“Dark Reign: The Goblin Legacy” is an odd beast. While Marvel is no stranger to putting out handbooks and reprints to supplement a crossover or major storyline with some low cost content, rarely do they go to the extent that this issue does.
An original framing sequence sees Osborn’s H.A.M.M.E.R. cohort, Ms. Hand, investigating the history of the Green Goblin -- including an interview with one Peter Parker. The opening sequence segues immediately into a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man issues #39 and #40, which were the issues where the Goblin’s identity was revealed. Unusually, Marvel has actually gone so far as to re-color both issues to give a more modern look.
On one hand, it feels like heresy to even suggest such a thing. On the other, it’s a respectful job that sticks fairly close to the originals, offering a little extra three-dimensionality to the artwork. Purists will probably balk, but then, they’d balk at any attempt. The truth is, it’s not so bad. Certainly, worse re-coloring jobs have been done -- this one offers something new for completists, and something a little more modern for new readers who might not have read the story before. The main thing to focus on is that Romita’s artwork doesn’t get buried beneath the new look -- the look and dynamism of his work stays intact.
Following the reprints, the framing sequence continues, rounding out the rest of the book with a “Green Goblin Saga” illustrated synopsis of the Goblin history, alongside handbook entries for Norman and Harry Osborn. Some of the information feels a bit redundant, but it is, at least, fantastically comprehensive. Continuity nerds will find plenty to enjoy, and new fans are pointed in the direction of some classic (and not-so-classic) Goblin stories that they might want to investigate.
Although the new material is little more than window dressing, the new work done on the reprints means that the issue does offer enough new material to make it worth a look. If we have to see these kind of cheaply-produced, handbook-style comics, I’d much rather they followed the template of this one.