AXIS: Hobgoblin #1

Breaking the fourth wall of the Kevin Shinick-written, Javier Rodriguez-drawn "AXIS: Hobgoblin" #1, the titular character advises readers to check in with "Axis" #3 first. That is sound advice both for this review and for the comic book experience itself, as Roderick Kingsley takes the spotlight and turns up his very best Billy Mays, convincing us all to become superheroes.

Television writer/producer of "MAD" and "Robot Chicken," Shinick is no stranger to the outer fringes of Spider-Man's world, having written the comic book adventures of Carnage in "Superior Carnage" as well as various and sundry Marvel Universe heroes and villains in the pages of "Superior Spider-Man Team-Up." This time, however, Shinick is able to pull the curtain back a bit and gives readers a face full of the machinations of Kingsley's moneymaking empire. Shinick does it all with flair and pizzazz, giving Kingsley a rapt audience hanging on his every word. Even his enemies are interested in what Kingsley has done and how. After all, just because Kingsley is in the hero business doesn't mean everything is sunny and happy for him. The writer is smart to play that card, even though Kingsley does enough to pitch this comic all by himself.

Shinick's up-tempo script is a strong match for Javier Rodriguez's pencils and colors. With more publishing experience as a colorist, Rodriguez is certainly making good on the lessons learned from later in the comic book production process. The artist draws up a mesmerizing mix of panels, including tributes to "Action Comics" #1 and "Amazing Fantasy" #15 as well as a battalion of wannabes answering Kingsley's call, including more than a few Easter eggs. While it is weird to see the Hobgoblin smiling throughout "AXIS: Hobgoblin" #1, Rodriguez makes the maniacal grin look great. The artist even manages to make an extreme act of violence seem not so bad, choosing implication and inference over in-your-face, gratuitous carnage. Inker Alvaro Lopez locks everything down, adding plenty of darkness around what is still a horrific, Halloween-appropriate tale, especially when readers join Shinick and team to peek in on the Goblin King.

Innovative lettering from Cowles that has as much fun with the sounds, cheers and announcements as Rodriguez does sneaking in Razorback, D-Man and, one of Kevin Shinick's favorites: the Hypno-Hustler, gives readers a wide array of noises and cheers. Cowles balances the captions of Hobgoblin and the Goblin King, keeping each separate and distinct, but neither character is really presented in an overly impressive manner. They are, after all, still humans. Rodriguez's coloring is bright and bold, braving this topsy-turvy title with the garish tones associated with Hobgoblin's schemes. The colorist even adds in some stellar lighting effects, such as when Kingsley is standing in front of video screens on a stage that would have Bono from U2 saying, "Yeah. Looks good."

"AXIS: Hobgoblin" #1 is a fun romp through a weird, not-as-dark-as-it-used-to-be-but-still-kinda-creepy corner of the Marvel Universe following the events of "AXIS" #3. Hobgoblin doesn't perform a complete heel turn to become a rescuer of kittens and defender of lunch money, but he does present himself in a much more relatable manner in Shinick's introductory offer. This is a fine start for an odd new adventure and one that I'm looking forward to continuing.

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