In today’s chapter of the Superior Spider-Man, more stuff gets blown up and someone who is not one of SpOck’s henchmen dies (and besides, they’re all dead anyway). And Miquel O’ Hara, aka Michael O’Mara, aka Spider-Man 2099, actually gets to do stuff in this story…sort of.
“Goblin Nation, Part 3”
PLOT: Dan Slott
SCRIPT: Christos Gage
PENCILS: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKS: John Dell
COLOR: Antonio Fabela
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
VARIANT COVER: Jorge Molina
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Ellie Pyle
SENIOR EDITORS:Stephen Wacker and Nick Lowe
THE STORY: As the Green Goblin watches his army wreak havoc across New York, Menace brings him Anna Maria Marconi. Only the Green Goblin is less interested in her and more interested in the news about apparent death of Peter Parker and Carlie Cooper, aka Monster, caused by part of Parker Industries collapsing on them. Meanwhile, Mayor J. Jonah Jameson refuses to mobilize his “Goblin Slayers” to help protect the city because he wants to sic them on “Spider-Man,” a decision which makes Glory Grant quit in protest. Mary Jane, having driven Aunt May, Jay Jameson, and her boyfriend, Ollie, to Mystic, Connecticut, gets a call from SpOck, who reveals he blew up his own building to fake his and Carlie’s death to throw the Green Goblin off the scent. MJ tries to tell SpOck Aunt May is “freaking out” but SpOck tells MJ to deal with it herself, which gets MJ angry over how SpOck’s been treating her, only for him to hang up on her.
As SpOck and Sajani Jaffrey look to reverse the effects of the Goblin formula within Carlie, the Green Goblin is somehow able to contact SpOck on his phone. Angry over how Otto has killed Spider-Man before he did, the Green Goblin shows SpOck images of Otto’s childhood home, the atomic research center where he became Doctor Octopus, the “Boneyard” housing Doc Ock’s impounded inventions, the Mocca Cola bottling plant whose workers he’s saved from Massacre, and Dr. Elias Wertham’s H.E.A.R.T. clinic…before blowing them all up. He then tells SpOck that he has a “dear friend” of his held hostage at Empire State University, and that if SpOck doesn’t save this person, he’ll blow the University up, too. SpOck, convinced that Anna Maria is the one in danger, heads to ESU, and calls Chief Prattchet to deal with the other Goblin related crimes he sees along the way. But Prattchet refuses, convinced, along with Jonah, that he and the Green Goblin are in cahoots.
When SpOck arrives at ESU, he finds that the Green Goblin’s hostage is not Anna Maria, but Dr. Don “The Schonz” Lamaze. Of course, SpOck could care less, and so a disappointed Green Goblin makes a hasty retreat…but not before hacking SpOck’s mechanical spider-tentacles and turning them against him. As one of them is about to stab SpOck, Dr.Lamaze sacrifices himself to save SpOck by letting the tentacle stab him. Content that he’s amended for leaving Anna Maria to die during the events of Superior Spider-Man #22, Dr. Lamaze succumbs to his wounds, and SpOckswears vengeance. At that moment, a patrol of Spider-Slayers, controlled by Jonah, arrive and capture SpOck…only to be shut down by the Spider-Man of 2099. But when Miquel O’Hara starts demanding answers, the Spider-Slayers unexpectedly reactivate and instead of having Jonah’s face, they have the face of…Norman Osborn!
THOUGHTS: Over the course of Superior Spider-Man, we all knew in the back of our minds that Otto Octavious was eventually going to get his comeuppance for letting Peter Parker die and taking his place. While we’ve seen the Green Goblin systematically destroy all which SpOck has built to make him a more “superior” Spider-Man, from hacking his spider-bot surveillance system to carpet bombing Spider-Island II, he only targeted Otto Octavious’ stolen persona of “Spider-Man,” not the man who Otto Octavious really is.
That is, until this issue.
And why wouldn’t he? As the Green Goblin (who, in spite of what this issue reveals, I’m still not convinced is really still Norman Osborn…or rather that’s not what he really looks like under the mask) explains to SpOck, if anyone was supposed to kill Spider-Man, it should have been him, not his “number two” enemy. So when the Green Goblin—in an absolutely gorgeous and fantastic double-page spread by Guiseppe Camuncoli—taunts, laughs, and blows up every landmark of personal value to Doc Ock, Dan Slott and co-writer Christos Gage are tapping into our collective schadenfreude over SpOck finally getting his just-desserts.
Less successful, however, is when Slott and Gage also try to make the reader feel sorry for Otto in spite of getting his just-desserts, specifically during Camuncoli’s other two-page spread showing yet another (and becoming rather repetitive) scene of Peter merging with and getting lost in Otto’s memories. Coming right off the heals of the previous scene where SpOck asks himself “what would Parker do” in when faced with the possibility that the Green Goblin could kill Ana Maria, what pity we’re meant to have for Otto is completely undone as we’re reminded that, once again, SpOck is someone who, because of their ego and arrogance, refuses to admit that he’s ever been in the wrong—which includes stealing Peter’s identity and letting him die. It’s been one of Superior Spider-Man‘s biggest drawbacks since the beginning: even though the series has made it clear that what is happening to SpOck is his own fault, it also asks readers to identify with and have empathy for someone who constantly blames others for his own shortcomings and failures simply because he’s been trying to be “better” than the hero he’s killed.
