Monday, 21 April 2014

Superior Spider-Man, Volume 6: Goblin Nation Review (Dan Slott, Giuseppe Camuncoli)

Superior Spider-Man has been one of the best and most consistently high quality titles of the Marvel NOW! relaunch. The controversial body-swap idea of Otto’s mind inhabiting Peter’s body while Peter’s mind was lost in the ether and Otto’s Spider-Man becoming a different kind of hero could’ve gone either way but Dan Slott managed to make it work really well and proved all the naysayers wrong; Superior Spider-Man was a success, critically and commercially.

But it was never going to be the status quo (though that didn’t stop some gormless cretins from sending Slott death-threats for getting rid of their beloved Peter Parker), and so with Volume 6: Goblin Nation we see the end of Superior Spider-Man, the series and the character, and the return of Peter Parker once again as Spider-Man in the forthcoming All-New Amazing Spider-Man title (this last point is not a spoiler - Peter Parker’s return has been publicised heavily these last few months and with Superior ending, what else was going to happen to the character?).

So is Goblin Nation a fitting finale for this great title? For me, not entirely.

What made Superior stand out when it first started was how fresh and exciting it was. Otto did things differently and, despite having read Spider-Man before, you could never quite guess what he was going to do next. He even lived up to the name and really WAS the Superior Spider-Man, setting up the ultimate crime-fighting network, toppling Shadowland in no time, even shocking readers by executing some criminals - he was a controversial “hero” but he wasn’t boring and was enormously pro-active in reducing crime. Goblin Nation, on the other hand, is nothing if not predictable. I won’t go into specifically how things play out but suffice it to say that what you expect to happen, happens.

The Green Goblin, here calling himself the Goblin King, has launched all out war on New York City and has managed to evade Spider-Man after hacking his spider-bots so they failed to detect anyone with a goblin mask or logo. As the Goblin army descends on New York City, the spirit of Peter Parker ascends, making his way through Otto’s Mindscape to return triumphantly.

I liked how in this final volume Dan Slott did a round-robin of everything that had happened in the series by including characters as minor as Don Lamaze to Spider-Man 2099. It was like reading a greatest hits of Superior Spider-Man before the classic final close-out between Spidey and Green Goblin and in that respect was a good way to end the series.

But I don’t think Otto got the great exit he deserved. Slott gave him a great final speech as he prepared to hand over the reins to Peter and you do see that he’s really grown as a character, though I thought his exit was a bit anti-climactic and rushed. I was also hoping he wouldn’t say the line he ended up saying (twice!) which was “YOU are the Superior Spider-Man!” (groan). I would’ve preferred if his final words were about Anna-Maria instead.

Superior Spider-Man #30 was really the final issue as that’s Otto’s last appearance while #31 is Peter’s triumphant return though its a bit tedious to read. Peter cleans up all the loose Superior story threads in that issue, ready for a whole new storyline in All-New Amazing Spider-Man, and the way he does this is both efficient and unimaginative. There was no excitement with his fight with the Green Goblin and no question that the Goblin Nation would fall - the only surprise was the Goblin’s identity reveal but even that was more of a mild “oh... ho hum” than a shocking revelation.

Superior Spider-Man has been a high watermark in Spider-Man comics and one of the most enjoyable and original storylines the character’s ever had. The first few trade paperbacks are superb and are Dan Slott at his finest. The last couple trades though? You can feel things were being hurried along so All-New Amazing Spider-Man #1 could coincide with the latest (and lamest) Amazing Spider-Man movie, so the comics suffered in declining quality as Slott was rushed and Christos Gage was brought in to co-write the issues to fit the demanding release schedule.

Goblin Nation is a decent last bow for Superior Spider-Man but definitely not amazing.

3.5 stars. 

Superior Spider-Man Volume 6: Goblin Nation (Marvel Now)

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