Peter and Max try to escape from two Hobgoblins, save Norah Winters and keep Osborn’s stash out of the Kingpin’s hands. Despite some plot issues, overall I found this to be a satisfying conclusion to one of the best arcs of Slott’s run.
The Amazing Spider-Man #697
Words by Dan Slott & Christos Gage
Pencils by Giuseppe Camucoli
Inks by Dan Green & John Dell
Colors by Antinio Fabela
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
It was actually a bit of a rocky start. In classic Slott fashion, it turns out that Max Modell has had a force field around him this entire time, and even that other people can jump behind it with him — does a little door open in it, or does it only block small objects flying towards its user? (It doesn’t. Last issue Peter tossed the key to him without any issues.) Whatever the case, it’s a little hard to take the story seriously when this kind of “turns out there was no threat anyway!” stunt gets pulled for the umpteenth time in the space of a few months.
Now, Max is supposed to be a super genius, and in the Marvel U that means a force field is child’s play to him. Surprisingly, he can’t seem to figure out a better way to power it than with his cell phone battery. And for that matter he can’t invent a cell phone battery that lasts long enough to use for a force field reliably. I wish Slott would make up his mind about whether this guy is brilliant or a moron.
Things get a whole lot better once Peter and Max use the key to get into Osborn’s secret lair. I really love the way this place is portrayed. There’s a row of Spidey dummies along the wall that have been used as target practice for Goblin blades, and in a nice little extra touch there’s a suit of Iron Patriot armor in the corner. I did have to wonder, though, why the security was such a joke. Sure, there was a password required for the place not to blow up, but “Stromm,” while relevant, would probably get flagged as “weak” if you used it to sign up for gmail.
Holing Peter and Max up inside the lair was a great move, though, because it finally gives us a chance to see the Hobgoblins interact without any combat going on. While I still don’t really like the role that Phil has taken on, I liked seeing him advance to the level of threatening Norah’s death if the door wasn’t opened. It’s as if he was already starting to learn from Roderick’s ruthlessness during the battle, a fact which the older goblin takes note of and seems to take to heart. I was a little concerned that this would result in them becoming buddies too quickly, but the fight continues once the chase starts up again. In one of the high points of the issue, Phil requests another alliance to go after Spider-Man, and with a cool “Y’know what?” Nah.” Roderick zaps him into unconsciousness, bringing the conflict to its rightful conclusion.
On the other end of things, the dynamic between Peter and Max was well-written in this issue too. I was disappointed that Max didn’t come out and confront Peter with the obvious truth last issue, but it’s clear enough here that he knows what’s going on and is only humoring him. I love his doubtful expression when the spider sense amplifier comes back on and Peter explains his sudden attack as a “migraine… from the stress.” He seems to know what’s going on when Peter hatches the plan that he’ll use one of the Spider-dummies in the Osborn lair to “pretend” to be Spider-Man and fly out on a hastily-constructed Spider-glider (why didn’t he just use a Goblin glider instead of taking the time to hack together a spider-themed one?) but I think that Slott & Gage have him playing it cool because this knowledge is going to come into play in the next three issues. Something big is going to happen to Peter, and it seems likely that Max is going to be a part of that given how important recent storylines have been making him.
There’s a nice touch here where Peter manages to overcome his haywire Spider sense, too. While it may have seemed like sort of a slap-dash solution to have him simply find it inside himself to block it out, I thought it worked because so much of his power really is derived from his resolve and determination. Just like how, in many situations, he’s managed to amplify his strength through sheer force of will when it really came down to the wire, I think he’d be able to shove his spider sense to an unused corner of his mind if he really focused and wanted it enough.
Finally, the art has been a true highlight of this entire arc. Dan Green’s inks have been a godsend to Camuncoli’s pencils, and each issue has featured gorgeously rendered battles with Spidey and the Goblins. The sky-combat between the three is especially impressive, featuring truly dynamic panels that really convey the feeling of being up in the air with a lot of fluid motion and high-stakes combat. The goblins look ruthless and threatening, and Camuncoli’s somewhat blocky-looking people during dialogue scenes are made a lot gentler by the new inking and colors. Caselli’s been my favorite Spider artist for some time now, but the art in this issue gives him a serious run for his money.
Despite some storyline flaws I’ve had a great time with these past few issues. At its best, Amazing Spider-Man combines a compelling narrative with well-rendered action and likeable characters with believable motives. This Hobgoblin story has been one of the rare examples of Slott’s run that I’ve felt has fully delivered all three of those things, instead of just one or two. Once again, I suspect having Gage co-write helped a lot with that, as I think he’s a much stronger writer when it comes to things like dialogue and characterization. One thing that was extremely noticeable about this arc was that it lacked Slott’s usual insistence on shoving tangents and teasers into awkward spots in the middle of the story where they really don’t belong — it was all one smoothly-flowing narrative from start to finish, and it wasn’t until the very end that we got a taste of what’s to come.
Not surprisingly, I have mixed feelings. I was glad that for once, the “preview” wasn’t delivered via Madame Web. It was a little silly, though, seeing that Osborn has disappeared from his bed in “Columbia University Medical Center. Coma Ward.” Yes, for real: Normal Osborn, nationally vilified American traitor and known former supervillain, was being held in an ordinary coma ward. And the punchline? Dr. Octopus is still there. “Peter Parker…” he mutters.
It’s the story of the web-head’s life, lately. If trouble can’t find him naturally, somebody makes up nonsense to ensure that it will happen. Still, the fact that Norman will play a role in the upcoming story where “it all falls apart” is a surprise I’m cautiously pleased about. If you’re going to do something major to end the flagship Spidey book, it ought to involve his greatest enemy.
Pros: An exciting conclusion to an exciting storyline. It was well-paced, the characters were all very well portrayed, and Roderick’s means of dealing with Phil were very satisfying. The art, again, was top notch.
Cons: A good bit of head-scratching nonsense made its way in here, like Max’s suddenly having a force field running on his cell phone battery, the Goblin lair’s pitiful security and, by far the worst, Norman Osborn being held in an everyday coma ward.