A month ago, Mary Jane had been pregnant. She had given birth in the hospital to a baby girl, which she and her husband had planned to name May. The doctors had told her that May died shortly after birth. She grieved, along with Peter, and eventually they moved on with their lives. But now it seemed that all of that had been a lie. Mary Jane stared in disbelief at the hooded stranger who had followed her from the city to her home in Forest Hills, Queens.
"What are you talking about?"
"May is alive," the man said again. "I'm sorry to surprise you like this, but I just found out myself. That's not the only thing you've been lied to about, either, but it's all I can tell you right now."
The man groaned and collapsed, holding his stomach. He moaned and fell. Mary Jane stared cautiously at him, then moved in to touch him, see if he was all right.
She was startled when he suddenly leaped up directly in front of her. So startled that she didn't immediately look up to follow his path. When she did have the presence of mind to look around, he was gone, lost somewhere in the suburban area that was her home.
With the strange man gone, and some of her fear assuaged, she took a second to realize what she had just been told. Her daughter, May, was alive. She did the only thing she could do. She fainted.
"C'mon, Shocker! Didn't we just do this?*" Spidey continued to make quips as he dodged blast after blast from the Shocker's gloves. (*They did indeed! As recently as Fantastic Four #432 – Fantastic Randy)
"You get out of prison, you come attack me, I put you down, you go back to prison for a while...it's a vicious cycle, really," Spidey continued. He was having a hard time taking Shocker seriously. The last two fights had basically been cakewalks, just avoiding him long enough to get in a good enough shot.
"You had help before! The Torch helped you!"
Spidey moved in, but had to jump back as the Shocker fired another blast at him. No room to maneuver on these blasted rooftops. That's what he got for hanging around rooftops in costume, no matter how gorgeous a day it was. His enemies always seemed to find him when he was enjoying a moment of relaxation.
"Besides," Shocker said, reaching for a dial on his belt, "I've gotten an upgrade since last time."
He twisted the dial and fired again, and a wide range beam of sonics emerged from his gauntlets. They poured over Spidey, and because of the width of the area, Spidey couldn't dodge them. He cried out in pain as he fell, his eardrums throbbing. His hearing was gone, replaced by a loud roaring sound.
Shocker aimed again, ready to fire. Peter couldn't hear his own words, but he knew what he was saying. "Shocker, you really are an idiot. Brag about your new devices, but you keep putting them in the same old place."
With that, Spidey fired two weblines that attached to Shocker's belt.
"What? No!" Spidey yanked with his right arm, and much to his surprise, the belt didn't come loose. Instead, the Shocker came flying toward him. Spidey couldn't duck, as that would send Shocker sailing past him and over the roof to the city street below. So he did the next best thing. He hauled back with his left arm and punched Shocker as he came in close, sending him careening in the other direction. Another tug on the weblines brought him back, like some kind of living paddle-ball. Shocker desperately tried to aim his gauntlets again, but another good punch from Spidey knocked the wind out of him, even through his padded costume.
Spidey took the momentary respite to yank the belt off Shocker. His hearing started to return, as he heard the audible thrumming of Shocker's new equipment die down, it's power source clearly routed through the belt.
"It doesn't matter," Shocker said. "I may have failed, but somebody will get you. That much money? I'm only the first."
"What?" Spidey said, shaking his head. He knew his hearing had come back, but he wasn't sure he was hearing right. "What money?"
Shocker's face was hidden behind his mask, but Spidey could sense the smugness in his motion, and he had no doubt the villain was smiling. He produced a flier from underneath his padded vest. On it was a picture of Spidey, one that he himself had taken as Peter Parker. A crosshairs had been superimposed on the picture, and below it read: "$1,000,000 for the death or serious maiming of Spider-Man."
Ben Urich walked calmly past the security desk in Osborn Chemicals lobby. He had managed to get a forged ID from a friend of his, and if security here was anything like normal security, they wouldn't even notice him.
"Excuse me, sir?"
No such luck. Security here was paying attention. Ben smiled and walked over to the desk, where a very polite but imposing young man in a fine suit was standing. Ben could see the bulge of a gun underneath his jacket. He didn't look like a man who needed to use one. He was huge, built like a linebacker. The nametag affixed to his jacket pocket read "Colin Warven."
"Yes, Colin, what can I do for you?"
