with artist Mark Bagley. While that great duo were introducing us to Carnage, Larsen gave us this mess.

The biggest problem with this miniseries, is that it seemed like Larsen was using it as a way to feature and draw all the characters he wasn’t able to touch before this. This is a cameo bonanza in the worst way and many of these characters enter the story just for the hell of it and don’t serve much purpose to the overall narrative. It’s like Larsen just wanted to draw splash pages of the Hulk, Ghost Rider, the Fantastic Four, and a billion different villains. We also get a small and incredibly pointless cameo from Sleepwalker, one of my favorite ’90s characters.

Larsen’s art here was pretty damn solid, I have to give him that. He has a very distinct style and people either love it or hate it, similar to the style of Rob Liefeld. I have mostly liked Larsen’s style and this was interesting to see, as he did this right before jumping ship to Image Comics and his own creation, The Savage Dragon.

I do have to say that Larsen’s writing improves once he goes to Image and I’m thinking that he knew he was leaving when he took on this project and he felt that it was the only chance he would get to draw a lot of these characters.

To put it bluntly though, this story is ’90s as fuck and I don’t mean that complimentary. It’s trying really damn hard to be edgy. In fact, in the final battle all the villains are shooting machine guns like common street thugs while Spider-Man is wearing all this expensive, over the top, ’90s style tech. Hell, Spidey even gets a cyborg arm in this.

Also, the Sinister Six isn’t really even fully formed. Sandman is not on the team and is trying to get the other villains to stop Doctor Octopus. So really, this is the Sinister Five but then they bring in the giant beast Gog. So is he the sixth member now? It’s not really clear and it’s just one of many things that makes this story total chaos.

This was bad, dreadfully bad. I remembered liking it when it originally came out but I was also thirteen years-old and way more into the visual side of comics over having a coherent plot.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the prequel to this one, The Return of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Return of the Sinister Six

Published: 1990
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Erik Larsen, Terry Austin, Mike Machlan

Marvel Comics, 141 Pages

Review:

This story arc took place in The Amazing Spider-Man issue numbers 334 through 339. It was a follow up to the original Sinister Six story that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave us with the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual way back in 1964.

What’s strange to me, is that it took so long for six of Spidey’s best villains to team-up again. However, with Kraven the Hunter being dead, this version of the group replaced him with Hobgoblin. But the team is still led by Doctor Octopus and also features Electro, Mysterio, the Vulture and the Sandman. However, in a bit of a twist, Sandman has gone straight and Octopus blackmails him into joining the group.

This story also features a lot of cameos from other villains and heroes but Spider-Man ultimately faces the Sinister Six on his own and at one point, he finally fights them all at once, which he didn’t do in the first story.

While the Dave Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era of The Amazing Spider-Man is heralded as one of the best of all-time, the Dave Michelinie/Erik Larsen era is also damn good and really just continues off of what Michelinie developed with McFarlane. This came out at the height of me reading Spider-Man comics. To me, this was an event bigger than any of those Infinity things and this wasn’t really even an event.

Reading this now, I almost have a deeper appreciation for it than I did as a kid in 1990. The plot is well constructed and it has a lot of layers to it. Also, there’s a few subplots that have their own interesting narratives. There’s much more here than Peter Parker’s Royal Rumble match with his rogues and it makes this a really rich tale with good character development and real depth.

Some of the plot points, like the bizarreness of Octavius’ scheme are baffling but even the questionable stuff is amusing and just makes me yearn for the early ’90s comic book storytelling style. Twenty-nine years later, I definitely see issues I didn’t as a kid but it in no way wrecks the experience that is this great arc.

Also at the time, I was a hardcore Erik Larsen fan. I first discovered his art on this title. While I always preferred McFarlane, through the eyes of an eleven year-old, Larsen was a comic art superstar. I loved how he drew Spidey and his iconic villains and I think it still looks great. While I respect Larsen and McFarlane for forming Image and coming out with their own comics, there’s that part of me that wished that they both would’ve stuck around and worked on Spider-Man books a bit longer, as I was just so in love with what they were doing at the time and wasn’t ready to let them hand it off to someone else. But then, Mark Bagley did do a fine job, as well.

All these years later, this was fun to pick up again. I was a little worried that I’d think it’d suck now but it brought me back to where I was, reading it for the first time in 1990. Sometimes picking up old comics is like opening a time capsule. With this one, I was happy to find that it was even better than I remembered it.

And now I can’t wait to revisit its sequel, The Revenge of the Sinister Six.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Sinister Six story, as well as the sequel to this one, The Revenge of the Sinister Six. Also, anything from the Michelinie and Larsen run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 6: Goblin Nation

Published: April 30th, 2015
Written by: Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Javier Rodriguez

Marvel Comics, 172 Pages

Review:

Well, it’s been a heck of a ride but here we are, at the sixth and final collection of Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man series.

For those who aren’t aware, Doctor Octopus has taken over the body of Peter Parker and taken over the mantle of Spider-Man with the idea that he can be the “Superior” Spider-Man. It’s a weird premise and initially I thought it was stupid but as I have read on in this series, I’m impressed by it. Some collections have been good, some have been average but overall the series has worked for me and it’s sad seeing it come to an end but you can’t let stories this controversial and ridiculous go on for too long.

This immediately starts with a bang, as it is quickly revealed that the Green Goblin knows that Otto Octavius is Spider-Man. This then spirals into a war between the Goblin and Superior Spidey. However, the Goblin has more intelligence, an army and a very important hostage. Ock-Spidey has, well… himself.

