REVIEW: Amazing Spider-Man #696

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“The World’s Greatest Super Hero” finds himself in a bind in his latest adventure! Peter Parker is faced with another seemingly hopeless situation as he spends the issue at the mercy of the Kingpin and the new Hobgoblin! The word is out that “Amazing” will be ending in a scant four issues. Every moment of every remaining issue counts, and with that in mind, let Major Spoilers guide you through AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #696…

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #696
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks: Dan Green
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN:  Issue #695 of Amazing Spider-Man kicked off a new arc that saw the classic Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley, return to New York City. Of course, the new Hobgoblin, Phil Urich, has weaseled his way into the Kingpin’s trust and now serves as his enforcer. Peter Parker finds himself in the crosshairs of all three villains this issue, captured in his civilian identity and being used as bait to lure Spider-Man out of hiding. A lot of preparation has been made, and this issue should see a lot of payoff…

DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN…WHILE TIED TO A CHAIR

Right off the bat, I can say that this issue fell a little flat for me. Sure, there’s the Dan Slott and Christos Gage dialogue and characterization that most of us have loved since “Big Time” began many issues ago…Each of the characters, from Peter Parker to Wilson Fisk to Max Modell, have some interesting thoughts that the reader is privy to. It’s just that there’s not a lot of weight to this story.

The central plot of this issue is that Peter Parker is being held for ransom by Kingpin and the Phil-Goblin. Spidey had swiped a very important briefcase from the two villains last issue. Now that the public believes Parker designs Spider-Man’s tech, the baddies hope that holding Parker will force Spider-Man to appear. This conflict is set up smartly, but a huge opportunity is missed in its resolution: Peter never gets the chance to use his brains and cleverness to think of a way to escape captivity. Rather, Max Modell enters the scene, the sole reason seemingly being a quick way to get Web Shooters into the story, not long before Rod-Goblin arrives, who inadvertently helps Peter escape. Not once do we get to see Spider-Man in costume or taking the fight to the bad guys. Instead, the two Hobgoblins end up tripping all over each other in a scene overcrowded with braggadocio and Hand ninjas. The whole thing feels clumsy and very uncharacteristic of Slott’s run.

At this point in the series, there’s no real reason for the return of Roderick Kingsley. Phil Urich may not be the original Hobgoblin (or even the second), but he has already staked his place in modern Spider-Man continuity. Kingsley is nice to see for old hats who grew up with him, but the skirmish between the two Hobgoblins doesn’t add much to the book, especially as they are teamed up by the last page (of course).

ART THAT DUTIFULLY SERVES THE STORY

As far as the artwork in this issue, Camuncoli does everything he can while staying in the script. I am a huge fan of Camuncoli’s work on ASM. I greatly prefer his issue to any done by Humberto Ramos. However, this issue is mostly people standing around talking, except for two or three pages of Hobgoblins throwing down. There was not a lot of excitement visually here.

I do want to give Camuncoli some praise for creating a great visual distinction between the two Hobgoblins. Despite the orange hoods that both men wear, there are a lot of small characteristics that separate the looks of the two villains. These minor details become extremely important whenever the two appear in the same panel, and Camuncoli never fails to depict the ‘goblins in such a way that the reader can easily tell them apart. Nice work.

BOTTOM LINE: IS IT THE NEXT ARC YET?

Hobgoblin has always been one of my favorite Spidey villains, but this arc just seems so…boring. The events of the past two issues haven’t seemed particularly well-plotted by Slott. It’s almost as if Slott received so much backlash for killing the original Hobgoblin and replacing him with Urich that he felt compelled to pull the “twin-brother” switcheroo and put the toys back in their toyboxes. But Marvel wouldn’t do something like this…right?

Seriously though, Amazing Spider-Man #696 isn’t a bad comic book. It was unbalanced, full of exposition with little punch. Next issue is the conclusion of the “Double Hobgoblin” story, and like so many comics these days, this issue will come to be judged by the whole rather than as an individual part. Here’s hoping #697 provides the thrills and excitement that this issue lacked.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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