Superior Spider-Man #25 Review


SuperiorSpiderMan#25-coverIt’s a double-sized “anniversary” issue for the final chapter of  “Darkest Hours,” meaning this can only be a double-sized review. And there’s certainly a lot going on in this comic. We’ve got a Otto Octavious, as Spider-Man, wearing the Venom symbiote, fighting the Avengers; a brand-new look for Carlie Cooper that doesn’t include her wearing glasses; the Green Goblin once again interfering with the original Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley’s, franchise racket; Mary Jane in police custody; and Flash Thompson on the verge of death. Oh, and some other “inferior” person shows up to save the day, but I’m sure he’s of no importance whatsoever. Although, he does look awfully familiar, doesn’t he?

“Darkest Hours, part 4”

WRITERS: Dan Slott and Christos Gage

PENCILS:Humberto Ramos

INKS:Victor Olazaba

COLORS: Delgado, Fabela, and Gandini

LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos

VARIANT COVER: J.G. Jones

ASSISTANT EDITOR: Ellie Pyle

EDITOR: Stephen Wacker

 

THE STORY: The Avengers arrive to prevent SpOck, now the so-called “Superior Venom,” from killing the three of Roderick Kingley’s D-list super-villain knock-offs from last issue. Thus, a massive brawl ensues, with SpOck-Venom calling Spider-Island for reinforcements and Captain America getting a hold of Iron Man, telling him to find Flash Thompson. When their battle is televised live, public opinion turns against “Spider-Man” once more, as they take to the streets  armed with aerosol spray paint cans to spray down the spider-bots. Meanwhile, having been given a Goblin-formula induced make-over last issue, Carlie Cooper joins the Green Goblin’s inner circle as “Monster,” but still refuses to give up Spidey’s real name. So to prove if she’s really committed to her new “family,” the Green Goblin sends Monster out with her “sister” Menace to beat up some more of Roderick Kingsley’s D-list super-villain knock-offs. Kingsley becomes aware that the Green Goblin has been stealing his franchise earnings, and thus the “War of the Goblins” has begun.

Iron Man finds Flash Thompson, who is now moments away from dying without the symbiote, at Parker Industries. Wearing the Iron Man armor as a temporary life-support system, and due to still having traces of the symbiote in his system, Flash is able to avoid detection from SpOck-Venom’s spider-sense and gets the drop on him. However, the Venom symbiote, angry over having been being pacified with experimental drug treatments, refuses to go back to Flash. SpOck finally sees that the symbiote has been controlling him all along, and tries to force it to leave via his “superior willpower” but fails. But the symbiote is able to leave SpOck and go back to Flash thanks to…THE RETURN OF PETER PARKER’S JEDI FORCE GHOST! SpOck, unaware Ghost Peter is still alive and believing he repelled the symbiote himself, claims that the reason he’s been “acting strange” for so many months was because he was “infected” with a “microscopic symbiote fragment” from when he (or rather Peter) “first encounted” Agent Venom back in Venom #4. Mary Jane, having been bailed out of jail by Aunt May and Jay Jameson, buys this latest round of bullcrap and, because she can now “feel” some semblance of Peter within SpOck again, forgives him. But Iron Man isn’t so gullible, and after learning about the “thorough examination” the Avengers conducted on SpOck in Superior Spider-Man #8, he’s able to prove that SpOck erased the test results to hide his tracks. Thus the Avengers, finally realizing SpOck has played them all for suckers, vow to bring him in…again.

SuperiorSpider-Man#23--p24

MY THOUGHTS:So let’s get the big reveal of this issue out-of-the-way first, shall we? No, I don’t mean Flash becoming Agent Venom again so he can join The Guardians of the Galaxy, something Marvel decided to spoil well in-advance. Instead, I’m referring to the other news which was also spoiled in advance that accompanied Marvel’s announcement that The Superior Spider-Man will end with issue #31, and that an “All-New Marvel NOW!” version of The Amazing Spider-Man would begin with a all-new issue #1 (And “coincidentally” right before The Amazing Spider-Man 2 premieres in theaters. Hmm, a more cynical person might think Marvel planned it this way, or something.)