Furthermore, the level of empathy we’re supposed to have for SpOck isn’t extended towards Jonah. Rather, this issue makes it made abundantly clear that Jonah is completely in the wrong because, as Glory tells him, he’s not honoring the dying wish of his wife to stop hating Spider-Man, and thus he deserves what is coming to him. His saying that he no longer cares whether SpOck will expose him for his complicity to murder Alistair Smythe, that it will be worth killing him even at the cost of “[his] self-respect, [his] office” and “freedom” are the actions of someone we, as readers, are not meant to be pitiable towards. Thus Jonah, a man consumed by the grief of his wife, is meant to be seen as being more villainous that the person who was, at one time, an actual super-villain.
Spider-Man’s mantra of “with great comes great responsibility” isn’t just about using one’s personal gifts or abilities to make the world a better place; it’s also owning up to your past wrongs and making amends for them. Unlike Otto or Jonah, this is something Peter has learned and practiced for years, and it’s a lesson that, in this issue, Dr. Lamaze has come to understand.
I’m sure most of us believed, like SpOck, that Anna Maria would be the one in immediate danger (and she still very well could be), but not SpOck’s former classmate and college professor who tried to get him expelled on plagiarism charges. Yet it’s all too appropriate that the one to save Otto’s life at the cost of their own is not only someone who once tried to academically and professionally ruin Otto, but someone Otto regarded as his intellectual inferior and treated with nothing but contempt and ridicule. That is what makes the death of this otherwise minor and comical character so surprisingly poignant and moving.
The scene itself probably would’ve been even more powerful were in not a rare misstep by Camuncoli in not making it clear Lamaze had intentionally placed himself between SpOck and his rogue spider-leg tentacle. Prior to reading the dialogue where Lamaze dies, one could easily assume Lazame was trying to run away only to stubble over his own feet and getting himself stabbed by accident. Nevertheless, the effect of Dr. Lamaze’s death remains intact, showing us that he, in his self-sacrifice, has ironically learned far more about “with great power comes great responsibility” than Otto ever has during all his time as “Spider-Man.”
Yet if this story, as Lamaze’s death scene suggests, is about Otto learning to accept blame for the things he has done, with the way events are shaping up now, it will still be Peter, not Otto, who will have to clean up Otto’s mess. We’ve already seen, thanks to SpOck, that Peter, upon his return, will have to deal with no longer being an Avenger and being treated as a “menace” by the public yet again. Now, after this issue, it looks as though he’ll be wanted by the authorities and be even further estranged from Mary Jane. And guess who will also have to pony up the extra cash to pay for the damages SpOck did to Parker Industries, which will probably cause problems in paying off the business loan SpOck obtained to fund this start-up? Just like Otto’s memories are doing with Peter in their shared consciousness, Otto’s actions as Spider-Man are dragging Peter down into a mire of Otto’s own making. All for the sake of returning Peter back to his more traditional status as a “hard luck” hero with money and girl problems.
Some you may have noticed I didn’t talk much about Miquel O’Hara in my previous reviews for “Goblin Nation,” and that’s because he didn’t do much other than stand in the background and speak one line of dialogue. This time, he gets to do and say a lot more (and even dons his costume), but unfortunately, it all amounts to him doing nothing more than literally pressing the Spider-Slayers’ off-button and demanding “what the shock is going on?” Beyond that, he doesn’t seem to serve much purpose in “Goblin Nation” other than to throw a bone to fans of Spider-Man 2099.
Again, just as in the previous two-parts, Camuncoli’s art is this issue’s greatest strength, and I believe his work during “Goblin Nation” will be regarded as some of his finest work. But in the case of this issue, it’s the script, while effectively moving the narrative forward, appears to want it both ways when in comes to the inevitable fall of Otto as the “Superior” Spider-Man. After all, it’s hard to really see what is happening to Otto as a tragedy when we’re also rooting for the Green Goblin to defeat him.
- If you purchased this issue with the regular cover instead of the variant one, congratulations! You just saw the cliffhanger ending of this comic without opening it up to read the story. Seriously, the last panel of the very last page is virtually identical to what is on the cover, only with SpOck and Spidey 2099’s positions reserved, both being held by one “Goblin Slayer” each, and both actually struggling to get free as opposed to looking all limp.
- So the Avengers (and Cardiac) finally decide to get involved only after more of the city is being looted, pillaged and burned, and their resources stretched too thin. Sure, it’s better late than never and there wouldn’t have been no story if they intervened sooner, but it doesn’t speak well for “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” that they can barely manage to protect their own home town.
- Hey, Mary Jane? Remember how “Peter” explained the reason he was acting like such a jerk all these months was because he was infected by a piece of the Venom symbiote? And notice how he’s still acting like a jerk to you over the phone a month later even though he’s supposed to be “cured?” So maybe this should clue you in that, perhaps, he’s acting like a jerk who gets can’t “deal with a women raising their voice” for a very different reason, right?
- And about that phone call, if the Green Goblin can hack into SpOck’s phone to call him directly, then shouldn’t this have clued him in just whose “pretty little head [Otto's] mind is in” based on the fact that “Peter Parker” and “Spider-Man” appear to have the exact same cellphone number?
- Also, Pedro “Ollie” Olivera is overhearing all this talk about his current girlfriend’s ex having the same first name as him, right? How does he not realize he’s MJ’s rebound guy by this point?