The solicitation for this issue states that “the thing that happened at the end of [Superior Spider-Man] #25” which “raised all those questions” would be answered. If this was supposed to be referring to the Avengers discovering SpOck erased their computers, I’m not sure readers were really asking any questions about that moment. Rather, they were asking questions like, “is Green Goblin still Norman Osborn,” or “is Ghost Peter actually the real Peter Parker?” And after reading the Superior Spider-Man #26, I’m not so sure we got answers to those questions, either. Although, as you read this review, we do get the answer to this question: “Is the Hobgoblin still Roderick Kingsley?”
“Goblin Nation, Prologue”
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILS: Ramos, Rodriguez, and Martin
INKS: Olazaba, Lopez, and Martin
COLORS: Delgado, Rodriguez, and Martin
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
COVER ART: Ryan Stegman and Jason Howard
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Ellie Pyle
EDITOR: Stephen Wacker
THE STORY: As SpOck leads his Spiderlings against AIM, the Avengers arrive, saying they “need to talk.” When SpOck refuses, the Avengers take out both AIM and SpOck’s Spiderlings, then take him back to the Avenger’s Tower for questioning. When they demand an explanation as to why he erased his examination results, SpOck defends his actions by claiming he was protecting his secret identity. This time, however, the Avengers don’t believe him, and Iron Man suggests that he can uncover traces of the file SpOck erased still within the hard drive. This makes SpOck angry and he quits the Avengers, boasting that they’re “nothing” without him, and that he “doesn’t need [them]” or “anyone.”
Meanwhile, inside their shared mind, Peter laments over how Doc Ock has erased nearly all of his memories except for those he shared with Doc Ock back in Amazing Spider-Man #700 and the ones Doc Ock previously recalled before Superior Spider-Man #9. However, Peter then realizes that the memories he still has are the “key ones” which “define” him, and he vows that he will not give up and that he’ll “find a way to win.”
Interwoven throughout the issue is the fight between the Green Goblin and the Hobgoblin, the former having convinced the later to fight one-on-one instead of having their respective armies kill one another. The Hobgoblin accuses the Goblin of being Harry Osborn before hitting him with a pumpkin bomb. However, the Goblin survives, revealing a chest wound which he claims is from when he was struck by his Goblin Glider back in Amazing Spider-Man #122, thus “proving” that he is indeed Norman Osborn. Hobgoblin pleads for mercy, but it falls on deaf ears, as the Goblin gives him a savage beating, demanding that he “say [his] name,” until finally strangling him to death. The Hobgoblin’s franchise villains join the Goblin Underground, but Phil Urich stays behind to check on the Hobgoblin’s body. When he unmasks the corpse, sees that it’s not Roderick Kingsley. Kingsley, it turns out, is still in Paris, having sent a brainwashed proxy in his place and is the midst of preparing another via the Winkler Process. Deciding that he can afford the loss and lay low once again, Kingsley gives a toast to “his old foe” and “to Goblins everywhere.”
THOUGHTS: Normally, I’m turned off by single issues which use multiple artists to tell a story. Not only does it make for an incongruent issue, it suggests the artist assigned to the issue couldn’t, for whatever reason, meet their deadline. However, editors Steve Wacker and Ellie Pyle appear to have made the wise decision of having each of this issue’s three artists illustrate one specific subplot. With Humberto Ramos handling the “Goblin War,” Javier Roderiquez the Avengers confrontation with SpOck, and Marcos Martin dealing with Peter in his and Doc Ock’s mindscape, each portion of the story fits with each artists’ distinctive style, and as a result, the story as a whole isn’t as disjointed as it otherwise would’ve been. It’s a shame, then, that Dan Slott’s overall script feels lackluster by comparison.
In my last review, I assumed the Avengers would attempt to apprehend SpOck only for SpOck to capture them instead, which would then ironically make it easier for the Goblin Army to take over New York during “Goblin Nation.” Instead, we have SpOck quitting the Avengers in a desperate attempt to prevent them from uncovering that he’s really Doc Ock. This not only further isolates him and makes the Avengers even more distrustful and suspicious of “Spider-Man” in the process, it reminds the reader that SpOck is, appropriately, a self-righteous hypocrite. If one believes SpOck’s appeal for privacy is a persuasive argument, even with his citing Civil War as part of his defense, let’s not forget that SpOck has been unapologetic about violating other peoples’ right to privacy with his unauthorized spider-bot surveillance system. Further irony also comes from when Iron Man points out to SpOck the difficulty of completely wiping out “all traces of something off a hard drive,” as we then shift over to the climatic moment of Peter’s subplot.
Where the scene ultimately falls apart, however, is that even though the Avengers know SpOck has been lying to them, that he cannot be trusted, and that he may not even be the real Spider-Man, they still allow him to escape, watching him swing away with pensive stares through their broken window pane. Granted, SpOck has to roam free in order for the next five issues to happen, but at this point, the Avengers have more than enough justification to keep SpOck detained and uncover the truth. It’s not as if they’re above doing so since they did this before back in Superior Spider-Man #7 and #8 when they only had the vaguest of suspicions that “Spider-Man” might be an imposter.
Much better however, are the scenes depicting Peter in his and Doc Ock’s shared mind. Slott’s tenure on both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Superior Spider-Man is really one long deconstruction of Peter Parker, and this couldn’t be more clear than the scene with Peter wandering through his and Otto’s shared mindscape. By removing all of Peter’s memories only to restore the “key” moments which “define” him, Slott is attempting to metaphorically “reboot” Spider-Man by taking him apart, removing what he believes are the excess, and then putting him back together again–all without sacrificing any of Peter’s history even if the character now no longer remembers most of it.