Yes, Peter Parker is back! Actually, his “ghost” is back, who, according to Otto, may only be a self-aware “memory fragment.” And yes, some of you more observant readers no doubt noticed how Ghost Peter already came back in Superior Spider-Man #19, thanks to SpOck inadvertently freeing him from the rubble of his subconscious while accessing those memories of Peter he already accessed. Nevertheless, in a scene deliberately evoking Superior Spider-Man #1, Ghost Peter’s timely intervention in stopping and removing the Venom symbiote from SpOck is not only the best moment of the issue, it’s the turning point for the entire series.

Yet even without Ghost Peter’s return, Dan Slott and Christos Gage show in this issue, and all throughout “Darkest Hours,” that Otto Octavious’ carefully woven web of deception is about to unravel, and no where was this more clear that Otto’s latest attempt to spin his way out of trouble. Just as some readers predicted, SpOck tried to put the blame squarely on the Venom symbiote; and, much to our annoyance, it looked as if though he was going to get away with it yet again. So it was nice to see that this time around, SpOck’s latest ruse proved even too far-fetched for the Avengers, especially once Iron Man told them, in so many words, because he “designed most of [their] equipment” and thus “[knows] it better than anyone,” they should have told him about their supposedly full-proof “triple-checked” test results a lot sooner.

Unfortunately, this also highlights what has been the biggest flaw behind the entire premise of Superior Spider-Man: that in order for SpOck to keep up his charade, almost every character had to have their IQ points and common sense reduced. Or, if they were still capable of putting two-and-two together, they were conveniently indisposed elsewhere for the sake of the narrative. It’s both hilarious and sad that what finally appears to tip-off the Avengers is not SpOck’s multiple homicides, his brutal assaulting and torturing of villains, his recruiting his own private vigilante army, his turning New York City into his own “Big Brother” style police state, or uncharacteristically behaving like an egotistical jerk—it’s learning he tampered with and erased their computers, which they’re apparently too incompetent to use without Tony Stark’s help. (Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, ladies and gentlemen!) And when the Avengers go after SpOck next issue, you just know he’ll find some way to take them down with relative ease, justifying this by accusing them of not allowing him to protect New York. Which, of course, will unintentionally make things even easier for the Green Goblin’s army during “Goblin Nation.”

Also, what little common sense Mary Jane displayed last issue appears to have evaporated. To be fair, Slott is acknowledging that Peter and MJ are soul mates; but to say this also translates into MJ being able to subconsciously “feel” the presence of Ghost Peter with what can only be her woman’s intuition? And that this is why MJ—who out of all the supporting characters should know better—still doesn’t think that “Peter” might be an imposter in spite her acknowledging he’s been acting so out of character? If Slott is attempting to show the depth of love MJ has for Peter, he instead conveys the notion that MJ is being willfully obtuse due to blind faith. Even so, I wouldn’t be surprised if Slott has it so that MJ is far more right about SpOck than she realizes by revealing SpOck has been the real Peter Parker all along, and that what Doc Ock really did in Amazing Spider-Man #698 was download a copy of his mind like malware into Peter, brainwashing him into making him believe he’s Otto. Which would also mean SpOck has had it backwards—he’s the “memory fragment,” not Ghost Peter. Plus, even if MJ does buy SpOck’s symbiote claim, she knows that she and “Peter” are now on Captain Watanabee’s hit list, and that Carlie Cooper is still missing.

Speaking of whiSuperiorSpider-Man#25-p9ch, is it wrong of me to say that Carlie’s transformation into another Goblin-themed super-villain is the best thing that has ever happened to her as a character? Of course, like the Green Goblin, I don’t believe she’s gone completely over to the dark side. Her coyly refusing to give up Peter’s identity and merely crippling Steeplejack instead of killing him like Phil Urich ends up doing hints that she’s only pretending to get on the Goblins’ good side before turning against them when the time is right. Even so, its clear we’re now meant to see her as another tragic figure for Peter to have to feel guilt-ridden about upon his return, because I cannot imagine Carlie staying on as regular member of the supporting cast after Superior Spider-Man is over. And forgive me if I’m not exactly shedding a tear over the idea of her potentially becoming the newest inmate at Ravencoft.

