"Hobgoblin, Part Three"
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p), Scott Hanna (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: As Peter finds himself deeply disturbed by Harry Osborn's return, his discomfort is made even greater when Harry doesn't act like a raving loon, but rather he seems to be quite level headed about the situation. Then Peter's growing discomfort has him taking out his frustration on Mary Jane, as he takes her to task for keeping her former relationship with Harry a secret. As Peter storms off, we see his distraught state nearly results in his crossing the line between misunderstood costumed hero and murderer.
Comments: Peter and Mary Jane's relationship was a central element of this book so I found it a little surprising that this issue had so little dramatic punch. Watching this relationship crumble under the strain should make for an engaging read, but Brian Michael Bendis doesn't really create the sense that these two are actually calling it quits. Even if this is only a bump in the road, the writing should be able to sell the illusion that there is a very good chance that the happy couple is no more. Instead what we get is a rather ordinary scene where the emotions are only half realized, and the tired reasoning that Peter gives for his decision doesn't create the sense that this break will be a lasting one. In fact, based on this issue I'd be surprised if this rocky road lasts beyond this arc, and this is a shame because if one wanted to really shake up the readers' expectations, that having Peter and Mary Jane heading their separate ways would be a very good first step. Now this issue does nicely sell the underlying danger that Harry poses as Brian Michael Bendis smartly holds off turning Harry into a revenge driven villain who is demanding his pound of flesh. In fact, my favourite scene in this issue occurs when Mary Jane and Harry have their meeting, and Harry takes steps to show MJ that he knows Peter's secret. There's also a nice little bit where an enraged Spider-Man very nearly crosses a line when he lashes out at a thug in anger, and this leads to a nice follow-up scene that introduces Captain Jeanne De Wolfe as a supporting player. The cliff-hanger moment also leaves us in a rather promising position, and I can't deny the title of this arc remains quite tantalizing.
This issue doesn't really play to Mark Bagley's strengths as an artist, as by in large this is a talking heads affair. While there's nothing wrong with his art, I've never been all that impressed by the emotional range of his characters. Now there are some solid moments in this issue as Peter's wide-eyed innocence in the opening pages is nicely contrasted by Harry unreadable expressions. There's also a lovely visual sequence in this issue where Peter and Mary Jane are passing notes, and the impact of the scene is perfectly conveyed by the art. I also enjoyed Mary Jane stunned expression when Harry reveals that he knows Peter is Spider-Man, and the emotional impact of the panel where Spider-Man arrives at the hospital holding the body of a man he may have killed was an undeniably powerful moment. While the cover image tells one nothing about the story inside, I can't deny it's a great shot of the character, and it does a fantastic job of underscoring the darker turn that the story takes.
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