Amazing Spider-Man #280-282
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #280, Amazing Spider-Man #281, Amazing Spider-Man #282
The first two of these issues are probably my favorites of the Tom DeFalco run (competing with the issue where Spider-Man discovers his black costume is an alien and the Firelord issues). These issues are all out action, introducing a new super-villain team and teaming Spidey up with Silver Sable and, later, the Sandman.
The new team is the Sinister Syndicate, obviously recalling the Sinister Six (who haven't re-formed since their original appearance in Amazing Spider-Man annual #1).
No one on this team has any connection with the original Six. They are calling themselves a Syndicate because they're a team of hired mercenaries. And because there's only five of them. This group will live on in a few incarnations throughout the years, including as a humorous Superior Foes of Spider-Man series that is being published at the time i'm writing this.
This original group is no joke, though, and it's definitely a high point for the Beetle, who is the group's leader, despite some scheming from Boomerang.
I've often felt that a team of Spider-Man villains would be a threat worthy of the Avengers, and that's the case with this team for sure. You've got the Rhino and Hydroman's raw power, a super-speedster, the highly specialized Boomerang (Hawkeye or Black Widow would need someone to fight), and the armored Beetle.
Even if they aren't quite up to the Avengers' level, they are more than a match for Spider-Man.
This story starts in the middle of the fight...
...and then flashes back to how we got here. Spider-Man notices the ad that Silver Sable took out trying to get his attention while he was Missing In Action last issue...
...and he heads to the Symkarian embassy to find out what she wanted. She was about to have a fling with a sheik.
But she tosses him out when Spider-Man arrives...
...and tells Spidey that she wants to hire him to help apprehend the Jack O'Lantern. It's an interesting conundrum for Spider-Man. He's not a mercenary, but Jack O'Lantern is a villain he would fight anyway, so why not accept some money for it? However, things are complicated by the fact that Peter has been contemplating giving up Spider-Man. So he begs off.
Meanwhile, though, Flash Thompson and his lawyer Sharon Banks are unable to convince Sha Shan to provide an alibi proving that he couldn't be the Hobgoblin.
I believe this is the last we will see of Sha Shan until the Brand New Day reboot.
Peter shows up to talk to Sharon, and finds out that she needs money to mount a proper defense. That convinces Peter to take Silver Sable's offer after all.
Jack O'Lantern is already aware that Silver Sable is hunting him (as we saw last issue), and he's set up what Sable knows is a trap at Coney Island. But while she and Spidey were expecting a trap, they weren't expecting Jack O'Lantern to not even be there. But he's hired the Sinister Syndicate to fight in his stead.
There's some interesting stuff going on with the Rhino. He says his involvement here is really so that he can raise money to get out of the armor. He's also wearing additional armor on top of his armor, which is something i don't really like. He's already a Rhino! The extra armor is unnecessary, thematically and design-wise.
He and Hydroman seem to have developed a personal friendship, and Hydroman is very protective of him.
A lot of additional character scenes are covered during the fight. We see Betty Brant and Ned Leeds parting ways.
We see what Jack O'Lantern is up to while he's not fighting Silver Sable and Spider-Man. He's trying to get hired as the Kingpin's super-powered assassin.
Kingpin tells him that he's already got someone fitting that bill: Nuke. Now, we know that Born Again takes place around the same time that Spider-Man's red and blue costume was destroyed and after Nuke's rampage was causing problems for the Kingpin (thanks to a flashback scene in Peter Parker #118 that was concurrent with a scene from last issue). But in this issue Kingpin talks like he still has Nuke under his employ. I suspect that the Kingpin just doesn't want to hire Jack O'Lantern, and since at this point everyone knows about Nuke, he's using Nuke as the excuse.
We also get closer to seeing the identities of the Hobgoblin and the Rose. We see Mary Jane modeling at Roderick Kingsley's place, and then we see Kingsley talking to someone in shadow holding a pumpkin bomb.
Later, we see the same person leaving Kingsley's modeling agency and bumping into MJ on the street, and they walk off together.
We also see the Sandman, who has been living as a boarder with the Cassada family as we saw in Marvel Team-Up #138. And they happen to be living near Coney Island, so he hears the ruckus from the Sinister Syndicate fight, and goes to investigate. He shows up as Silver Sable and Spider-Man are injured and nearly defeated.
Spider-Man helps Sable escape, but then decides he needs to go back and help the Sandman, who is doing fairly well against the entire team but starting to lose ground.
