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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

X-amining "Inferno" Tie-Ins Part 2

Amazing Spider-Man #312, Avengers #300, Daredevil #263, Fantastic Four #323, Spectacular Spider-Man #147, Web of Spider-Man #47
February 1989

Amazing Spider-Man #312 by David Michelinie & Todd MacFarlane
Avengers #300 by Walt Simonson & John Buscema (layouts) and Tom Palmer (finishes)
Daredevil #263 by Ann Nocenti & John Romita Jr.
Fantastic Four #323 by Steve Englehart & Keith Pollard
Spectacular Spider-Man #147 by Gerry Conway & Sal Buscema
Web of Spider-Man #47 by Gerry Conway & Alex Saviuk
(for full credits on each issue, please visit the GCD)

Plot
Avengers #300: Working together, the Captain, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman and the Forgotten One manage to defeat Nanny and the Orphan Maker. As they work to free Franklin Richards from the armor into which Nanny placed him, the boy is captured by demons working for N'astirh. Freeing him from the armor, N'astirh uses Franklin's vast power to reinforce the portal between Earth and Limbo, but the heroes, joined by Thor, track Franklin and free him before defeating a Growing Man android activated by Kang. With the portal closed and the demon effect fading, the heroes retire to the Richards' home, where the Captain, inspired by recent events, reiterates the importance of the Avengers, and asks the assembled heroes to join him in reforming the team.


Web of Spider-Man #47: Hobgoblin attacks Harry Osborn at his home, searching for his father's Goblin formula, but is chased away by Spider-Man. Amazing Spider-Man #312: Discovering his old gear in the attic, Harry takes up the Green Goblin mantle to attack the Hobgoblin for threatening his family. Spectacular Spider-Man #147: Wounded, Spider-Man seeks refuge at the Daily Bugle, which is under siege by demons, while Hobgoblin, having been unable to procure Norman Osborn's Goblin formula for himself, makes a deal with N'astirh for more power. Daredevil #263: At the hospital recovering from his battle with Typhoid Mary, Daredevil wakes up to discover the city beset by demons, and ends up battling a massive demonically-possessed subway car. Fantastic Four #323: Amidst the Inferno, Mantis reappears on Earth, and the Fantastic Four help her fend off an attack from Kang even while Human Torch struggles to control his flame powers.

Firsts and Other Notables
In the wake of "Inferno" and Kang's attack, the Avengers are reformed by the Captain in issue #300, following their disbandment in issue #297. The team is initially comprised of the Captain, Thor, Gilgamesh and, curiously, Mister Fantastic and Invisible Woman (thus making Human Torch the only regular Fantastic Four member to not be an Avenger, as Thing previously joined the West Coast branch briefly). The idea of putting the two FF members on the Avengers isn't inherently bad and has some potential, but they won't stick around for long before going back to Fantastic Four, and they continue to wear their FF uniforms (with the big "4" emblem on the chest) throughout their time in Avengers, somewhat undercutting the idea of them as legitimate members of the team.

The Fantastic Four, meanwhile, accordingly in the midst of their Thing-led atypical roster, continue to be down a member, as, just like last issue, only Thing, She-Thing and Human Torch appear in issue #323. Crystal was a member of this roster at one point, but my knowledge of FF at this time is sketchy enough that I'm not sure why she isn't around and/or why her roster spot hasn't been filled.

As it's a 300th issue, Avengers #300 is double-sized and comes with an assortment of extras, including a Walt Simonson-drawn backup story featuring Loki ruminating on the initial creation of the Avengers, a Marvel Handbook-style entry on Jarvis and the Avengers' support staff, and a listing of all past and present Avengers and the issues in which they appeared.


At one point, Spider-Man says that the Hobgoblin he fights throughout these issues is not the original one (who, at the time, was believed to be the deceased Ned Leeds), but rather the former Jack O'Lantern, who has adopted the Hobgoblin's identity. Now, I know enough about the whole Hobgoblin fiasco (which is a twisting mass of aborted storylines, departing writers and editorial edicts to rival anything that came out of the X-office) to know that, ultimately, Leeds' was ultimately a pawn of someone else, but I have no idea if, based on later retcons, this Hobgoblin really is the former Jack O'Lantern or someone else entirely at this point in time.


