Amazing Spider-Man #284-286
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #284, Amazing Spider-Man #285, Amazing Spider-Man #286
The overarching cause for the Gang War is the disappearance of the Kingpin, who has gone on an extended vacation after losing credibility among the lesser crimelords due to his obsession with Daredevil and use of Nuke during Born Again. He's left things in the hands of his lieutenant, the Arranger. But the arrival of a new gang, called the Blue Boys because they wear blue masks, starts putting stress on the Kingpin's empire.
The Arranger responds by having the Jack O'Lantern take out Silvermane...
...and by arranging an explosion at a restaurant where Hammerhead is staying.
The Rose had been trying to stay out of the war (despite the fact that his partner Hobgoblin attacked the Blue Boys at the beginning of this story), but as things get more out of control he decides to get involved.
There's also some suspicious stuff going on with Police Lieutenant Keating.
Spider-Man has recently been paying lip-service to the idea that he doesn't want to be Spider-Man anymore and has only remained so because he's looking for Flash Thompson (who at this point is hiding out with Betty Leeds), but he's involved in that first Hobgoblin/Blue Boy fight...
...and is later drawn out again after the bombing of Hammerhead's restaurant injures civilians.
And at the end of issue #284, the Hobgoblin pursues a black-costumed individual that he thinks is Spider-Man but turns out to be the Punisher. Whoops!
We don't see the end of that Hobgoblin/Punisher encounter, and it turns out that the Hobgoblin just flew away. Which is for the best. I like that the Hobgoblin is scared of the Punisher, since he uses lethal methods, but the Hobgoblin wouldn't hesitate to leap into battle with Spider-Man, who is actually much more powerful than Punisher. So i wouldn't want to see Punisher actually winning a fight against Hobgoblin.
Plus, i'm not even sure if this really is the Punisher since he seems to be dyeing his hair.
Issue #285 still gets a DeFalco plot credit, but i think we are seeing more of Christopher Priest's ideas at this point. Because we know that DeFalco intended Roderick Kingsley to be the Rose and Richard Fisk to be the Hobgoblin, whereas in this issue #285 we get pretty strong clues that Fisk is the Rose (and that's confirmed in #286, which is fully plotted by Priest). We see Fisk visiting his mother, and notice the roses by her bedside...
...and then the Rose decides to form an alliance with the Arranger (presumably Fisk protecting his mother)...
...which surprises the Hobgoblin.
Hammerhead survived the explosion, and we earlier saw him getting into a fight with Jack O'Lantern. I find it interesting that Jack is afraid to get into a fight with Hammerhead; despite his metal skull i don't really think of him as a super-villain, exactly.
Of course, Jack later runs from Spider-Man even while he's got the Hobgoblin at his side, so i guess he's just a coward?
As for the Punisher, he seems to have forgotten the lesson of his mini-series, which was that by taking out the Kingpin he started a gang war that caused more violence than was happening under the Kingpin's reign. In this arc he tries to bazooka a gathering of the Arranger, the Rose, and other crimelords trying to put an end to the Gang War...
...but Spider-Man stops him. And is gassed for his trouble.
Throughout all this, we continue to get suspicious vibes from Ned Leeds, who asks that Robbie continue to cover for the lies he's been telling his estranged wife, and says he needs to get information on Soviet spy activity during the Cold War.
Whatever amount Priest was involved in the plotting of #285, it's definitely all him when we get to #286. He brings in Sgt. Tork, from his Falcon mini-series...
...and reveals to us that Richard Fisk is the Rose in a very Priest-like way.
Despite Fisk's talk of "strength of character" though, he later feels forced to shoot a rookie cop in order to get away from a battle between the crime gangs and the police.
We also learn that the Arranger has been keeping Vanessa Fisk drugged. The guy in the scene below is actually not the Arranger, but he is working under the Arranger's - and we'll learn, the Kingpin's - orders.
Here's the scene that Michael mentions below, with Betty thinking about writing a letter to her mother. She was also talking about writing a letter to her mom in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #109.
We'll leave things there for now to give room for Spider-Man to appear in other books. Despite the changes in creative teams, i really like Gang War. And of course it's because there's a ton of cool characters moving around and lots of twists in the plot, plus finally some movement on the various mysteries that have been dragging on a bit in this book (i.e. the Rose's identity). But if you've been following my perpetual unhinged rantings on the main blog about the current state of Marvel (writing this in early 2013), you'll know that one of my big complaints is the fact that Marvel's various books seem so disjointed. Whereas here, this Gang War, which is a fun story in its own right, is building directly off of Born Again and looking at the implications of the Kingpin's actions there. And it also acknowledges the recent events in the Punisher's mini-series (even if the Punisher has forgotten the specific lesson he learned there, which is not surprising given the nature of the character). This arc isn't a crossover in the way that, say, Mutant Massacre was, but it is very much playing as a part of the larger Marvel universe while still working as a standalone story.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #284 references Spider-Man's fight with the Mauler seemingly as if it has just happened, so i'm placing this directly after Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #122. The MCP break up Gang War by placing a number of Spider-Man appearances after the first four pages of Amazing Spider-Man #287, and i'm following that as closely as i can with actual issues by pausing here after the end of Amazing Spider-Man #286. Daredevil's appearance in theses issues is only a phone call to Spider-Man, asking to meet at the Verrazano Bridge. Which turns out to be bad information as the real action is happening in Jackson Heights. The MCP has Daredevil's appearance here and in the next half of Gang War between DD #241-242.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAbraham Varley, Ann Macintosh, Arranger, Arthur Chekov, Aunt May, Ben Urich, Betty Brant, Daniel Johnston, Daredevil, Dina (Richard Fisk's girlfriend), Flash Thompson, Foreigner, Hammerhead, Hobgoblin (Roderick Kingsley), J. Jonah Jameson, Jason Macendale, Joe 'Robbie' Robertson, Kate Cushing, Lance Bannon, Mary Jane Watson, Ned Leeds, Punisher, Richard Fisk, Sgt. Tork, Silvermane, Spider-Man, Vanessa Fisk
Also, this storyline had a great amount of character development for the major players. I especially liked the casual reveal of the Rose's identity. No big melodrama, just comes out during a discussion.