Which leads me to the Green Goblin himself and his claim that he’s still Norman Osborn—all while refusing to take off his mask. If the supposedly “CSI super sleuth” Carlie Cooper doesn’t believe the Green Goblin is Norman, then we’re obviously meant to conclude that there’s something suspicious going on here. Meaning either Slott is pulling a massive double bluff and the Green Goblin is actually telling the truth…or Slott has just revealed that whoever this Green Goblin is, he’s definitely not Norman. In fact, I’m going to go as far to say that when Green Goblin finally does unmask, he will look just like…Peter Parker.

Whether this means Norman has altered himself in some way to look like Peter, or if this means the Green Goblin is somehow the real Peter, I don’t know. What I do know is that Slott wouldn’t have gone through all this trouble prolonging the mystery behind the Goblin’s return ad nauseam if he wasn’t setting up some sort of “shocking” reveal about what the Goblin looks like under the mask. Also, I believe any other possible contenders for the Goblin’s true identity such as Harry Osborn, Bart Hamilton, Gabriel Stacy, Vin Gonzales, etc. would be a complete let down at this point. The only thing which seems worthy enough to me is if the Green Goblin is now somehow “Peter Parker,” just like Doctor Octopus has now become “Peter Parker.”

As for the battle between the Superior Venom and the Avengers, I understand why some readers believe that SpOck shouldn’t have been able to manhandle them as he did, particularly Thor. Let’s not forget, however, that Spidey’s powers are quite formidable, and that unlike Peter, Otto is not one to pull his punches. Couple this with the Venom symbiote making its host even more aggressive and amplifying their strength at least ten-fold AND that the Avengers were deliberately holding back, then it isn’t hard to imagine that a symbiote-possessed Spider-Man with the mind of Doc Ock would be very hard for the Avengers to subdue. Which makes the Superior Venom calling Spider-Island for back-up utterly meaningless. Same for Captain America’s calling all available Avengers for help, since not only do no other Avengers save Iron Man and Flash arrive, but the Avengers who are already there are able to quickly take care off SpOck’s spiderlings no problem. So the only reason those moments even exist is to just set-up the plot-point for Tony Stark to find Flash and bring him to the battle.

SuperiorSpider-Man#25--p4In addition, while Humberto Ramos’ hyperactive and exaggerated penciling makes the action exciting and energetic, it also makes it far too chaotic and even more confusing. One panel in particular I literally stared at for ten whole minutes trying to figure out what it was trying to convey, the lone dialogue balloon which supposedly explained what was happening being no help whatsoever. It was only then I realized that SpOck-Venom wasn’t meant to appear as though he was just standing in a menacing looking pose and that Thor had really bad aim, but that SpOck-Venom was supposed to be dodging one of Thor’s lightning bolts so that it would hit Wolverine and Black Widow instead. Now there are times where Ramos’ style is perfect, such as Carlie’s first appearance in her Goblinized form, or when SpOck is struggling to free himself from the symbiote until Ghost Peter comes to his aid; if only he didn’t feel the need to overcrowded his panels with characters twisted into positions that defy human anatomy, making scene after scene into such a convoluted, incomprehensible mess.

Yet despite its flaws, this is still a fun and enjoyable issue, especially for those who have followed this series just to see when the other shoe was going to drop. In spite of being twice the usual length and densely packed, Slott and Gage move the story and its many subplots in a well-clipped, even pace. With only six issues left in the series, and questions like “Who is the Green Goblin really?”, “Will SpOck’s secret be exposed?,” and “How in the world is Peter going to get his body back?” yet to be answered, the expectations for “Goblin Nation” are now exceedingly high. Here’s hoping that Slott can manage to bring The Superior Spider-Man to a satisfactory conclusion.