Frankly, Dan Slott closed this series out with a bang. I’m not a huge fan of his writing and have mostly disliked a large portion of his ten year Spider-Man run. But this was some really solid storytelling, utilized all the core characters well and brought things to a close in a pretty powerful way. The final two issues of this series were exceptionally well written and tapped into those feelings I got, as a kid, reading the classic Spider-Man stories I loved.

Ultimately, Peter Parker gets his body back. Explaining the how or why would spoil the effect of seeing this unfold on paper and I don’t want to take that away from anyone that wants to read this. But it was nice seeing Slott give some space at the end to allow the real Parker to try and fix the damage that Octavius did to his life as both Peter and Spidey.

Slott isn’t the best writer when it comes to plotting a single issue but between this and his recent conclusion to The Amazing Spider-Man (with issue 800), he has shown that he can be a great storyteller over the long-term. He has a big idea, he strings you along and then he can deliver a satisfactory conclusion that usually makes up for whatever hiccups you experienced along the way.

This was a great book and this series, despite my strong reservations about the premise, was one of the best Spider-Man experiences I’ve had in a really long time.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 5: The Superior Venom

Published: July 17th, 2014
Written by: Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage
Art by: Humberto Ramos, Javier Rodriquez

Marvel Comics, 158 Pages

Review:

After the previous volume of Superior Spider-Man, which was mostly slow moving filler, we are rewarded with this action fest.

In this story, Otto-Spidey meets the Venom symbiote for the first time. This is during the era where Flash Thompson had the alien suit. After a scuffle, the Superior Spider-Man becomes the symbiote’s new host and shit goes crazy in his personal and superhero life. This all leads to Venom-Octavius taking on the Avengers in the streets of New York.

The Venom-centric storyline is the highlight of this collection but the two one issue stories that follow are also pretty good, especially the final one which was a story from an annual that saw Dr. Octo-Spider take on Ghost Rider baddie, Blackout.

The Blackout story was important simply because Aunt May is in mortal danger and she ends up witnessing Superior Spider-Man commit a truly heinous act.

Another big takeaway from this is that even though Spidey-pus already dealt with the Avengers once before, this is his first time dealing with Tony Stark, who is probably going to discover that this is not the Spider-Man that they all know and love.

Also, the ghost Peter Parker returns here, after being banished from his own physical brain by Octavius.

Between ghost Parker and Iron Man’s meddling into things, it’s obvious that shit is about to hit the fan and that Octavius’ hijacking of Parker’s body is going to be exposed. So where will it go? Well, the next collection is the big conclusion.

This volume did a good job of building off of the previous ones while serving to setup the final chapter.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 4: Necessary Evil

Published: January 15th, 2014
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Ryan Stegman

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

This is the fourth out of six collected volumes of Dan Slott’s controversial Superior Spider-Man series. This was my least favorite installment but it was still enjoyable.

Necessary Evil felt more like filler and it didn’t do much to advance any of the larger story arcs other than some of the stuff in Spidey’s personal life.

For instance, the company he works for gets shut down and he gets his doctorate. Other than that, the plot thread with the various Goblin villains was, more or less, at a stand still here, even though you were reminded about it a few times.

The biggest positive was seeing Spider-Man 2099 going back in time, once again. However, this was his first interaction with Otto Octavius as Spider-Man, so things went awry and we got a decent fight. Eventually, they have to work together and their story was good for the first three issues in this volume.

The final two issues dealt with more personal stuff for Spidey.

This wasn’t a complete waste of time and it needed to slow things down for a handful of issues anyway, as this series was thundering forward at breakneck speed since it started.

The most important thing, is that I’m still on board and looking forward to the next volume, which pits Doc Ock Spidey against Venom.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.

Comic Review: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 3: No Escape

Published: November 20th, 2013
Written by: Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage
Art by: Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli

Marvel Comics, 139 Pages

Review:

I have been surprised by this series. I wasn’t too keen on the premise and I thought it was way too bizarre to work and was just a shitty attempt at shocking audiences, creating controversy and attempting a cash grab. I mean, it was exactly that but the story, once you move past the absurdity of it, is pretty damn good.

Also, each volume I read is a bit better than the previous one. This gets right into some action and is actually two stories collected into one volume: each story being solid, action packed and fun.

I love this character and how it is such a drastic departure from the Peter Parker Spider-Man. He is a super intelligent vigilante that blackmails the mayor (J. Jonah Jameson, mind you) into supporting his cause publicly and financially (on the city’s dime).

The first story sees Spider-Man take on the Spider Slayer, Vulture, Boomerang and Scorpion on the island prison, the Raft. Obviously, he succeeds but then forces the mayor to give him the Raft to use as his headquarters for his technological war on crime. Spider-Man also gets help from the Lizard in this story.

Then we see Spidey using his tech, giant mecha and foot soldiers in a successful effort at destroying the Kingpin’s stronghold. This brings the new Hobgoblin back into the story, as well as the Green Goblin/Goblin King. Spidey’s weird behavior and blatant fascism brings the modern version of the Wraith into the picture as well. There is even an appearance by Menace, who was a Goblin character that Dan Slott created early in his Spider-Man run.

I’m digging this series a lot more than I thought I would. After finishing this, the last free volume on Comixology, I had to buy the remaining three collections in order to finish this series.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other Superior Spider-Man collections and any of Dan Slott’s other Spider-Man titles.