THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #16
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Humberto Ramos
INKER: Victor Olazaba
COLOR ART: Edgar Delgado
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
- Spi-dOck has revealed the secret identity of the Phil Urich Hobgoblin, or as I call him, the Phlobgoblin. Phob Gobich takes the Daily Bugle hostage (or should I say “phostage”?), but Parkter Pocktoper detonates the nano-spiders he injected into Philblin, stunning him. Arach-tavius pushes Hobich through the window and onto the street, where Spocky’s army surrounds Philob, who surrenders. The authorities take Urgob into custody.
- The Avengers note Spotto’s odd behavior and warn him that he’s on probation. (This line could have been cut and pasted from my earlier reviews.)
- Carlie Cooper and Captain Watanabe don’t like Spider-Man’s (AKA Otto Octavius possessing Peter Parker’s body) murderous rampage from [two issues ago] one bit, and they’re going to put a stop to it . . . as soon as they get more proof! (This line actually was cut and pasted from my last review.)
- The Green Gob-Knows-Who sends Menace (BLEH!) to rescue Phob Urblin and recruit him. Phil gets a new costume and a new identity: The Goblin Knight.
I actually really like this issue, despite how it systematically checks off practically every item on my list of pet peeves for this series. Pointless, go-nowhere investigation by Carlie Cooper into the truth she already knows? Check. The Green Goblin talking ominously and recruiting more followers, but not actually doing anything? Check. The Avengers acting like fools? Check.
But the meat of the story, the scenes with Phil in the Bugle, work fantastically. It’s a confined space full of vulnerable people, and the creative team effectively builds the suspense by showing Phil lose his nerve and start to crack gradually. The reader knows that he could snap at any moment. Joe Robertson describes the scenario as a “pressure cooker” in the dialogue, and that level of tension comes across to the reader. I could not stop turning pages. And once the tables turn and Spider-Man has Phil at his mercy, the tension doesn’t go away because the question remains whether Spider-Man will outright murder him or not. Again, Slott and Ramos masterfully play off of that suspense.
When I first saw this story advertised, I began rooting for Phil’s punk ass to get wasted. Now I’m glad he survived, for two reasons. First, I’ve honestly warmed to him over the course of this story. The past few issues have been as much about conveying Phil’s sense of desperation due to his debt to Roderick Kingsley and his being pursued by Spider-Man as they have been about the danger Phil poses to other people. By pulling readers into Phil’s emotional state, Slott makes him somewhat relatable, if not sympathetic.
Second, SpOck killing Phil would have been repetitive of the endings to the Massacre and Smythe stories. I like that, thanks to those stories, I have no idea what SpOck’s going to do whenever he has a villain cornered. Mixing it up by having SpOck actually spare an enemy preserves that unpredictability.
The biggest knock against Superior Spider-Man #16 is that it makes Joe Robertson look like a dick. After the cops take Phil away, Joe sends Ben Urich on leave and fires Norah Winters due to their personal connections to Phil. I mean, damn, Norah Winters may not be my favorite character, but the woman just found out that her boyfriend was a psychotic hit man. She just had her life threatened. And Robbie fires her literally ten minutes after that happens? Since when was Robbie that cold?