 

B-

 

NERDY NITPICKS:

  • So contrary to what Flash said in Superior Spider-Man #22, he did meet Spidey as Agent Venom before. That’s okay, Flash. I forgot all about Venom #4, too. And it looks like everyone wants to forget Carnage USA. Only how does SpOck remember what happened in that issue considering how he erased all of Peter Parker’s memories back in Superior Spider-Man #9?
  • If Ghost Peter was keeping a low profile as he said ever since Superior Spider-Man #19, does that mean he also just sat back and watched Otto beat up the Black Cat, have sex Ana Maria, manipulate Flash into giving up the symbiote, randomly attack people committing misdemeanors, verbally abuse Aunt May, threaten Mary Jane’s life, and declare war on the Avengers? Yeah, way to take your sweet time before finally doing something, Pete!
  • If SpOck as Venom is able to dodge Blaze’s flamethrower and Thor’s lightning bolts because of his enhanced agility and spider-sense, how come that same enhanced agility and spider-sense can’t make him dodge Spider-Woman’s bio blasts? And speaking of Spider-Woman…
  • Nice to see Iron Man remind her of Secret Invasion when she berated him for having no concept of privacy. You know, the same Secret Invasion in which she was held captive by the Skrulls for several months while their Queen impersonated her? Not to mention how Jessica Drew was a double-agent for HYDRA and triple-agent for SHIELD? Methinks Tony Stark let her off easy.
     
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(24) Comments

  1. Jesse Brown

    @StillaNerd For the record, I'm willing to bet you are right about Peter being under the Goblin mask.

  2. Big Al

    Look I like the Peter/MJ relationship but giving them magic soul mate powers is silly. Like okay she knows him better than anyone but that doesn’t translate to her being obtuse to the blatant differences in Peter’s personality in front of her. Even if we accept that wouldn’t that be even MORE reason for her to think something is up since she can ‘sense’ Peter in there but his different actions tell her something is up? Even if MJ gets this BS explanation now it doesn’t excuse her ignorance before or in the present if SpOck still acts weird.

  3. Stillanerd - Post author

    @Jason--While I'm not the first person to think the "Green Goblin looks like Peter under the mask" or "the Green Goblin may actually be Peter" theory (and I've also come up with variations of it) what's been really suspicious for me all along is the emphasis on keeping the Green Goblin's face hidden. Because if its really Osborn, then why all the secrecy of what he looks like under the mask? A secret, as we now know, this is apparently going to continue right up to the very end of Superior. Also, as hornacek points out, Osborn's disappearance from the hospital happening around the same time as the mind-swap between Peter and Doc Ock seems like an awfully big coincidence. Let's not forget Norman was both in a coma and, I believe, physically messed up after is stint with the Super-Adaptoid powers in New Avengers. If the Green Goblin is still Norman, there could have been loyal followers with Goblin tattoos (such as the guards who should've been on duty) smuggle out the body. Or maybe, if Norman was somehow injured, there was something he injected within himself in case he underwent some debilitating injury--like say, something which would alter his DNA to match that of his greatest enemy, perhaps? I also think it's interesting that this Green Goblin is calling Spider-Man "the Spider," which was a term Peter once used to describe himself after he underwent a nervous breakdown following the infamous "Robot Parents Story" that also led right to the even more infamous Clone Saga. Not to mention how we know this Goblin has some computer skill enough to hack into the spider-bots programming, which I think only Norman or Peter would be able to do, and that, in Superior Spider-Man #17, it just seemed unusual the Green Goblin would attack Phil Urich with a kick instead of a punch (and how Stegman focused on that kick), especially in light of Peter having taken martial arts training. As for my "Nerdy Nitpick" about Peter laying low, yes, he is biding his time and not wanting to alert Doc Ock to his presence, and the issue does state this. I'm just saying that, when you think off all the stuff Peter is allowing to happen while he's biding his time, it does seem he could've saved himself a lot of trouble--at least in my opinion. Finally, just to clarify about the idea that, maybe, SpOck is still, technically, Peter. Like I mentioned to Jesse, it would still be Doc Ock in charge, with his personality, memories, controlling the body, etc. but that it's not the real Doc Ock but a, for lack of a better word, "neural clone" of Doc Ock that may have gotten downloaded into Peter, not Doc Ock's actual mind. Thus Peter has been "brainwashed" into believing he's really Doc Ock and that "Ghost Peter" is the real Peter. And honestly, if this is indeed the case, it sure would be the simplest way to bring Peter back. @DadaHyena--Well, Norman did use to have Super-Adaptoid powers, and that's close to being a Skrull, I suppose. :D @irishfan--Yeah, I agree Doc Ock willfully giving Peter back his body--however that happens--and recognizing what he did was wrong, would be the way to go.