Spectacular Spider-Man #147 ends with Hobgoblin possessed by a demon, thanks to the deal he struck with N'astirh. Hobgoblin will continue to operate as a demonically-possessed being for awhile, before expelling the demon, at which point the demon will act independently as Demogoblin, becoming a significant part of Spider-Man's Rogues Gallery throughout the 90s. Thus, Spectacular Spider-Man #147 is considered the first appearance of Demogoblin, after a fashion. 


In my early con going days, copies of Amazing Spider-Man #312 were always slapped with a high price tag, even above the price of the surrounding MacFarlane-drawn issues of the title, most likely due to the "Inferno" crossover and the appeal of a rare Green Goblin/Hobgoblin fight. Also, the cover to that issue served as the cover to an "Inferno" tie-ins Omnibus Marvel released a while back. 

Mantis, the former Avenger and Celestial Madonna (a being destined to give birth to the Celestrial Messiah, which prompted a classic Avengers story involving Kang's attempts to control and manipulate the Madonna in which Mantis married a plant alien that had taken the form of her deceased lover, then ascended to a higher plane of being) appears in Fantastic Four #323, because it is written by Mantis' creator Steve Englehart, and wherever Englehart goes, Mantis invariably follows (even across companies).


The Chronology Corner
N'astirh's appearance in Avengers #300 takes place between X-Terminators #3 and #4, while his appearance, now techno-organic, in Spectacular Spider-Man #147 takes place after X-Factor #37, and before Excalibur #6.

It's unclear if the Kangs which appear in Fantastic Four and Avengers are the same Kang - Wikipedia suggests it is (and places the events of Avengers before those in Fantastic Four), while the Marvel Chronology Project considers the Kang in Avengers #300 to be "Fred Kang", an iteration of the character created by all his time traveling (as opposed to "Kang Prime", the "main" Kang) who briefly joined the Council of Cross-Time Kangs during the story which led to the Avengers' disbandment.

A Work in Progress
As Harry Osborn leaves Manhattan in Spectacular Spider-Man #147, a barrier keeping demons inside the city is referenced, with a footnote pointing to the X-books. It might come up later in "Inferno" (I honestly can't remember), but thus far, nothing has been said about the demons being somehow contained to the island (beyond the general notion that S'ym and N'astirh want to transform the entire planet along the lines of what they've done to New York City).


Thing is shown to be capable of casually throwing an object into orbit.


Human Torch continues to have issues powering down his flame powers, something he attributes to the effect of "Inferno".


Alerted to Franklin's power by one of his demons, N'astirh orders him kidnapped, initially viewing him as a possible backup to Illyana, and then using him to essentially provide auxiliary power to the pentagram keeping the portal between Earth and Limbo open.


I Love the 80s
As drawn in Web of Spider-Man, Peter Parker is getting dangerously close to mullet territory.


Artistic Achievements
In Avengers #300, Franklin tries to speak but nothing comes out, an effect which, in a neat trick, is visually rendered by an empty speech bubble.


Teebore's Take
This second batch of tie-ins, on sale while the main narrative is heating up (pun intended) in the X-books, continues the trend of not being terribly significant to the overall story. Once again, these issues use the general setting of "Inferno" (Manhattan overrun to various degrees by demons and demonically-possessed inanimate objects), and once again, Avengers is the title that most directly ties-in with the X-books (perhaps due to X-Factor penciler Walt Simonson writing it), in so much as it is the one tie-in in this batch to actually feature a character, N'astirh, who plays a significant role in the story (his appearance in Spectacular Spider-Man #147, is more of a cameo than something which drives the main plot of the issue). 