Since there's no money in continuing the fight against the Syndicate or helping Sandman, Silver Sable and Spider-Man have a little bit of a falling out.
However, she isn't able to withdraw from the fight, and Spider-Man has to accept a hit from the Rhino in order to save her from Hydroman.
Beetle soon decides that his Syndicate isn't going to win this fight, and he orders a retreat. After the fight, Spider-Man is very badly hurt from the hit from Rhino, and on top of that, Sable refuses to pay him for his time. However, she does extend an offer of employment to Sandman.
Meanwhile, failing to get hired by both the Kingpin and the Rose, Jack O'Lantern gets the idea to get on the Hobgoblin's good side by breaking him out of jail.
But of course, the person in jail, Flash Thompson, isn't really the Hobgoblin. And at the Rose's suggestion (or manipulation), the real Hobgoblin then goes after Jack O'Lantern, thinking that if he can kill Flash the police will assume he's dead. So the similar Hobgoblin and Jack O'Lantern get into a fun fight.
Jack O'Lantern loses the fight but survives. Flash manages to escape in the confusion, but he's afraid to return to prison, thinking he'll be blamed for the breakout.
Really a fun, action packed arc. The Sinister Syndicate are a powerful group and come across as competent and dangerous despite the fact that they have to withdraw. DeFalco also does really well writing the mercenary Silver Sable without overdoing it. Refusing to pay Spider-Man anything after the hit he took for her is really cold, but that's her character. And it's cool to see DeFalco bring in the Sandman here. He's been developing the character's reformation, but it seemed like after the really nice Marvel Two-In-One #86 DeFalco wasn't sure what to do with the character, and Sandman's appearance in Marvel Team-Up #138 was a bit of a flounder. Connecting him with Silver Sable here, which will allow him to be on the side of the law without immediately becoming a "hero", is a great move. It adds interest to Silver Sable as well. The Jack O'Lantern/Hobgoblin confrontation is also fun, and the various non-superhero subplots are short enough that the weaknesses of DeFalco's dialogue don't really come out.
#282 begins with Spider-Man badly injured from the Rhino's attack and just barely pulling himself home, but otherwise isn't related to the Sinister Syndicate story. It's an X-Factor guest appearance, with inks by Bob Layton, the writer of the the first five issues of X-Factor's series.
We start in the aftermath of Flash's prison breakout, which Mary Jane hears about on television. She's in the apartment of a man named Alfredo that she's been out partying with until dawn.
I'm not sure if we were meant to think that this was the same man that she met outside of Kingsley's modeling agency or not, but either way Alfredo Morelli is not the Hobgoblin, although he will have a very convoluted history in his own right.
While Mary Jane is heading to Peter Parker's apartment to talk about Flash's escape, she thinks to herself that she hasn't felt comfortable in it since she "first realized that Peter was Spider-Man". It's not clear how long ago that was. When she revealed that she knew he was Spider-Man, in Amazing Spider-Man #257-258, she said she knew "for years", and Untold Tales of Spider-Man #16 pushed that back to before she and Peter ever actually met, and certainly before he had this apartment.
Anyway, she arrives to find Peter collapsed in the bathroom, and she begins nursing him back to somewhat better health.
Meanwhile, something has been bugging Joe Robertson about the Flash/Hobgoblin thing, and he finally realizes it's the fact that Flash was photographed in a different version of the costume than the Hobgoblin was wearing an hour earlier the same day. While telling J. Jonah Jameson this vital information, he slips and uses the word "Spider-Man" which sends JJ into his fugue state where he can no longer think rationally, and instead starts ranting that the police ought to be chasing Spidey instead. At that moment, an X-Factor advertisement comes on the television.
So JJ calls X-Factor, reports Spider-Man as a mutant, and hires them to capture him. X-Factor knows that Spidey isn't a mutant, but as Cameron Hodge points out, the distinction between Spider-Man and a mutant is meaningless to the average person, and Iceman suggests that they might be able to "help" Spider-Man in some unspecified way.
And at a minimum they'll get "free publicity" (which isn't necessarily something they should want at this point considering the doubts they've been having about their set-up, which are even expressed in this issue). They do make sure to gouge Jameson on their pricing.
Jameson in turn expects to be able to expose X-Factor as frauds if they fail to capture Spider-Man, or even if they do. Joe Robertson is less happy about JJ's actions. On the one hand, he doesn't like X-Factor since they "hunt mutants the way others used to hunt blacks... and Jews". But on the other hand he wants to maintain the Daily Bugle's integrity and not let it become a smear sheet. He doesn't come to an immediate resolution on that and focuses on tracking down Flash's lawyer to give her the photos instead. But later he threatens to quit if JJ runs an expose, and JJ relents. I dunno, i kinda think JJ was right on this one.