  4. Stillanerd - Post author

    @George Berryman, bulletproofsponge, Donovan Grant, JGC, Danbbqman, AndrewRoebuck, etc.--Thanks very much guys for the great compliments. And thank you, Brad Douglas for inviting me to become a new reviewer. @hornacek--Oh, I agree with you that it just seems far too much of coincidence that Norman Osborn disappears right before "Dying Wish." Just like I don't think it's any accident either that, according to the April solicits that came out, the Green Goblin is supposed to be unmasked just as Superior Spider-Man has it's final issue. And yeah, I wouldn't make the "Stillanerd is right" T-shirts just yet :D @Jesse Brown--Oh, it would still be Doc Ock that would be predominant and it wouldn't be Peter's interpretation of Doc Ock, either. Rather, the idea, if true, would be that it's a copy of Doc Ock's mind, rather than Doc Ock's actual mind, that's taken over Peter's mind and body, and that "Ghost Peter" has actually been the real Peter all along. Yeah, I do agree it'd be pretty far fetched that MJ is also somehow "feeling" the real Peter, as well, but no more than the usual comic book standards. And I think that would really be the only way to justify why she is stilling think SpOck is Peter even now when she should know better.

  5. JGC

    Good review Stillanerd. I've been reading your stuff over on CBR for years. I was thinking of submitting a request to review this title but after reading yours, yikes - you're better at this than me!

  6. irishfan

    i think the goblin is osborn, has to be, spidermans #1 enemy, its so predicable they have to trow a curve, has to be a match between them, or there should be, would suggest if it happens he is going to beat the superior spiderman to the point that ock has to give peter back some limited control back over his body to get advantage and in that yada yada happyish ending with abit of sorrow somewhere and on to the next story.

  7. Jack

    Since when does the goblin formula alter your face? Norman's the original goblin, and he always looks like himself. Same with Phil. Also, the goblin formula doesn't instantly make you a homicidal nut, does it? It took years for Phil to mentally destabilize. Why would Carlie instantly become a loyal killer? Except because it's Carlie, Wonder Girl...? Considering that they just tortured her for hours, I sure wouldn't juice her with goblin juice. They just gave her the strength to pull their arms and legs out of their sockets.

  8. George Berryman

    Let me check on that hornacek. Sometimes replies with more than one link get picked up by the spam filter. One sec, bud.

  9. hornacek

    If Peter's mind-swap with Ock wasn't related somehow to the Goblin, then why did we have that scene of Osborn's empty hospital bed right in Dying Wish? It was so out of place, it was screaming out "THIS SCENE IS RELEVANT TO THE REST OF THE STORY!"

  10. Jason

    I can't buy the fact we've been reading Peter Parker the whole time...too much like the clone saga. Plus, how would you explain all the dialogue clearly spoken by Otto when he specifically refers to Peter? We've seen Peter go on tirades before, but to the point of being all Big Brother? I'm not so sure.

  11. Jesse Brown

    Seems like you are trying to speculate that maybe Peter's soul is what MJ is sensing deep underneath Otto's brain waves. That's pretty hard to believe. Otherwise you're saying that maybe Pete's brain waves are still intact but being manipulated by a 3rd party anomaly. I'm not so sure I can buy into that, because the result would have only been Pete's interpretation of Otto rather than the exact behavior of Otto in Peter's body. I would think there would be a big difference.

  12. Jesse Brown

    "MJ is far more right about SpOck than she realizes by revealing SpOck has been the real Peter Parker all along," No,no, just no. He's 50% Otto( half mind half body) which should be plenty enough for MJ to pick up on, but besides that the Otto side has been prevalent this whole time.

  13. Jason

    I'm curious how you came up with the theory that Peter is under the Green Goblin mask. How and when do you think that happened? As to why Ghost Peter has been laying low...perhaps he was just biding his time. If he plays his hand too soon, Otto will try to get rid of him again, if that's even possible.

  14. hornacek

    "In fact, I’m going to go as far to say that when Green Goblin finally does unmask, he will look just like…Peter Parker." Stillanerd called it months ago. Get your t-shirts now. Oh wait, this review is by Stillanerd. I didn't even realize it until reading George's comment.

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