And here we are—the very last issue of the Superior Spider-Man! Which is also the first story of Peter Parker as Spidey since his return. But the question this finale seems to pose is that, after Doctor Octopus has done…was Peter better off not coming back at all?
“Goblin Nation, Conclusion”
INKS:John Dell and Terry Pallot
ASSOCIATE EDITOR:Ellie Pyle
“Actions Have Consequences”
STORY 1: As the Green Goblin holds Anna Maria hostage on top of a building rigged with explosives, Carlie Cooper wakes up from her coma, and Spidey learns about Otto’s cure for the Goblin Formula. Peter also proves to Carlie it’s really him and not Otto by recounting how Carlie tried to shoot him back when he was in Doc Ock’s body. Carlie tells Peter about the spider-bot’s “Goblin Protocols,” and Spidey then swings off to save Anna Maria. Along the way, he fights various factions of the Green Goblin’s army throughout the city, and calls Aunt May to make sure she’s okay. Meanwhile, as Mayor J. Jonah Jameson comes to grips over how his political career is ruined because of the Alchemax Spider-Slayers, Tiberius Stone is showing footage of the Slayers in action to anonymous prospective buyers.
Spidey returns to ESU to find Miquel O’Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099, and after Miquel attacks him, Spidey explains to him about Doc Ock and the two Spider-Men team-up. They aid the Avengers in fighting off the Goblin Knight and the Spider-Slayers, then head to Alchemax only to be attacked by Menace. Spidey, however, injects Menace with the Goblin Formula cure, turning her back into Lily Hollister. The Spider-Men then find Lil Normie Osborn alone in his mom’s office, creepily laughing, saying, “This is all for me. Because I’m so special.” Liz Allan and Tiberius Stone arrive, telling Spidey about the explosives. Stone, however, activates his hand-held spider-sense jammer to immobilize Spidey, only for Miquel to punch Stone in the face. Lily retrieves the Jammer, and tells Spidey the Green Goblin blackmailed Alchemax into working for him. Miquel, taking the webbed-up Stone and Lily, escorts Liz and Normie out of the building, while Spidey heads to the roof. There, the Green Goblin taunts Spidey, still assuming he’s Doc Ock…until Spidey cracks a joke about his “man-purse.” The Green Goblin tries to escape, assuming Spidey will choose to rescue Anna Maria. However, Spidey, based on Otto’s memories, knows Anna Maria is capable of taking care of herself, and she’s cuts herself free with one of Green Goblin’s razorbats.
During their fight, Spidey tears off the Green Goblin’s mask, revealing…Mason Banks…who is really Norman Osborn in disguise! Norman explains he changed his appearance because his face was “too well known,” that he created Alchemax to start an empire for Normie, and that bombing the Alchemax HQ will cover any ties the Green Goblin has to the company. But with Norman unmasked, the Goblin Protocols are no longer in effect, and thus Spidey sends dozens of mini-spider-bots to administer the Goblin Formula cure. Anna Maria jumps off the building just as the roof explodes, and Spidey is able to save her along with a now powerless Norman Osborn. But when Spidey turns Osborn over to the authorities, Liz Allan presses the spider-sense jammer, allowing Norman to escape undetected into the sewers. Liz apologizes, claiming she tensed up when she saw “Mason Banks,” but Miquel doesn’t buy it. Spidey, though, is willing to give Liz the benefit of the doubt, but he still can’t help but note that there’s definitely something going on. And unbeknownst to Spidey, Liz whispers to her son about how “your mother and grandpa did this all for you.” After Spidey and Miquel part ways, Anna Maria asks Spidey whether Peter is okay as she heard he was dead, and Spidey tells her she’s alive. Anna Maria falls down in tears, overcome by shock, and Spidey realizes just she’s in love with “Peter” as much as Doc Ock was in love with her. And as EMT’s look after Anna Maria, Spidey thinks that because Doc Ock “had to die” that it was wrong of him to come back.
STORY 2: Mary Jane, Aunt May, Jay Jameson, and MJ’s boyfriend, Pedro “Ollie” Olivera, return to New York and Parker Industries. Peter apologizes to Aunt May for everything “he” has put her through, but Jay will have none of it, pointing out his ill-treatment towards Aunt May and putting her in danger by working for Spider-Man. Peter agrees, and claims he’s told “Spider-Man” that he’s quit being his tech supplier for good, and that his company will make an official statement. He asks for May and Jay’s forgiveness, and they embrace him.