Meanwhile, despite still being in terrible shape, Peter sneaks out of his apartment when he hears about Flash's predicament, and he's disoriented when X-Factor approaches him.
Even after things are sorted out, the mutants maintain the illusion that X-Factor and the X-Terminators are separate groups. Iceman does follow up on that impulse to offer Spidey help, though.
X-Factor's guest appearance is largely a gratuitous one, with little impact or relevance to either title. I can't imagine that either book necessarily needed the promotion. But it does give DeFalco a chance to express some doubts about the series' premise, something it seems a lot of writers wanted to do (the question of whether the series was intended to have a flawed premise from the beginning is still an open question in my mind, but by this point it's very possible that DeFalco's criticism through Robbie and Angel is just helping to expose readers to the theme of the book).
The X-Factor story isn't as great as the Sinister Syndicate, but overall it's a fun set of issues.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: For Spider-Man, this occurs after Spider-Man returns from Europe, which is from Web of Spider-Man #19-23. This actually occurs during #23, when Spider-Man sees the ad that Silver Sable took out trying to attract Spidey's attention and then a footnote tells us that these issues are now occuring. See above for my explanation of Kingpin's Nuke reference. For X-Factor, this fits uncomfortably between X-Factor #7-8. Despite the fact that in issue #8 they seem to be in the near aftermath of the battle with Bulk and Glow Worm, this issue references issue #7 and has to fit in before the Mutant Massacre.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (10): show
The scene with Kingsley meeting with the Hobgoblin was intended by DeFalco to be Kingsley (the Rose) meeting Richard Fisk (the Hobgoblin).
Posted by: Michael | January 18, 2014 4:42 PM
Sure, the Sandman could mold himself into a tank, but would the treads really work?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 18, 2014 4:51 PM
I hadn't known about Priest having to delete Richard Fisk references, but that helps make sense of a few things. I suspect Alfredo himself was intended by DeFalco to be Fisk but Priest changed that. It explains his weird, seemingly irrelevant introduction. And makes appropriate or ironic what Howard Mackie does with him in the '90s.
Sandman probably could make his treads work, since all he'd need is some motive force, and that could be supplied by the same force that let's him move his body and reassemble it in the first place--some kind of quasi-telekinetic self-adhesion.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | January 18, 2014 8:49 PM
I loved these issues as a kid when they came out. The Synister Syndicate was a strong villain team and really portrayed all its members at their strength. I especially appreciated that the Beetle was made a dangerous menace. He was one of the few lame villains Stan Lee created that was revamped and improved by later writers.
Also great Hobgoblin-Jack O'Lantern fight. Jack was really looking like a legitimate threat in these DeFalco issues.
Posted by: Chris | January 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The Sinister Syndicate was a good, effective team. It kind of reminds me of a non branded version of the Serpent Society in that you have a variety of powers and styles, not just random goons who happen to hate one particular hero (kind of like Flash's Rogues in this sense, though). They didn't make enough appearances to define this, but you also have guys who could do things besides just use their powers--Beetle was a smart guy with engineering skills, Boomerang was athletic, Speed Demon was a chemist (even though nothing was ever done with that)--Boomerang and Speed Demon were potentially charming types too--the team was like a superpowered Mission: Impossible type team really.
Posted by: Mike Cheyne | January 19, 2014 4:07 PM
Michael wrote: "Jean and Scott really don't seem as angry with each other as they should be if this takes place between X-Factor 7 and 8. Unfortunately, there's no other place to put it.
Also Iceman gives Spider-Man some contact information here which is probably how he got ahold of Iceman, Angel & Beast for Marvel Fanfare 32.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | January 29, 2014 2:23 PM
In furtherance of my idea that Alfredo was intended by DeFalco to be Richard Fisk, as a redhead Alfredo looks a bit more like Richard in his earlier appearances than the blond Richard we meet during Gang War does. If the guy MJ met was Richard, we'd be pretty darn close to an explicit reveal, which DeFalco supposedly planned for Gang War. And maybe those Blue Boys were supposed to have a leader who wanted to beat the Rose and Kingpin both--Hobby.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | March 28, 2014 10:15 PM
Pretty sad that a pro like silver sable can't tell her left from her right.
the x-factor fight is almost an exact copy of a fight spidey had with x-men in Marvel team-up 4(? or thereabouts)
I agree the syndicate would make good avengers foes.
