VENGEANCE UNBOUND
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SPIDER-MAN # 7

SYNOPSIS
Spider-Man stands shocked with what the Hobgoblin has done to the small boy he kidnapped, the child's face now partly demonic. The boy insists that Hobgoblin is trying to help people, when in truth he's completely insane and murdering anyone he deems to be a "sinner". At that moment, the Ghost Rider bursts through the wall of the warehouse, causing Hobgoblin to believe it is Lucifer himself come to claim him. Ghost Rider declares that he is there to seek vengeance for the twelve people killed by Hobgoblin's hands while Spider-Man tries to help the boy who still insists that Hobgoblin is his friend. Hobgoblin attempts to run Ghost Rider down with his glider, but the Rider simply destroys it, sending the Goblin flying across the room. Utilizing the mystical power granted to him when he was transformed into a demon, Hobgoblin creates a flaming bat-creature to replace his destroyed glider. Ghost Rider and Spider-Man both attack, causing Spider-Man to order the Rider to back-off before his recklessness gets someone killed. When Spider-Man mentions the boy, the Goblin goes berserk and tackles the Rider in order to crash through the ceiling with his enemy. Spider-Man protects the boy when the Ghost Rider falls from the great height, crashing back down into the warehouse.

Hobgoblin re-enters the building, ranting about his mission from God. Spider-Man tells the boy the stay put while he takes care of the Goblin, then asks the boy what his name is. The child answers that his name is Adam. Hobgoblin deflects the two heroes attacks and tells Adam that it is time for the two of them to depart. While the Goblin approaches the boy and takes him in his arms, Ghost Rider boards his motorcycle and guns it toward the maniac. Spider-Man, realizing that Hobgoblin has the boy, yells at Ghost Rider to stop before he kills him. Ignoring the hero, Ghost Rider strikes Hobgoblin with his bike, sending Adam sailing into the air. Spider-Man manages to catch Adam, but not before the boy is badly hurt from the impact. Ghost Rider pummels Hobgoblin into unconsciousness, but is stopped from going further by Spider-Man, who is disgusted at Ghost Rider's viciousness endangering an innocent child. Ghost Rider departs, stating that someday Hobgoblin will not have Spider-Man there to save him from vengeance. Spider-Man holds Adam with Hobgoblin unconscious on the ground while Ghost Rider rides away.

ANNOTATIONS
Ghost Rider appears next in Fantastic Four # 347. where he again teams up with Spider-Man (along with Wolverine and the Hulk).

Hobgoblin was transformed into a true demon by N'astirh in Spectacular Spider-Man # 147, which was part of the "Inferno" crossover.

Ghost Rider gets his second chance to fight Hobgoblin in Ghost Rider (1990) # 16, where he also again encounters Spider-Man.

REVIEW
This issue marks the conclusion to the "Masques" story that started in the previous issue, providing an issue-long battle laced with some overwrought preaching about the nature of heroes from the writer.

Okay, I admit it, Ghost Rider doesn't really come out looking very good at the end of this story, but that's more the deliberate fault of the writer instead of a detriment to the character. Todd McFarlane had a clear idea of what he wanted to do with the character, emphasizing the "vengeance" aspect of the new Ghost Rider to a degree we hadn't yet seen in the character's own title. McFarlane portrays Ghost Rider as an unstoppable force of nature that locks in on his target and lets nothing stand in his way. There's nothing wrong with that take on the character, it's one I rather like in fact, but where McFarlane goes too far is portraying the Rider as willing to endanger an innocent child to gain his vengeance on the villain. The new Ghost Rider was all about protecting and, if needed avenging, those deemed as "innocent", and seeing him nearly run down a child was a bit much. This skewed portrayal was done for no reason other than to trump up Spider-Man as a "truer hero" than the Rider, allowing the writer to speak through Spidey at the end with his speech about real heroes protecting the innocent no matter what. That's all well and good, Spidey, but that's exactly what Ghost Rider does in stories not written by Todd McFarlane.

Even if I didn't care for the way McFarlane went too far with the Ghost Rider's characterization, I still really enjoyed this story-arc. I was apparently one of the few who liked the religiously-insane demon incarnation of the Hobgoblin, but I can see why it might be a hard pill for some readers to swallow. The topics addressed in this story are a bit heavy for your typical Spider-Man story, and it does seem to be an odd fit at times. But this series was far from what one would call "subtle", and like with Ghost Rider McFarlane's portrayal of the insane Hobgoblin goes a bit too far into the realm of ridiculousness. McFarlane was still an amateur writer at this point, and I can forgive some of the heavy-handedness as long as the central story is sound. I don't really appreciate using Spider-Man to preach at us about the nature of "innocence", but at least it doesn't detract from the action in the book.

And yeah, McFarlane could draw one hell of a battle. Even though he made his break into superstardom on the fun-loving Spider-Man, Todd's artwork was suited much more toward the darker characters like Ghost Rider and the more wicked looking villains like Hobgoblin, the Lizard, and Morbius. His rendition of Ghost Rider, in particular, is note worthy just for the manic energy he puts into the Rider's flames.

This story was ambitious, and for the most part it held up okay. Just keep the preaching to a minimum, McFarlane.

Grade: B


Spider-Man # 7
Published: Feb. 1991 Original Price: $1.75
Cover: Todd McFarlane

Title: "Masques", Part 2
Writer: Todd McFarlane
Artist: Todd McFarlane
Letterer: Jim Novak
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-In-Chief: Tom DeFalco