First rule was to be friendly, and give them a second of wondering how you knew that. He'd figure out pretty fast that it was the nametag, but the momentary dissonance would put him off his guard.
"I don't recognize you. Are you new?"
"Yep. Ben Pollux, safety inspector at one of the plants. I was here to do a little background research." Ben produced the clip-on badge for the security man to take a look at.
Collin took the badge and glanced at it briefly, then up at Ben. There was a moment when Ben wondered if his source had gotten the ID wrong, and if he was about to have to run for it. But Collin just shrugged, smiled and handed the badge back.
"Have a good day, sir."
Ben walked past him and down the hall to the elevator, descending into the bowels of Osborn Chemical's records room. While he and Betty had been investigating a lead on the Hobgoblin, they had also run into some information on the Green Goblin, also known as Norman Osborn. Or at least, known to some. Ben knew that Osborn was really the Green Goblin, no matter what his current spin doctors said. But his spin doctors were good, and they'd gotten Ben's book "Legacy of Evil" discredited. Along with Ben himself.
It didn't matter. Ben was an investigative reporter. He knew Osborn would slip up eventually. He also knew that Osborn would have designs on getting his chemical company back. Ben had heard from informants that some very interesting chemical recipes were locked in the company mainframe, if one knew the right access codes to get at them.
Ben walked past the stacks of paper files, toward the first monitor he could find. He was all alone down here. Hopefully it would stay that way. The room didn't look like it got much use. It was like the lower sections of a library, with shelves on either side, and an occasional space with desks, chairs and in this case a computer terminal. Dust covered a lot of it, and about half the lights were burnt out, leaving the white fluorescent glow covering only a portion of the room.
Ben sat at the computer and turned it on, the green glow illuminating his face in the shadowy alcove. He began typing the commands and access codes he had been given. After a few minutes, he found himself watching a chemical formula scroll onto the screen. He pulled out his notebook and began jotting it down, unsure what it all meant.
He was surprised when he got to the entry records. The original entry had been made long ago, by Norman Osborn. However, the latest date indicated that it had been accessed yesterday, also by Norman Osborn! He shouldn't have had access to Osborn Chemicals' files at this point!
Ben heard footsteps from the hallway. If Osborn was still using these files, there could be no doubt that security had been alerted. He shut down the terminal and shoved the notebook into his pocket, then moved cautiously out into the hallway and down to the next elevator. This was interesting, even better than he had expected. Now all he needed was someone who knew something about chemistry to help him decipher it.
Norman Osborn sat in Liz Osborn's office upstairs at the chemical headquarters. It was her office, her domain, and yet he looked perfectly at home, as if this was where he belonged. In his mind, Liz knew that it was.
"Now, Liz, be reasonable..."
"I am being reasonable," Liz said. "You were considered dead. You say you spent time in Europe recovering. In that time, others took over the company. And I talked to them, and we've decided to refuse your generous offer of cash in exchange for a seat on the board. I'm sorry, Norman, truly, but that's the way it is."
Norman smiled at her. "I'm sorry too, Liz. Because you leave me no choice."
He reached inside his jacket and Liz flinched. She had half expected him to pull out a gun, or a pumpkin bomb, or something like that. Instead he produced a piece of paper and laid it gently on her desk.
"What's that?" she asked.
"Court documents. If you want to challenge the decision, you're of course welcome to, but according to this ruling, I can resume my duties with Osborn Chemical effective immediately."
"What?! You couldn't have done this without me in the hearing!"
"Yes, I could. The proxy that you sent was quite helpful."
Liz had a sinking feeling. She'd been out-maneuvered. While she had been talking with her board of directors and getting them to back her play against Norman, he had simply pulled off a charade, having someone pose as a "proxy" for the company. Probably someone who actually worked for the company. Hell, he might even have bribed the judge so he'd go along with it.
"This isn't over, Norman. You've made a big mistake," Liz said. "I'll prove that you forged those."
Norman walked toward the door. "Do what you have to do, Liz. But be aware that there will be...consequences."
"Don't threaten me Norman," Liz growled.
"Not a threat, my darling daughter-in-law. Just a statement of fact. All actions have consequences. And I'd hate for you to do anything that would bring harm to yourself, or to my grandson. You both mean the world to me, you know."
The door slammed behind him. Liz stared at it, and gasped as it opened again to reveal his leering face.