When they’re alone, Peter tells MJ about Doc Ock taking over his body. MJ believes Peter and is glad he’s back, but also she says she cannot be a part of his life anymore. Even though she will always care about him, and admires him being Spider-Man, she knows something will always threaten them because of it. Peter expresses regret how if it wasn’t for Doc Ock, they might have rekindled their relationship, but says the last thing he wants is to hurt MJ, and that her happiness is more important. They’re interrupted by Jonah giving a live press conference on TV, and Peter, after explaining to MJ that Doc Ock was blackmailing Jonah, reluctantly departs. Carlie, still coping with the residual effects of the Goblin Formula, appears, saying she overheard Peter and MJ’s conversation, and thinks MJ is doing the right thing. And after recalling everything that’s happened to her since meeting Peter, Carlie also realizes she cannot have Peter as part of her life because of the constant danger involved, and decides to leave New York for good.
At City Hall, Spidey returns the recording SpOck made of Jonah ordering him to kill Alistair Smythe, reassuring Jonah he’d never use it, and wanting him to fight against the accusations about the Alchemax Spider-Slayers. Jonah refuses, and dares Spidey to justify his actions over the past several months. Only Spidey can only says that he’s not here to make Jonah like him, but to assure Jonah not to be afraid of him, and that Jonah shouldn’t have to take the fall for what the Green Goblin did. However, after Spidey leaves, we find out that Jonah has already resigned.
THOUGHTS: Endings to stories are always hard to pull off, especially when it involves the ending a of series where there’s lots of running plot threads and character arcs. Almost everything must be wrapped up neat and tidy while also making sense; and if it’s part of a transition into a new series, it has to tease just enough about upcoming stories without giving too much away while still creating a sense of completion. So as an ending to both “Goblin Nation” and Superior Spider-Man, I believe this issue did a serviceable job, but in many ways not well enough.
In terms of ending the mystery of the Goblin King and the rise of the Goblin Underground, Slott and Gage’s first story for Superior Spider-Man #31 does this rather well (and reminds me that my amateur detective skills still needs a lot of work). It seems obvious now in hindsight the Green Goblin couldn’t have been anyone but Norman Osborn with a different face under the mask, because the confrontation between him and Spidey would not have worked as well as it did if the Goblin had been anyone else. This scene is made all the more excellent thanks to, yet again, Guiseppe Caumcolli’s outstanding pencils, as the expression on the Green Goblin’s face upon realizing it’s the real Spidey and not Doc Ock is simply priceless. Also, further mystery is created for upcoming stories in both the relaunched Amazing Spider-Man and the new Spider-Man 2099 when it comes to Liz Allan and ‘Lil Normie, and what may be really going on with those two. I think it’s safe to assume ‘Lil Normie is obviously being brainwashed and Liz, based upon whatever Norman has on her, has no choice but to go along with it.
The drawback, however, is that this fight between Spidey and the Green Goblin doesn’t feel nearly as personal as it was in their past battles, and I believe part of this has to do with Anna Maria being the Green Goblin’s hostage. We, the readers, are of course invested in Anna Maria’s survival, but because Peter has no personal connection with her, the stakes are lower than they would’ve been if, ironically, Doc Ock was still been in the picture. And while I’m glad to see that Anna Maria wasn’t killed off, I really hope this comic is not suggesting that Peter will continue being Anna Maria’s boyfriend out of some misguided obligation and guilt over Doc Ock “suicide.” Because in spite of all Otto’s insistence that he was truly in love with Anna Maria and her being in love with someone she thought was the real Peter Parker, there’s no getting around the fact that she, out of all the supporting cast, has been the most victimized by Otto’s deception. And for Peter to continue this deception would be downright wrong, and it would virtually be the Chameleon/Michele Gonzales debacle all over again, only with a far more sympathetic character involved.
