Does Hobgoblin have a face you can trust? And can you trust him to act like an altruistic hero, a self-serving do-gooder or a heinous villain? Those were the unanswered questions going into the final issue of one of the year’s most fun miniseries. Unfortunately, AXIS: Hobgoblin #3 doesn’t provide a satisfying closure and lacked a lot of the elements that made the first two issues so enjoyable.
This issue was all about surprise, the swerve and the double cross, which have been some of Roderick Kingsley’s most defining characteristics in recent years. He belongs in the ranks of Dr. Doom and Nick Fury when it comes to escaping apparent death by using a decoy. Writer Kevin Shinick packs in more twists than a wrestling pay-per-view. Missile Mate strikes down Hobgoblin, who was only a hologram. Queen Cat double crosses Kingsley, only to later triple cross Missile Mate. Kingsley turns on his Hob-Heroes, or does he? Things are happening so fast that by the time it’s over, the reader can be just as confused as the cops who are on the scene.
This issue lacks all of the fun commentary on commerce and capitalism that was packed into the first two episodes, but Shinick finds plenty of places for humor. A big highlight is the one-panel battle between The Goblin King’s Z-list army and Kingsley’s Hob-Heroes. This may be the shortest group battle in Marvel history. Kingsley even mentions that it only lasted 17 seconds. You can tell these guys are truly Z-listers, because they’re actually apprehended by the police!
Javier Rodriguez delivers some superb art for this issue. He includes so many little details that really add to the issue’s effectiveness: the audience recording Kingsley’s press conference on their iPhones, the sweat in Missile Mate’s helmet, the tears of rage that come through Hobgoblin’s mask. His oranges and greens are sharp and provide a great contrast between Kingsley and Phil Urich’s Goblin King. The use of shade and shadow helps focus the reader’s attention on the page. His Hobgoblin face should be the new standard for the character.
I think it’s important to talk about the defining page of the issue. When it looks like Missile Mate has the upper hand on the Hob-Heroes, Kingsley pulls out a handful of pumpkin bombs and seemingly destroys the team himself. It appears that Kingsley has blown his own cover and revealed his true evil self. But it’s just another swerve. His team is safe, replaced by holograms in all the confusion. Steve Rogers seems to accept the explanation, but I think Shinick and Rodriguez want us to believe something else. For one, holograms don’t scream when hit with pumpkin bombs. Nor do holograms leave behind ashy piles in the shape of human bodies. Since Kingsley’s entire existence is centered on his costumed-franchising business, he could easily have Hob-Hero replacements in a moment’s notice. But the truth seems intentionally vague by issue’s end.
It was also disappointing that Lily Hollister didn’t have more of a character-defining moment in this issue. In issue #1, she wants a new lease on life. In issue #2, Kingsley gives her the new identity she craved. But in this final issue, Lily is used has a plot device at best and a red herring at worst. There are a lot of loose ends involving not just Lily, but also Phil Urich and Kingsley himself. Considering the current “Spider-Verse” stories and the upcoming solicitations, my fear is that it will be a long time before we revisit these characters again.
While this was one of my favorite miniseries of the year, AXIS: Hobgoblin is to comics as “Serial” is to podcasts. It started out as the best thing around. But now that it’s ended, it feels like it lacks a proper ending. Part of this may have to do with the bigger AXIS storyline, but these characters seem incomplete. I hope that we get to revisit all these characters again soon, and that Shinick and Rodriguez have plenty of work in the Spider-Universe in the future.
AXIS: Hobgoblin #3 looks beautiful but lacks some of the elements that made the first two issues so great. More importantly, the series feels like it's lacking proper closure, and the character arcs seem incomplete.