True, showing the classic moment from Amazing Spider-Man #33 and having Peter say lines like “You’ve burned me in a crucible—distilled me to my core!” lacks all subtlety, but what helps to sell the scene overall is the stellar art by the always magnificent Marcos Martin. By showing Peter in a vast, ashen wasteland with only the rare instance of figures and scenes of his past, we not only see the devastation Otto has wrought, we feel Peter’s utter sense of hopelessness and despair, which only makes his new-found resolve to defeat Doc Ock all the more powerful and triumphant. An equally nice touch by Slott is when he has Peter saying the very lines of dialogue from the “memories” he witnesses, in that by repeating them, he will better commit it memory. It is, without question, the best sequence of the entire issue, even if it does feel a bit superfluous.
With regards to the resolution to the “war” between the Green Goblin and the Hobgoblin, I confess that I’m a little disappointed. Not so much from the idea that Kingsley would use a brainwashed patsy instead of being at the battle in person; after all, the Hobgoblin has a long-standing history of relying upon and using doubles to carry out his schemes, including Ned Leeds, Flash Thompson, and even his own twin-brother, Daniel. Rather, I just have a hard time believing that after raising such a big stink about how there was someone was impersonating him and stealing his franchise money, and then finding out it was the Green Goblin, that Kingsley would then decide to essentially cut his losses and hand the Goblin the win. I’m sure we, the reader, are to take this as an example of him having shrewd business sense who isn’t consumed by the usual madness associated with the Goblins, and I admit that Kingsley’s nonchalant victory toast is pretty badass. Even so, it still doesn’t make the outcome of the “War of the Goblins” any less anticlimactic.
Then again, just as the “Hobgoblin” in this issue wasn’t the real deal, we don’t really know if the “Goblin King” is the real deal, either, in spite of being given further anecdotal evidence that suggests he’s still Norman Osborn. When the Hobgoblin accuses the Goblin of being Harry, we’re meant to surmise this indeed Norman, given how offended he was over the Hobgoblin labeling Harry a “disappointment.” That is until we realize that, time and time again, Norman himself has regarded Harry as a disappointment and unworthy to carry on his legacy. Also, the Goblin’s line of “How dare you say that about my–” is deliberately vague. Sure, he could have tried to say “son,” but he also could have meant “best friend,” meaning the Goblin could be Peter. Or, even more out there, he could have meant “father.” Which means the Green Goblin could actually be Normie Osborn (which also means, technically, the Goblin was telling the truth last issue). After all, the Goblin formula can make a person to physically transform like it does for Lily Hollister and Carlie Cooper, and it can make a person older as happens with Gabriel and Sarah Stacy.
Also, I’m sorry, but based on the way Ramos’ illustrates the moment the Goblin reveals his chest wound, I refuse to believe it is at all real. I’m not any sort of medical expert, but as far as I know, scars and wounds do not look identical to impact craters made by bowling balls dropped on concrete. Yes, it’s true that people can have indentations in their chests known as pectus excavatum, only I believe these are usually the result of genetic defects or disease, not blunt force trauma—and they certainly do not cause the skin to have splintering fracture lines like you would see in rock. Not only that, but we’ve seen what Osborn’s actual chest wound from the Goblin glider looks like in the past, and it certainly didn’t resemble anything like what Ramos shows. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Goblin was wearing a fake chest plate of some kind and that the phony Hobgoblin was too frightened and dumb to see that the “scar” was fake. Then again, the phony Hobgoblin also slices the side of the Green Goblin’s chest with a razorbat, and given how Ramos shows a close up of this, this will very well play some significance later.
I realize that this issue is a prologue for “Goblin Nation” and thus certain developments must happen to set-up the larger story yet to come. Yet while I do believe Slott accomplsihes this, the issue also paradoxically feels as though nothing substantive actually happened. SpOck quitting the Avengers alone should be more of a bigger deal given how Spidey, not counting his reserve status, has been a member for the past decade. Yet like everything else which happens in this issue, I can only react to this and the issue’s other developments with a dismissive shrug.
- To quote Wolverine: “I know some psychics. We could clear this up in no time.” Which of course is what he wanted to do back in Avenging Spider-Man #16 where SpOck also protested this by cited his “right to privacy.” That is until we saw later in Superior Spider-Man #6 how he was willing to give “Spidey” the benefit of the doubt all of the sudden in spite of his murdering Massacre in cold blood. Now he’s all in favor of using psychic mind probes on SpOck again? Geez, Logan, make up your mind already.
- So in Peter’s own words, what defines him as a hero is that he is “the man who never gives up.” Except for that one time in Amazing Spider-Man #18, where he felt he had to give up being Spider-Man to take care of his Aunt May. And that other time in the classic “Spider-Man: No More” story from Amazing Spider-Man #50 where he threw his costume in the trash. Or during the Clone Saga in which, after burning his costume, he and Mary Jane moved out to Portland, Oregon. And then that other time before the Howard Mackie relaunch where he burned his costume yet again. Plus, didn’t Peter sort of give up by sharing his memories with Doc Ock while he was dying? Geez, how times did “the man who never gives up” give up anyway?
- Also one of Peter’s defining moments? Him eating his Aunt May’s wheatcakes! Yes, we Spidey fans know of the legendary deliciousness of Aunt May’s signature dish, but one of these day, Marvel, you gonna have to reveal her recipe. At least tell us if Aunt May separates the egg whites from the yoke to make them light and fluffy.