One of the more curious things that becomes apparent in this collection of issues is how, thus far, none of these characters are even aware of the circumstances of "Inferno". Spider-Man has stopped believing the strange happenings to be illusions of Mysterio, while the Captain pays some lip service to the idea of Reed Richards figuring out where all the demons are coming from, but beyond that, these are all micro-level stories where the protagonists, for one reason or another, simply aren't in a position to even learn about what's causing the strange conditions in the city, let alone get actively involved in reversing them. It's an interesting perspective to use for crossover tie-in issues (in that it isn't as likely to drive up sales of the tie-ins), one that really underscores the idea that, outside of the X-books, most of the "Inferno" tie-ins are more atmospheric than essential.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Excalibur fights their way through Muderworld in Excalibur #5, followed by Wolverine #4 on Friday. Next week, the long awaited meeting between X-Factor and the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #242.

10 comments:

  1. I believe Crystal's departure was because she and Johnny discovered they still had feelings for each other, but Johnny decided to remain loyal to his wife Alicia. Crystal probably left because of this complication. I recall a letter in UXM#239 where a fan compared Johnny's problem with Scott, but the Torch did the right thing and didn't abandon his wife for his ex-girlfriend.

    As far as I know, right up to the Roderick-Kingsley-is-Hobgoblin-and-Ned-Leeds-was-a-pawn revelation in the HOBGOBLIN LIVES LS, the second Hobgoblin was and always will be the original Jack O Lantern.

    Speaking of Goblins, Harry's return to the GG gave him ideas to continue the guise as a super-hero. Spidey (rudely and brutally) convinced him it was a bad idea. Later, emotional insecurities, low self-seteem, and old mental demons from his childhood resurfaced and led to one more (and at the time fatal) phase of insanity as the Goblin.

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  2. Daredevil was probably the best one of these tie-ins

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  3. Technically speaking Hobgoblin did not make a deal with N'Astirh, who, in a scene of pure awesomeness, laughed Macendale away taunting him with his soul being tarnished and not worth jack. The demon was then thrown there totally pro bono, because it amused Nasty.

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  4. Crystal left because Quicksilver had regained his sanity and the Inhumans forced her to return to him against her will. That's in-story, of course. In actuality Steve Englehart had been asked to acknowledge that other writers had been reforming Quicksilver again (rather than writing him as Silver Age Magneto, like he had) and put the wheels in motion towards returning the book to normal, so he decided to depict it in-story as an act of (literally) inhuman cruelty. In terms of petty sniping he inserted into his FF run, it still only ranks somewhere in the middle in terms of pettiness.

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  5. Avengers 300 sounds like it would be super disappointing if I were a fan of the book. Tying in to another title's crossover and featuring Nanny and Orphan Maker

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  6. I agree that Daredevil #263 is probably the best of the bunch, although it beggars belief how nobody, including the kids who know them both from this clinic, realizes that DD is Matt Murdock when his costume is in tatters and his hair is flying free.

    The only thing really "#300-ish" about the Avengers issue is its backup material, yeah. We do get a roster change but even back at the time I remember thinking that, with Cap still being The Captain (despite the imminent switch back), a more-or-less unknown thrown into the mix, and half the Fantastic Four still wearing their old uniforms, it was the lamest possible lineup this side of Justice League Detroit.

    I got a kick out of how single-minded Gilgamesh was in just wanting to destroy monsters, and there's actually a fair bit of potential in the character, but from his awkward pose on the cover even John Buscema wasn't interested in drawing the guy. Also, I'd swear that Cap extended an invitation to Gilgamesh to join the team twice with very similar banter (Pgs. 31 and 37 of story) after a nearly identical exchange earlier (Pg. 12). Maybe the story was rewritten? I do gather Walt dealt with editorial friction on some level.

    Kang should know what Central Park and the Empire State Building are, given their prominence, his study of history, and the time he's spent in this era. As for whether the Kang in Avengers #300 and Fantastic Four #323 are the same Kang, well, the Kang in the latter explicitly says that they're not, picking up the former on his instruments and referring to him as a "doppelganger" created because "the legend of so great a time master as myself would create countless scores of imitators -- some who appear to be divergent counterparts of me, others mere pretenders!"
    I think Fantastic Four #323 is otherwise a "red sky" crossover, although it's true that most of the Inferno tie-in issues simply use whatever events they like as catalysts for their own plot machinations. Hobgoblin's new demon eyes at the end of Spectacular Spider-Man #147 strike me as a big deal, keeping in mind that I am ignorant about this period of the Spidey titles in general, while the other issues use what's happening in New York City more as backdrop than springboard.

