Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 14: The Return of the Green Goblin

The Spider-Man Clone saga is one of the most reviled story lines ever. It featured the return of Spider-Man's clone Ben Reilly, but also dragged Spider-Man through one of the strangest, series of conspiracies and narratives that the franchise have ever seen.
But... is it really as bad as the internet would have you believe? Come with us as we review the Clone Saga story arc by story arc as we uncover how one of comics' most infamous series holds up today.

"The Return of the Green Goblin" Spectacular Spider-Man #225

Writers:Tom DeFalco

Artists: Sal Buscema, Bill Sienkiewicz

Review by Eric Lee

The title "Return of the Green Goblin" is a misleading one. The cover  boasts "Introducing the new Green Goblin" when he actually first appeared two weeks (real time) in Web of Spider-Man #125.

However, this issue does have a new character: Firefist! He's a villain who is obsessed with cleansing America of its trash i.e. homeless people. He is also not to be mistaken for the other Firefist from the X-Men comics. That character actually goes on to have a pretty meaty role in the movie Deadpool 2

So this Firefist makes his reputation by immolating homeless people. And both Peter and the new Green Goblin are hunting him. Interestingly, the Jackal seems really annoyed that a new Green Goblin appeared and vows to get some answers.

Elsewhere, Mary Jane created a new Spider-Man costume for Peter while she becomes more resentful that he is not helping her with her own problems. She's concerned about her baby possibly being deformed due to Peter's irradiated blood. Honestly, she really needs to speak with Peter. But instead, he drops in to grab his new Spidey costume and heads out again.

So with a lot of worries, who does Mary Jane turn to? Ben Reilly. It's Ben who quells her fears about the baby and even goes so far as saying he is "pro-life". I know that he's referring to other things too, but this may be the only time I've seen a mainstream comic book character make a stance on abortion.

The whole Mary Jane subplot is really leaving a bad taste in my mouth. It paints Peter as a downright negligent husband. He blows her off, which forces her to get emotional counselling and consolation from another person. This just smacks more of "Peter is not that great of a guy, Ben is way better".

Meanwhile, the new Green Goblin hunts for homeless people who are potential targets for Firefist. But stupidly, the Goblin looks super-shady while doing it. He is silently hovering behind an unsuspecting homeless man with a pumpkin bomb ready to strike save him.

It's not surprising that Spider-Man assumes that the Goblin is going to kill the man and intervenes. The two duke it out briefly while Firefist preys on his next victim. The Jackal also spies on Spidey battling the Goblin. Despite not getting any answers, he decides to leave and resume his own plans. That whole Jackal mini-plot was pointless.

But eventually, Spidey and the Goblin team-up to defeat Firefist. The battle also revealed that the Goblin has a new power that previous Goblins never had: sonic laughter.

So to tally up, all we know about the new Goblin is that he is probably young and has an uncle who may work at the Daily Bugle. Aside from the sonic laughter power, there's no more hints at the Goblin's real identity.

With the day finished, the Jackal returns to his labs to find the Third Peter aka Freakface! Jackal teases that he has plans for the clone.

However, if you read the teaser captions at the bottom, they're trying to mislead readers into thinking this is yet another Peter clone. At this point, you think the writers would stop teasing more unseen clones. It must've been exhausting trying to keep track of them all. Unfortunately, this's just the tip of the clone iceberg...

The rest of the issue features a retrospective of Peter's life. However, the narrative through-line is Ben Urich and photographer Angela Yin are interviewing various people in Peter's life to see if he is truly a murderer.

Speaking of Angela, she's a minor supporting character created by writer Tom DeFalco. She barely stuck around after the Clone Saga and then dropped off the map completely when the Spider-Man titles were rebooted

She seems like a supporting character who's ripe for a comeback. It would also be nice to see since, as she's only like one of two Asian  supporting characters in  Spider-Man's whole history (Sha Shan Nguyen being the other one).

By the Numbers

Lets tally up to see what the Clone Saga has done so far:

Notable Developments:

  • The first and only appearance of Firefist 
  • The new Goblin reveals his sonic laughter power
  •  Jackal and the Freakface are revealed to be working together

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Judas Traveller
  • Mr. Thorpe
  • The Scrier 
  • The new Green Goblin

Subplots Count:

  •  Mary Jane is concerned for her baby's health
  • Kaine "sees" Mary Jane's murder
  • Kaine stalks Ben Reilly AND Peter Parker
  • Daily Bugle report Ken Ellis' obsession with Scarlet Spider
  •  Ben and Peter switch places in prison. 
  • Thorpe wanting to kill Spider-Man for unknown reasons
  • Spider-Man and Scarlet Spider are unsure who is the real clone
  • Third Peter is Freakface
  • Jackal wants the Carrion Virus to create a race of super-clones
  • Judas Traveller is helping Peter for unknown reasons
  • Other super-villains are teamed-up to kill Kaine
  • MJ asks Black Cat for help
  • Detective Raven and Stunner team-up to hunt for Kaine 
  • Who is the new Green Goblin?

Clones Running Around:

  • Ben Reilly
  • Kaine
  • Freakface
  • The first Gwen clone

Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  • No repetitive scenes in this story! Good job!

This story gives us a nice break from the fast-paced Clone Saga. While there are some continuing subplots, this is a done-in-one story. It's entertaining, if a little forgettable.

I personally believe the worst part is how Peter treats MJ. I know that he has a lot of problems to deal with, but MJ is crying out for help and he's pushing her aside. If this was a soap opera, that's grounds for an extra-marital affair.  Man, Peter's a terrible husband in this comic.

Not to besmirch a comic legend like Sal Buscema, but his art does not do it for me. It's so sketchy. At times, the overwhelming darkness of Bill Sienkiewicz's inks make it hard to tell what's happening too.

For the previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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