Kevin Shinick gave us one of the most entertaining stories of the Superior era with Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #11-#12. His hilarious take on the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus served as the perfect coda to the entire event. The most exciting part of Marvel’s “AXIS” event was when I learned that he would be tackling another icon from Spidey’s rogue gallery: the Hobgoblin. Shinick and Javier Rodriguez exceed all expectations on AXIS: Hobgoblin #1, quickly creating a fun new world while revisiting some of the more interesting characters of “Goblin Nation.”
Although this series is an “AXIS” tie-in, at this point, the connection is in name only. Axis #3 sets up the premise that some of the most fiendish Marvel villains may have a heroic streak in them. Shinick uses that as a jumping off point to explore Roderick Kingsley’s costumed-franchise business. We’ve seen glimpses of Kingsley’s operations in the pages of Superior Spider-Man, but Shinick expands this world more than ever before. Kingsley is part motivational speaker, part QVC salesman, all capitalist. What’s great about Kingsley’s charactization is that he hasn’t made a complete face-turn. He’s not all that interested in whether he’s a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ guy, he’s just taking advantage of the opportunities and demands in the marketplace. If heroes are selling, then he’s selling heroes. It feels a lot like a Superior Foes story; the situations are surreal and ridiculous, but the motivations of the characters make perfect sense.
Shinick and Rodriguez pack the issue with plenty of gags and Easter eggs for long-time readers. One joke about Ned Leeds and Lefty Donovan cleared up years of my Hobgoblin continuity questions. We see Razorback, Rocket Racer, D-Man and many others that I couldn’t name without consulting the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.
Rodriguez’s art is a huge part of the success of this issue. His Hobgoblin has the perfect s***-eating grin that makes him appear friendly and maniacal at the same time. He turns Kingsley’s arena presentation into the issue’s pinnacle scene. There’s as much action in Kingsley’s poses as any superhero battle. It helps to gloss over the fact that no pumpkin bombs were detonated in this issue. Rodriguez makes great use of background text to create ambient sound. His highlight of the entire issue is the full-page spread that pays homage to Action Comics #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15.
The issue isn’t all laughs. Shinick revisits a couple of characters who we haven’t seen since the Superior era: the Goblin King (aka Phil Urich) and Lilly Hollister (formerly known as Menace). It looks like these characters will be the source of conflict for this series. Does it also mean that a greener shade of goblin could also make an appearance? Let’s hope so.
The creators of AXIS: Hobgoblin #1 have hit it out of the park. They’ve made a funny, fast-paced story, with a Superior Foes of Spider-Man tone. It reinforces the notion that the strongest Spider-Man books are coming from outside the flagship title.
"AXIS: Hobgoblin #1" is a comical look inside the world of a fan favorite Spider-Man villain and is another success from one of Marvel's most entertaining writers.