Review by Karl Verhoven
Almost from the start of the Superior Spider-Man series Dan Slott has been looking in on someone now calling themselves the Goblin King. The presumption is that this is Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, but it may not be. Whoever the Goblin King is, they’ve been targeting those using Osborn’s technology and variations of his identity, while also setting up an organisation that doesn’t register on Spider-Man’s radar, and as Goblin Wars begins Spider-Man’s just discovered this.
Slott’s been building to something big, and no-one can complain that he doesn’t deliver the spectacle. It’s not just Spider-Man vs Green Goblin, because Slott throws in an entire pack of wild cards. There’s the Wraith, Mary-Jane Watson, and New York mayor J. Jonah Jameson’s new platoon of Goblin Slayers. Hey, don’t they look very much like the Spider Slayers of old? This is terrific, fast-paced, twisting thrills, illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli with the cast in constant motion, accentuating how rapidly the story is moving, yet never in a head-scratching manner. With New York under siege, matters are looking very bleak until… until… Until we hit the skids with a plot lapse that’s in effect cheating.
It was surely the expectation from the start that at some stage Peter Parker would regain control of his body, displace Otto Octavius and return to full life. No argument there. It’s the method that’s problematical. In A Troubled Mind Octavius became aware that trace elements of Parker remained in his brain and expunged them all. Except he didn’t, and that’s the sort of idle plotting that would normally be anathema to Slott, who’s twisted us every which way since Superior Spider-Man began. The return of Parker should be exuberant, but this taints it. “The superior hero. That is what we all need. That and nothing less.”, explains Octavius, and with that the Spider-Man we’ve known for decades is back.
As he has in previous books, Christos Gage supplies most of the dialogue over Slott’s plots, and he writes the coda himself. Octavius as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man has managed to alienate many of Parker’s closest friends, and there are some bridges to be mended. Will Sliney’s art isn’t as busy as Camuncoli’s, applying a more sombre mood, and Gage’s drawing the emotional threads to a close is well considered. He also writes what was an annual inserted before the finale looking at other supporting characters in Spider-Man’s life and illustrated by Javier Rodriguez and Philippe Briones. The better episode by far looks in on reporter Ben Urich, whose nephew has been outed as the Hobgoblin, and his recriminations about not realising this sooner.
The one less than exemplary piece of plotting doesn’t discount what a thrill ride the remainder of Goblin Nation is, and Slott’s admissions for Octavius toward the end have a whiff of the tragic about them. He’d set out to be a better Spider-Man, the Superior Spider-Man, and as ever hubris had been his downfall. It’s a good underlining statement of what Spider-Man needs to be, and lacking that compassion renders him less effective.
Peter Parker’s adventures as Spider-Man continue in Worldwide, while this finale can also be found along with the Superior Venom paperback in hardcover as Superior Spider-Man volume three.