Posted by: clyde | February 25, 2014 4:45 PM
Thanks for the heads-up on the font, Clyde. HTML mishap.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 25, 2014 4:54 PM
With this issue and Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, Priest pretty much destroyed any chance of a satisfying reveal to the Hobgoblin saga. Previous issues had shown Kingsley with Hobgoblin. Now, by revealing Fisk as the Rose, Priest made it impossible for Fisk to the Hobgoblin and raised the question of what the heck Kingsley is supposed to be doing in these issues. By killing off Ned, he eliminated the only viable remaining suspect.
Posted by: Michael | February 25, 2014 8:33 PM
I was so excited when this arc began and utterly not caring when it ended. The idea of a large scale gang war is very exciting, but it really fell flat at the end.
It would have helped if in earlier issues an attempt was made to reintroduce these factions to the current readership, as it's been a while since some of these characters have been appeared. Silvermane's been gone over two years, and his last appearance was in a different title (and nine in ASM) where he wasn't acting like a crimelord. Hammerhead has been away even longer. It also would have been good to dwell a little on the difference between the Maggia and Kingpin's empire. I have a feeling it was assumed everyone had read the relevant entries in OHOTMU. This is minor though.
The revelation of the Rose, as others have indicated, made zero sense.
I also did not like the depressed Peter Parker that DeFalco was writing in this error. While I had not been exposed to previous "Spider-Man quits!" stories at this time, it felt forced and wasn't fun to read. I just wanted to see him fight the Hobgoblin.
I was also hoping to see some other villains in the gang war, even if only in a cameo capacity. Given DeFalco's tendency to bring in characters he already created, it's surprising the Enforcers (now with his two additions) not show up. Man Mountain Marko, any number of Luke Cage or DD villains. And Turk and Grotto! Just ask Gruenwald, he could've given plenty.
Ultimately, very disappointing.
Posted by: Chris | February 27, 2014 8:57 PM
Another thing to note- Betty thinks to herself in issue 284 about writing a letter to her mother. This will be retconned in issue 289 as Betty going crazy- her mother was dead.
Posted by: Michael | February 27, 2014 9:13 PM
I really enjoyed the two issues I originally bought when it first came out (286 & 288). I think the ending was a bit flat but it had a lot of interesting characters (maybe a bit too much to flesh out properly). I think Priest's writing is excellent in this story arc.
Posted by: JSfan | February 28, 2014 4:30 PM
they could have spun it as Betty writing to her deceased Mom as a form of therapy the way people write in a journal to let off stress. I've read about people writing letters to lost love ones as a psychological method of coping
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Actor, Comics CEO | January 26, 2016 10:36 AM
These were fun when I was a kid but upon a re-read I didn't care for them all that much. The character development from the Stern/DeFalco runs evaporated in favor of event driven stories.
Posted by: MindlessOne | May 13, 2017 4:20 PM
Kingsley as the Rose utterly lacks imagination.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | June 24, 2017 2:31 PM
Vin: Perhaps, but I think it's worth reiterating that when DeFalco conceived of the character of the Rose back in #253, he did not intend him to be Roderick Kingsley (or Richard Fisk) at that point either; he intended the Rose to just be a middle-management crime boss who wore a mask, and had an inconsequential true identity, sort of like an 80's version of the Crime-Master. I think it was around #275, DeFalco claimed people were starting to question the Rose's "secret" identity, so he decided to make him a pre-existing character, and chose Kingsley at that point.
Posted by: mikrolik | June 25, 2017 12:13 PM
I had been reading Spiderman and Daredevil comics for quite some time when the issues were published, but I had never even heard of Richard Fisk. Thanks to Supermegamonkey, I now know that this was his first appearance since 1976. I'm rather bemused that DeFalco has said he thought Fisk would make a suitable candidate to be the Hobgoblin. I can't imagine anyone who would be more anti-climatic. And he doesn't fit the clues that have been dropped either.
Posted by: Bernard the Poet | November 13, 2017 8:25 PM
According to DeFalco, he DID throw in scenes with Fisk but Priest cut them.
Posted by: Michael | November 13, 2017 8:39 PM
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