I also couldn’t help but notice that much of “Goblin Nation,” particularly as things were winding down, was recycling story-beats from Dan Slott’s other big Spider-Man event, “Spider-Island.” Instead of New York being overrun by spider-monsters, it’s over-run by Goblins. Instead of Spidey team-up with Kaine, he teams-up with Miquel O’Hara. Instead of a cure for spider-powers developed by Horizon Labs, there’s a cure for the Goblin formula developed by Parker Industries, and Spidey even uses mini-spiderbots as opposed to mini-octobots to deliver to cure Norman Osborn. Granted, there’s obvious differences and outcomes between the two stories, but there were enough similarities to make one feel that Slott and Gage were just reusing and repackaging earlier ideas.
Also, with regards to “Goblin Nation” finale and the back-up epilogue, some of the potential problems Peter would have to face as a result of Doc Ock being in his body seem resolved far too quickly and easily. Carlie Cooper in Goblin Formula, plot-induced coma? No problem! She just wakes up in time to bring Spidey up to speed. Miquel O’Hara having a mad-on for Spidey? No problem! Spidey just tells Miquel that Doc Ock was in his body and Miquel responds with “That sounds just stupid enough to be right.” SpOck having quit the Avengers? No problem! “Once an Avenger, always an Avenger,” says Spidey. Jay Jameson being angry at Peter for lying about working for Spider-Man and for his “unconscionable” behavior towards Aunt May? No problem! Peter says, “I’m sorry” for the umpteenth time, claims he’s not working for Spider-Man anymore, and all is right with the world.
To be fair, there still things Peter will have to deal with because of Doc Ock, like suddenly being the head of his own start-up company, and especially Jonah stepping down as Mayor of New York. The moment Jonah had ordered SpOck to murder Alistair Smythe back in Superior Spider-Man #12 and 13, it was clear his days in office were numbered, and while this act isn’t what forced Jonah to resign, there’s no question that Jonah sabotaged his own political career because of his failure to honor his late wife, Marla’s, dying request to let go of his hatred for Spider-Man. And even though Jonah is wrong about Spidey being a “sociopath” and a “monster,” he’s not entirely in the wrong when it comes to him “owning up to his mistakes,” and as a result, I couldn’t help but feel he came off far more dignified that Spidey. Because even though Spidey has a point when he tells Jonah he “shouldn’t take the fall for something [another person] did,” that’s what Spidey himself is doing in this entire issue, and especially the epilogue—taking the rap what Doc Ock did while in his body.
Granted, I understand that Peter, as a character, is someone with a severe guilt-complex and need to take full responsibility even for actions that are not his fault. I also understand he has a secret identity to keep up, and, in spite of the ease which various character seem to accept that Doc Ock possessed his body without question in this issue, it wouldn’t be so easy for those who don’t know he’s really Spider-Man. Nevertheless, we’re still talking about a storyline in which one of his major arch-enemies tried to murder him and steal his identity, and just because Peter may believe Otto repented his actions and sacrificed himself to make amends doesn’t mean Peter should believe everything would’ve been better off had he not come back.
But by far the absolute worst moment of the issue is when both Mary Jane and Carlie decide that they can no longer have Peter as part of their lives. Sure, after everything that’s happened to them over the course of the series, it makes sense for them to want to lead as normal of life as possible. Yet looking at it in the full context, even though we’re being reassured that MJ and Carlie, by choosing to want to live their own lives free of Peter is not the same as abandoning him, it feels like this is what actually they’re doing. Although if I’m being brutally honest, I’m glad to see Carlie Cooper presumably being written out of the Spider-Man comics for good, because I’ve always seen her as a bland, overrated and disappointing character with squandered potential which wasn’t helped by Marvel trying to convince the readers she was a love interest on the same level as MJ, Gwen Stacy, and Black Cat. It’s the way Gage depicts MJ and her reasons for walking away from Peter that feel completely off.
Remember, this is the same Mary Jane who has known about Peter being Spider-Man almost from the beginning, and who in spite of knowing this still chose to be in a relationship with him and stand by him even during the most tragic moments of their lives. The same MJ who in this very story, put herself at risk to save Peter’s aunt and step-uncle. That MJ does not at all square with the MJ being portrayed here. And for someone who has just found out that the love of her life was dead and that one of his arch-enemies posed as him for several months, it’s just bizarre that MJ would be more fixated on her own needs than with Peter’s emotional well-being. Nor does she even bother to ask Carlie just how long she’s known about this. Especially considering how Doc Ock took advantage of looking like Peter and having his memories in his unsuccessful attempt to seduce Mary Jane into sleeping with him! Which reminds me, wasn’t it actually Otto who broke up with MJ first back Superior Spider-Man #2? It was MJ who kept trying to get back in touch with him!
