Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So, Legacy of Evil would either be on like its ninth printing; or marked way down in the remaindered bins.

Either or, but nobody knows.

Well, that's embarrassing: I confused longtime Daredevil (and now Front Line) character Ben Urich, with his nephew, one-time superhero Phil, briefly the Green Goblin. I haven't read a comic with either in a while, luckily, this one has both: Spider-Man: Legacy of Evil. It's a sharp little one-shot from Kurt Busiek and Mark Texeira.

This came out the same year that Astro City debuted, and you can see some strengths that Busiek would take with him there: a common man working in the midst of superheroes (Urich), a superpowered tough guy that's more than just a thug (Ben Raxton, longtime Spidey bit player the Molten Man; who very possibly may have been the inspiration for later AC character Steeljacket.), and a definite sense of history. Now, Busiek's a good enough writer that in Astro City when he tells you, say, the Ditko Building has been abandoned since it was nearly demolished in a battle between the Adjuster, Omni-face, and Kid Kobalt; you know what he's talking about, even if he's talking about events that never appeared in an actual comic.
I expected Molten Man to have a grill... But here, he references events that "actually happened" in years of Spider-Man continuity. Busiek works best in a super-hero universe that's more than the last crossover or facekick (not that there's anything wrong with that): events happened in the past that affected these characters. You don't need to know exactly what, so it won't kill you if you haven't read every Lee/Ditko/Romita Green Goblin story, but if you have you'll get a better view of the picture. (Think Lost: as much as I grouse about it, it would be a poorer show without the characters' flashbacks. Yeah, a poorer, five-minute long show, where they would've had to explain that stupid island by now.)

Real brief plot: while working on his book "Legacy of Evil," Bugle writer Ben Urich witnesses the kidnapping of young Normie Osborn, the son of the second (Harry) and grandson of the first (Norman), by three goblin-dressed women on gliders. Liz Osborn, Normie's mom, is given a telepathic message that Normie is being taken to receive his "birthright--the legacy of the Green Goblin!" Since Spider-Man and Liz feel like they're too emotionally involved, they turn to Ben to investigate, to see if there were any clues that they missed.

Thus begins a walking tour of the various Green Goblins' history--the third, Harry's psychiatrist Bartholomew Hamilton, is given a brief mention/brush-off, as are later generation homage/knock-offs the Hobgoblin and Demogoblin. God, Demogoblin's a dumb name.

Although Busiek tries to obfuscate the issue, the Goblin's legacy is kinda obvious if you've seen any of the movies: it's the Goblin juice that gave Norman and Harry super-strength and super-insanity. They had terrible hair before dosing up, though, so it wasn't responsible for everything. In the Ultimate universe, the Goblin-formula is tied, like everything else, to Captain America's Super-Soldier serum. I don't know if that retcon's been applied to the regular Marvel continuity, but I could almost see the Goblin juice being rolled in the Weapon X or Weapon Plus series: Cap was Weapon I, Wolverine Weapon X (ten), and the Goblins could have been maybe seven or eight.

This story doesn't just hit the old highlights, though; there's also references to later Harry stories, including ones featuring a mind-control machine used after his death to mess with Spidey. That Goblin-juice really didn't do the Oscorp shareholders any good, did it? Norm and Harry had either invented or developed for use flying gliders (that had to be pretty fuel-efficient to fight Spider-Man all over NYC) and mind-controllers and robots and had about sixty hidden Goblin-lairs in the city; and the investors never saw a dime of profit...

"Legacy of Evil" was published at just the right time, the window when Harry and Norman were both dead, or at least pretty dead for comic characters. The heroic Goblin was about to debut, but Norman would be back within two years, Harry over a decade later. Even Busiek would have a hard time doing this story now, since the retcons have really muddied up the waters there: Norman not really being dead at this time, Harry's grave is exhumed and his body found and he's back, the whole weird Norman/Gwen know, the second-to-last page actually has a moment that almost--almost--could be read to allude to that. But that's merely happenstance.
Tex channelling Romita nicely there...
Retcon #58:  Urich has known who Spidey is, for like ever.
Wait: does Ben, or say, Robbie Robertson from the Daily Bugle; characters who probably figured Spidey's secret identity through hard work and clever detecting rather than by cheating or being told by an alien parasite, still know? Or did Mephisto wipe that out, too? If so, that's some quality work...

I like Mark Texeira's art, and he does inks and colors as well here: the city and the civilians are a lot more realistic-looking, then they would've been in a traditional Spider-Man book at the time. Texeira also gets to put his spin on several classic moments in flashbacks. His Spidey reminds me of the seventies TV show, too--in a good way. Coincidentally, I picked up a spare copy of this for my brother-in-law; the same day I got the new issue of Moon Knight, also featuring Tex art on a great MK/Bullseye fight.

Anyway, big thumbs-up on this one: I liked it the first time I bought it, and it's still a good read. Check out the quarter bins near you! EDIT: "Legacy of Evil" is also mentioned in passing in this week's Lying in the Gutters! Check it out, apparently they were pretty set on Harry being dead dead at the time...

1 comment:

Ace said...

*whispers* It's Mark Raxton, currently in Amazing Spider-Man, not Ben Raxton.