Nathan Kiehn is the author of over 100 blog posts on his family website Keenlinks and "The Gray Guard" ebook fantasy trilogy on Amazon.
Finally. Two subplots that have been teased since the beginning of Brand New Day are finally laid to rest in this volume. Marc Guggenheim, John Romita Jr., and Barry Kitson answer two long-standing questions: Who is the face behind the mask of the newest Goblin to “Menace” Spider-Man? And who is responsible for all those spider tracer killings?
Now, before diving into the story, I want to make a note: Some people did not enjoy the Menace mystery a whole lot. They thought it felt like a rip-off of the Green Goblin and Hobgoblin mysteries from earlier years. Yes, it’s definitely a recycled plot, but it’s one that seems very well thought out, and it wasn’t a mystery that took years and years to solve. It got teased for a while and then answered.
Cast Your Votes
It’s Election Day in New York City, and what better way for Spidey to start it then getting hunted down by New York’s Finest. Believed to be a murderer, the stakes are high for Spidey and this chase ends up with him getting grazed by a bullet and sailing through a glass window. He eventually falls unconscious from his wounds, but he wakes up just fine. During this sequence, before he succumbing to sleep, he breezes past a guy into an elevator, escaping two officers on his tail (one of whom happens to be Vin Gonzales, Peter Parker’s roomie). One officer grills the guy, asking why didn’t he stop Spidey, to which the guy responds that it’s the cops' job to catch bad guys, not his. It’s a hilarious reference to Amazing Fantasy #15, where Spidey lets a crook go who ultimately kills his Uncle Ben. Good moment, great job by Guggenheim.
Events happen quickly. Harry Osborn proposes to his girlfriend Lilly Hollister, daughter of popular mayoral candidate Bill Hollister. Carlie Cooper—a forensic specialist who has popped up here and there since the beginning of Brand New Day—is focusing her efforts on the spider tracer murders. Then things start getting really weird. With the help of a friend, Carlie rigs a device that lets her track the tracers, specifically to their point of origin. At the same time, Lilly has to leave Harry suddenly. Carlie tracks the tracers down…
…to Peter Parker’s apartment.
Wait, what? She’s confronted by Vin and his officer partner, who mention an attack by Menace going on at a Hollister rally. Peter, who’s dressing his gash at the time, goes off to fight this new goblin. Now, because Romita Jr. loves his bloodletting, the battle between the two is fierce, and Menace reaches the point where he could kill Spider-Man but chooses not to. Instead, he leaves a bloody and battered Spider-Man for the police and flies away to another apartment. The Hollister apartment. Just in time for Harry Osborn to walk in and discover Menace contorting his features and discovering “he” isn’t a “he” but a “she.” Menace is Lily Hollister.
How’s that for a twist?
Okay, lots, lots going on. So much so that the next issue—this one drawn by Barry Kitson—is dedicated to Menace’s origin, which is fairly similar to many Goblin-esque origins: Lilly gets doused with a type of formula and goes crazy as a result, except she doesn’t need a costume because she becomes a goblin creature that she can turn into at will. That’s different. While she began attacking other candidates like Palfrey (who died a number of issues ago), she decided to switch tactics and target her father’s campaign, to drum up sympathy.
I like this twist, particularly because it was woven so well throughout the previous issues. You get the idea this is what the writers wanted from the beginning and so gave proper clues as to what’s going on—previous issues with both Lily and Menace will never show them together, Lily kisses Peter at one point to keep him from touching a secret lever to a secret Goblin lab, it explains her “disappearance” during the Secret Invasion story—to keep the story fresh. And some fans may say it feels like a Green Goblin/Hobgoblin rip-off, but if this is the “Goblin mystery” story for my generation, then I’m cool with it. I also knew that Lily was the Goblin before reading these issues and earlier Brand New Day material, so I got to examine how the writers crafted the story, which I enjoyed.
When John Romita Jr. returns for the next issue, he’s got a lot to handle. Spidey’s in jail, and Vin joins him after being turned on by his partner. Now, the cops haven’t killed anyone. They’ve only planted Spider-tracers on dead bodies to make it look like Spider-Man killed these people (who actually killed these people is never addressed), to sabotage the hero’s reputation since cops hate that Spidey does their job for him. Spidey, fortunately, does not harbor similar feelings. Given some legal and extralegal help from his blind lawyer Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, Spidey secures a web-shooter and helps bust Vin out of prison, largely since he’s not sure why the guy’s there. He kicks the snot out a whole cell block to get out, cause these guys apparently forgot what happened to the Kingpin all those months ago.
Girls, Guys, Goblins, and Guggenheim
And then things start to collide. Cops try to arrest Carlie in order to keep their tracer scheme a cover-up; Lily’s present when this happens and so dons her Menace gear and weaponry to stop them; Spidey hears about this and ditches Vin, who confronts his police captain, who’s also part of the tracer scheme. Harry Osborn, meanwhile, is in complete shock at what’s happened. These writers really like piling it on poor Harry. His father was the OG Green Goblin who killed his best friend’s girlfriend and then got killed himself; Harry got hooked on drugs and became a Green Goblin himself before “dying” and undergoing rehab in Europe; Norman returned and started Green Goblining again before shooting an alien queen and basically becoming second to the president in terms of power. Wow. And, as much as I hate to say it, it only gets worse for him as the series continues.
Harry dons a Green Goblin costume and goes after Lily, saving Spidey from another brutal beat down courtesy of Romita Jr. The fallout here is huge. The battle ends with Lily’s identity being revealed on live television and her father Bill—the favorite to win the election—pulling out of the race in shame. A mayor will be elected at a later date. Harry’s dealing with the pain as best as possible, but he’s hurt, and Spidey’s worried that his best friend donned a costume to save him. Is Harry going crazy again? Vin makes a deal to squeal on fellow cops involved in the tracer killings, and we’re introduced to his sister, Michelle, who’s also his attorney. She will be appearing more often down the line, I assure you. Finally, Lily is approached by Norman Osborn, and fans are left with the sickening feeling that he’s about to twist her to fit his own diabolical ends.
Overall, this is a really fun volume. After reading a number of issues, we’re starting to see some progress in story other than in terms of world building. The realm of Brand New Day has been constructed, and the payoff is beginning. The mystery of Menace is solved, the spider tracer killings are exposed, and the mayoral race has reached a definite turning point. If fans were left disheartened by One More Day, hopefully this new era was encouraging to them. There are still a lot of story threads to follow, and these creators will continue weaving them as best they can to give us a vibrant world to explore.
Amazing Spider-Man: Election Day
© 2017 Nathan Kiehn