Also, note just who the “great guy” MJ is actually “moving on” with: someone whose first name just so happens to be Peter, who also just so happens to routinely put himself in harm’s way to save lives. This isn’t to disrespect any real firefighters (because seriously, anyone who actually is one deserves all the praise and thanks for what they do), but in terms of this particular narrative, all MJ really did is trade someone she even acknowledges “is the best [person] she knows” for a literal second-rate version of that person. That’s not moving on—that’s living in denial. Plus, MJ’s entire rationale for letting Peter go gets immediately undercut mere pages later when Carlie reminds MJ that she’s still a target for Peter’s enemies regardless. Even “Goblin Nation” showed us this when the Green Goblin sent his minions to try to abduct her, thus her entire speech to Peter rings even more hollow. That’s not even counting the fact that since she’s still appearing on covers and mentioned in solicits for future issues, MJ is clearly not going anywhere, despite Will Sliney’s art (which I felt was quite weak) showing MJ in the same pose as when she first met Peter as if to really sell the point that she’s saying “good-bye” for real this time.
Even so, I’m still looking forward to seeing Peter back in action in the pages of the all-new Amazing Spider-Man (which, your humble reviewer will also be covering), and to see just how he will have to readjust to his second chance at life. And even though Doctor Octopus seems to be dead and gone, you know Superior Spider-Man will not be the last will see of him. After all, there’s still the mystery just who dug up his body from his grave to be solved. Until then, see you folks next time, and welcome back, Spidey!
- Here’s something for you more observant readers with better memories than mine: when have we ever seen Doc Ock use miniature spider-bots. I’m not talking about the ones he used surveillance New York, mind; I’m talking about the very tiny ones Spidey used to inject Norman Osborn with the Goblin Formula cure. Because I sure don’t remember Doc Ock using those before at any time during Superior Spider-Man, so it seems rather convenient that he would just so happen to have them for Peter to use.
- Oh, and look: Captain America, in spite of his own order last issue that the Avengers need to arrest Spider-Man, seems to have completely forgotten all about it! Sure, his “Will figure things out later when we’ve taken our city back” does hint that the Avengers will likely follow-up on this, but honestly, based on their actions all throughout Superior Spider-Man, Doc Ock actually did Peter a favor when he quit the team.
- Okay, Norman Osborn able to slip out of Spidey’s grasp because of Liz Allan turning on the Spider-Sense Jammer is one thing. Norman Osborn being to escape completely unnoticed, on foot, and in broad daylight in spite of being unmasked, wearing a bright green and purple costume, with no super-powers, and police and emergency responders probably swarming all over the scene of the Alchemax bombing?! Excuse while as I go into a fit of uncountable laughter over the sheer ridiculousness of this complete and utter nonsense.
- And speaking of getting away, why are Spidey and Miquel also letting Tiberious Stone walk off with Liz Allan and ‘Lil Normie? Weren’t they going to turn him over the authorities, too?
- Hey Carlie? When you and MJ were talking about MJ’s friend and Peter’s former girlfriend, Gwen Stacy? Guess what? You were friends with her too! There was that whole flashback story in The Many Loves of Spider-Man one-shot in which the two of you solved a murder case together when you were kids, and that her dad was a friend and colleague of your dad, remember? Barring that, how could not remember her name other than “that poor girl…who got thrown off the bridge” if Norman Osborn kept talked about her the entire time you were with him? And folks wonder why I don’t feel the least bit bad about you leaving.
- Finally, Norman Osborn must have changed his mind about his grandson and wanting to leave a legacy for him. Because I remember a Paul Jenkis’ “Death in the Family” in which Norman told Spidey that his grandson was as weak as his father and unworthy to be considered an Osborn. Which reminds me, I thought Norman had disowned Harry to the point where he even tried to have him killed? So why was he so upset when the phony-Hobgoblin was making fun of Harry? I guess in Norman’s (formerly) crazy mind, the only person allowed to talk smack about his son is him.