Posted by: kveto from prague | April 1, 2014 7:18 PM
I agree that making a former villain a mercenary for hire, specifically for Silver Sable, is a great storyline to bring them a bit towards redemption. I would say I don't know why it's not used more often, but I find that most former villains that reform end up being pushed back towards villainy by later Marvel writers. Or they end up joining the X-Men.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 29, 2015 6:10 PM
This was a fantastic set of issues. Ron Frenz is at his finest with Brett Breeding beside him. But this is really Thomas DeFalco's show. He really writes Silver Sable as she should be. Her entire dynamic with Spider-Man is truly unique--I can't really think of another team-up quite like theirs. They have real chemistry because they work well together; I just love it when Spidey tips her as to how the Beetle's finger blasters work, and how she promptly takes care of business with that valuable piece of info. This is real teamwork, and it's also the best manouever anyone has ever pulled against the Beetle. At the same time, Sable and Spidey's priorities are so far apart that regardless of the effectiveness as a fightin' duo, they can hardly get along on a personal level. And it's not just banter either; it actually affects the plot. The way Spider-Man 'quits the gig', so to speak, in order to save Sandman from certain death, captures his essence as much as Sable's despondent reaction captures hers. This is not your by-the-numbers clash of personalities; it's a major plot point that decisively affects the Spidey's inner drama (what with the money problems and such) and defines his relationship with Sable forever (as much as the word is worth in the Marvelverse). The supreme irony is that Spider-Man forsakes the dough and truly risks his life to save the Sandman (a former foe, no less), and he ends the story with nothing to show for his heroic deeds except a concussion. Whereas Sandman himself finds himself with a sweet career opportunity with Sable (and the Wild Pack), not unlike the one Spidey just forfeited. It's just delicious drama.
But the story has plenty of other virtues. Spider-Man's fight against the Rhino was one of the most thrilling examples of his never-say-die attitude we all came to love. It was certainly one of the best that didn't involve lifting up something huge 'n' heavy. The Hobgoblin-Jack O'Lantern slugfest was gangbusters, the way the two smartasses keep trying to one-up the other with their respective bag of tricks. Jack O'Lantern was way out of his league and yet he held his own against Spidey's premier badass. It was a great follow-up to the entire mystery surrounding his top-notch attempt to highjack Hobgob's sunken van. Good ol' Pumpkinhead was really trying to take over the Goblin's mantle, and it was a good set-up to the upcomung sotryline involving the two. One that was criminally wasted, as it turned out, much to my dismay. DeFalco's Jack O'Lantern wad a legitimate threat and a genuine badass, yet future writers lamentably made a schmuck out of him. Revolting.
The Hobgoblin mystery, by the way, was becoming increasingly exciting. Roger Stern had done a fantastic job in that respect but he never really gave us real hints as to who he could be. There were details that in retrospect get an entirely new meaning but that never really took us through a "whodunit" kind of story, because we never really knew much about the guy, and there wasn't a whole lot more we could infer. I'm convinced that DeFalco would've done a great job setting us loose on a goose chase and then surprising us all with an obvious culprit that we had barely considered. I think editorial really mucked this up and all of DeFalco's red herrings were wasted, most of which were promptly disregarded and one of which became the real-yet-unconvincing-McCoy.
The X-Factor crossover was a good example of their series' premise actually having some effect on the wider Marvel Universe instead of functioning as your ordinary plot device to get their stories going. It's a convincing acknowledgement of changes in the mutants' series in a non-mutant comic. On the money.
Posted by: The Transparent Fox | August 9, 2015 11:49 PM
The scenes with the Hobgoblin, Kingsley and Mary Jane are funny to examine through the lenses of the individual writers:
1) Tom DeFalco scripts that scene as Mary Jane talking to Roderick Kingsley, who manages to shoo her away before she finds out that the Hobgoblin is in his workroom with him. Said Hobgoblin is intended by DeFalco to be Richard Fisk while Kingsley is also intended to be the Rose. Fisk later runs into Mary Jane on the street and she recognizes him, though as far as we know, they've never met (I suspect DeFalco would have simply explained that they met at some society event or another).