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  7. Jeff: Avengers 300 sounds like it would be super disappointing if I were a fan of the book.

    Poor Avengers just can't have luck with the even hundreds.

    I said: Technically speaking Hobgoblin did not make a deal with N'Astirh, who, in a scene of pure awesomeness, laughed Macendale away taunting him with his soul being tarnished and not worth jack. The demon was then thrown there totally pro bono, because it amused Nasty.

    Ok, I found the original pages in one blog and it looks like I was remembering it wrong. "Still, you made me laugh - - and that's worth something, I suppose. Your soul." says Nasty and it looks like Macendale got his deal after all. The pure awesomeness continues on the page where he starts to realize the size of the mistake he just did.

    I always loved Hobgoblin. My very first Marvel comic in fact was a Spider-Man issue consisting of ASM 253-254 in latter of which Jack O'Lantern (Macendale) schemes to steal Hobgoblin's battlewagon that just got lifted from East River, which kind of established for me that Hobgoblin ranks higher in Spidey's Rogues' Gallery than many... and that Rick Leonardi is awesome.

    The upstart Macendale never worked as the Hobgoblin for me though, what was cool in (original) Hobgoblin was his business-like demeanor in contrast to all the villains who has a personal grudge and the hate for Spider-Man as the main motivator. Hobgoblin was in a way the yuppie Green Goblin, and I love the 80's.

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  8. Possibly my very favorite moment in all of "Inferno" is the Kingpin punching a demon so hard that it explodes, in SPECTACULER SPIDER-MAN #147.

    Teemu -- "Hobgoblin was in a way the yuppie Green Goblin, and I love the 80's."

    Wow. That is so perfect! I love it.

    The original Hobgoblin is my all-time favorite Spider-Man villain, though I never had anything against Macendale. But he just wasn't the shrewdly calculating mastermind that his predecessor had been.

    Shameless plug: For my full thoughts on the original Hobgoblin stories by Roger Stern, please feel free to check out my blog's ongoing "Spider-Man by Roger Stern" series. The Hobgoblin stories will begin next month.

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  9. More 80's stuff with John Romita jr? Count me in for that ride, Matt!

    And Macendale... I'm harsh, yes, and for Jack O'Lantern but with the Hobgoblin legacy I really can't allow the sort of cock-ups Macendale starts his usurper career. Beaten by drunken Spidey and have a pack full of pumpkins dipped on him by Harry Osborn, and then striking the total homerun with N'Astirh, not good enough for orange&blue in the traditional orange&blue line of biz.

    Afterwards of course I have no complaints about him Hobbing it up in completely unadjancted demon business featuring Ghost Rider & co.

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  10. Kang has been subject to NUMEROUS retcons over the years with various writers constantly changing whether or not a particular appearance was the core Kang or a temporal divergence or somehow both, making Dr Doom and the Doombots look simple by comparison. And as very few people have access to all the issues, online guides often get in a mess as everyone starts referencing different histories.

    I've not read many of these issues since the 1990s but it's my recollection that the Kang in Avengers is supposedly the Kang of the main reality (called Earth 123488 long before all that 616 stuff), even though it was by now established that Kang came from a parrallel Earth shown during John Byrne's run in Fantastic Four. That's just a sample of the kind of mess to come.

    The Kang in Fantastic Four here dismisses the Avengers one as a temporal counterpart which is how I think Simonson had written him during the Fall of the Avengers storyline. IIRC the back-up story in the Citizen Kang annuals from 1992 follows this distinction. By contrast the Master Edition of the Handbook, which is on my shelf, includes Kang's Avengers appearances from this era but not his Fantastic Four ones thus implying either the Avengers one is the real one or both are with the Avengers appearances chronologically earlier and the editor ran out of space. Avengers Forever, which I have to hand, makes both Kangs the outcome of a recent divergence (when Kang had absorbed the memories of all his counterparts circa Avengers #269) and so effectively both thought they were the real thing but only the Fantastic Four Kang survived. By this point in the narrative Kang is getting confused about who is the real one and he's not alone. And there are no doubt other things that I haven't read that just make it even worse.

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