"Oh, and will you be a dear and have your things out of the office by 5:00? I'd like to move in and start rebuilding my company tonight."
Later that day, Norman Osborn sat in his office, the door closed. His eager assistant Flash would stay out if the door was closed, and Norman needed his privacy.
He spoke into the phone. "Yes...all is proceeding as planned. I've taken over Osborn Chemicals again. I appreciate your help as always. Without your funding, and the aid of some of your people inside the company, this would have taken a lot longer."
Norman moaned softly in pain. "No...I'm fine. Goodbye."
He hung up the phone and looked at his hand. It was flaking a little, looking gaunt and almost translucent in the light. It wouldn't be long now. He was degenerating too fast.
Good, he thought. As long as Spider-Man plays his part as I expect,
this should all work out just fine.
Lots of mail this time out. You folks have been great with the feedback, and I really appreciate it. Hope you enjoy this one. I'm delving into dangerous territory and some unpopular concepts with this story, but trust me, I think the payoff will be worth it.
A great issue, Randy. Good to see Jason back! I also liked the return of NOW magazine...now if only you could convince Van to have Carol Danvers work there again :) You seem to have a knack for bringing back forgotten supporting cast members, like Jason and Joy. Good job...the current supporting cast (including Flash) is boring to me, these days. Wouldn't break my heart to see Betty get a job out of town or Flash to move off either.
One quick question, though : I was thrown for a loop when Peter wondered about Jason Macendale. I thought Macendale was killed by the real Hobgoblin in the Roger Stern written Hobgoblin Lives! series...isn't Roderick Kingsley the Hobgoblin in MV1, as in the real MU? Just curious.
Keep up the good work,
I'm a fan of Flash and Betty Brant Leeds, although neither has been treated kindly since their early days in the title. I hope you enjoy the mix of new and old supporting cast here.
As for Hobgoblin Lives!, much as I love the story, it happened long after Spectacular Spider-Man #250, where I began this series. So the true identity of Hobgoblin is still a mystery, but have faith. I have nothing but respect for Roger Stern's take on the character...after all, he created him...and his true identity will be revealed soon enough. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
What can I say but... Spectacular! I think I just found my favourite Spidey book. When I read an issue I can almost picture the artwork looking like a hybrid between John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr. I find it absolutely fascinating that you made me interested in a character that never did it for me in the first place (i.e. Venom) and that your scene with the Scorpion almost gave me chills. I particularly like the Hobgoblin/Green Goblin story elements the most. And I hope to see more of the Kingpin.
Of course, Tim will be seeing a *lot* of the Kingpin, since he is writing the first issue of CRIME WAVE, the MV1 mini-crossover co-plotted by myself, Tim, Barry Reese, Ralph Angelo Jr., and TJ Burns. As for the Hobgoblin/Green Goblin story, hang in there. I've got a plan for them that I'm really excited about.
Great Issue Randy! While things were quieter here than the last issue, it's still nice to see a little bit of what Peter will be doing over the next few months! The Hobgoblin's plans are interesting to me, and I can't wait to see how this leads into the revelations about Norman Osborn! Lastly, that last paragraph was a shocker, probably the best cliffhanger since Barry's recent Moon Knight issue. Can't wait until next issue!
Things are still a little quiet here in the beginning of the story, but we'll have some all-out action coming up very soon. I hope the hints I dropped about various things this issue have whetted your appetite for more as well.
A great second issue, Randy. And what an ending! I'm pleased to see Jason Ionello again, as well.
The Osborn/Hobgoblin/Green Goblin developments are what fascinate me the most about this series so far. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this - especially since some of the first comics I bought with my own money were the classic original Hobgoblin tales by Stern and Defalco. (Which reminds me - thanks for bringing back Lance Bannon!)
One request: it seems to me that Spidey is about constant growth in life. With that in mind, I'd like to see him actually finish graduate school and get a "real" job before too long!
It's fun playing with these long-forgotten supporting characters, like
Jason and Lance. Stern's run on Spidey was when I first started collecting
him as well, so I think you'll probably see a lot of echoes of that, as
well as the Lee/Ditko stuff (thank you Essential volumes) and echoes of
Busiek's take on the character in the series. I wouldn't mind seeing Peter
take on a new job either, but it won't happen for a little while at least.
I'd hate to lose all the Daily Bugle interaction so soon!