2) During the brief Owsley era, that scene becomes Mary Jane disturbing Roderick Kingsley (who is NOT the Rose, simply an associate of Hobby's), before Kingsley returns to talking with the Hobgoblin, who is actually the Foreigner. Once again, we have Mary Jane running into and recognizing someone we don't know that she knows (although it's possible that Owsley would have said that the Foreigner here is actually in disguise as someone else or, again, that MJ has met him "off-panel" somewhere).
3) After the Peter David reveal, we now read that scene as MJ talking to Roddy, Roddy (again NOT the Rose) speaking to the Hobgoblin (who is actually Ned Leeds) and Ned eventually running into MJ on the street. Now at least we have a clue in that MJ recognizes the Hobgoblin's unmasked face as someone we know she actually knows.
4) FINALLY, after Stern comes back and does Hobgoblin Lives, we get our current "revision." Now the scene starts with MJ actually speaking to DANIEL Kingsley, who she thinks is Roderick. Daniel then has his discussion not with Ned Leeds, but with his brother Roderick (as the thought balloons and Ned even being near Kingsley's studio don't work, even though he's Kingsley's thrall). So now Roderick is the one who meets MJ in the street, which again at least means she's recognizing someone we already know she knows... but it's someone she THINKS she just saw a couple hours earlier when she talked to Daniel pretending to be Roderick. Fortunately, the dialogue still works since she doesn't say "long time, stranger" or anything like that.
Whew! Four writers and four different IDs for the Hobgoblin. Plus "Roderick" goes from losing his alternate ID as the Rose to being revealed as not Roderick at all.
Posted by: Dan H. | September 11, 2015 10:24 PM
I managed to completely forget about the Alfredo Morelli appearance with MJ in #282, despite you including scans here.
So it's entirely possible that DeFalco (who was still scripting at that point) intended for "Alfredo Morelli" to be the guy MJ meets outside and would reveal "Alfredo" as the Hobgoblin during or after Gang War, to the boos and jeers of the readers who would take that as a cop-out for it to be a new character under the mask... only to then turn around and reveal that "Alfredo" was actually Richard Fisk. I'm obviously cribbing that Alfredo/Fisk thing from Walter Lawson's comments, but I really like that idea. It does make me wonder what the nature of the "deleted scenes" which were supposed to reintroduce Richard Fisk AS Richard Fisk to the storyline before the reveal were.
Under Owsley, I don't know if Morelli being the Foreigner in disguise would have worked or if Owsley just planned to reveal that the guy MJ met on the street was not Morelli.
Obviously, through the lens of both Peter David and Stern, Morelli is NOT the guy MJ meets on the street.
Posted by: Dan H. | September 12, 2015 2:49 PM
Still looking at the angle where Richard Fisk was going to be the Hobgoblin, the scene with him meeting Mary Jane still works, in regards to how MJ knew him. She was dating his best friend, Alfredo, so she met Fisk through him.
DeFalco started setting up Kingsley as the Rose in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #271, but I suspect he had Fisk in mind as the Hobgoblin as early as #260.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | October 11, 2016 10:19 AM
I kinda wonder if MJ was one of Roderick Kingsley's girlfriends around this time. I mean he dated lots of models, MJ was extra friendly with him and she never seemed above making a social hook-up which might advance her carreer.
It would have added an extra dimension to the Spidey/hobgoblin rivalry.
Posted by: kveto | November 9, 2016 2:27 PM
I was a kid when this issue came out and “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” was a staple of afternoon reruns at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if the extended scene with Iceman in the van was intended to cash in on some of that ongoing popularity. I associated Iceman more with Spider-Man than the X-Men until at least ‘92 because of that show.
Posted by: Jeff | February 21, 2018 12:07 AM
@Jeff yeah I remember being really disappointed when I first read this issue as a kid and Iceman's relationship with Spidey wasnt acknowledged - I thought Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends was canon (or at least reflected continuity in some way).
Leonardi was really at the top of his game in this period-nobody drew the black costume better - he really made it look dynamic and cool and X-Factor look better here than they did in their own book at the time.
The Sinister Syndicate story got a semi-sequel in some of the latter issues issues of Spider-Man's Tangled Web - also by DeFalco and Frenz and also featuring Sable.
Posted by: Hugh Sheridan | March 9, 2018 10:40 AM
Correction: Frenz and DeFalco's Syndicate/Sandman/Spidey/Sable sequel was in Webspinners- Tales of Spider-Man #17 & 18, published in 2000 but featuring an editor's note from Ralph Macchio placing the story between ASM #286-289 (that whole series is already listed on the what's missing page).
Posted by: Hugh Sheridan | March 9, 2018 12:04 PM
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