Friday, February 27, 2015

Superior Spider-Man issues 26 & 27

Greetings, citizens! I’m finally getting back on track, so let’s waste no time in looking at the issues today.

Let’s start with the cover. It’s not really a bad cover, but it’s also kind of bland. The Green Goblin looks like he’s shoving the Hobgoblin with his left hand, while Hobgoblin’s got a bomb ready to go in his left hand. Pretty sure he’d be in the blast radius, but if he wants to go out in a blaze of glory, that’s his business. We also see something rather strange for this series; a long list of names of people who worked on it. Most of the previous issues have had 3-4 names; Dan Slott as the writer, the penciler, the inker, and the color artist (almost always Edgar Delgado). The previous story arc had 5 names listed, including a second writer, Christos Gage. The extra hands on these issues really reinforce my theory about Marvel deciding to rush the book’s conclusion. Anyway, for this issue, Dan Slott’s the sole writer, three different pencilers (Ramos, Rodriguez, and Martin), three different inkers (Olazaba, Lopez and Martin again), and three colorists (Delgado, Rodriguez again, and Martin once again). Having this many different artists can be a problem when trying to keep the look and feel of a book consistent, but they’ve addressed that problem in a pretty good way here. The book follows three different stories, each one worked on by a different set of artists. Since each story would have it’s own feel anyway, the widely different styles doesn’t make it a jarring read.

The issue begins with the two main goblins, The Green Goblin (or Goblin King as he likes to be called now) and the Hobgoblin, engaged in all out war with their minions. The King calls for a ceasefire, and he and the Hobgoblin talk for a bit, deciding that instead of sending all their minions to their deaths, the two of them should just have a duel, winner take all. It’s somewhat surprising for an archvillain to actually have the thought of “I’ll do it myself,” let alone two of them to agree to it. Not doing things yourself is the point of having minions! Well, that and to counter enemy minions.

Speaking of minions, our Superior Spider-Man has his own minions preparing to square off with a large group of A.I.M mooks. The big battle is aborted prematurely by the arrival of the Avengers, saying that they’d like to have a word with Spidey. He attempts to blow them off, saying he’s busy, but they just take care of everything in a nifty looking splash page.

I love how all of A.I.M’s forces are divided up among everyone else, but Cap just takes care of all the Spiderlings himself. Cap tells Spidey that his probation is over, but before we can see what he means by that, let’s focus on something we haven’t seen in awhile.

Inside “the shattered psyche of Otto Octavius and Peter Parker,” we see the remaining vestige of Peter staring at the mostly barren landscape. The only things to be seen are some of the more iconic Spider-Man imagery that have been ubiquitous of the character. I’m more than a little surprised we don’t see him trying to save someone from falling off of a bridge. Anyway, ghost-Pete bemoans how he’s barely there and doesn’t think he’ll be able to beat Ock. Psht, and he claims that he’s barely Peter, seems just like normal Petey to me.

Back with the Goblins, the fight between the King and Hobgoblin begins. It’s a pretty brief and not all that satisfying fight. The only real noteworthy thing about it at first is that they both doubt the identity of the other. It interesting because we haven’t actually seen which Green Goblin this is. The one and only time we saw the Green Goblin without his mask on, his face was completely in shadow. Hobgoblin manages to get a cheap shot in by calling Harry Osborn a disappointment.

We cut away from the fight back to the Avengers. They’re confronting Spidey about the fact that he deleted the results from the brain scan that they ran way back in issue 8, and saying that they’re debating kicking him out of the Avengers. Spidey counters that the results could give away his secret identity, but this is just the latest excuse he’s given them, and they’re kind of sick of his BS. They want him to tell them what exactly is going on, but of course he refuses, and decides quitting the Avengers is the only way to get them off his back.

Back with ghost-Pete, all the staring at iconic moments in his publication history has strengthened his resolve to fight Ock, regardless of how impossible it seems. I’ll admit that Peter’s tenacity was always one of my favorite traits of his, but for some reason these scenes with him doing this just ring kinda hollow. It might be because I’ve seen Peter have these sorts of moments so damn much, or it might be because I was really enjoying this series and Peter’s return was the harbinger of the end. Or, it would have been, if I’d been managing to keep up with the series… Due to a series of unfortunate personal problems, I fell behind on the series and didn’t have an opportunity to read issues 24 – 31 until after 31 had hit the shelves.

Okay, back on track, we get to see the end of the goblin fight. The cheap shot that Hobgoblin had managed to score on Green Goblin destroyed a large chunk of his costume, revealing his chest and… a dent?

I will admit that I’ve never studied medicine, and this is a comic book so there is a large degree of suspension of disbelief in regards to almost any injury a character receives, but what in the hell!? How does his chest have a freaking crater? Is he not a human, but a Realdoll or maybe an action figure? Is he some sort of robot with a clay exterior? Is he, in fact, Norman Osborg? I don’t know whether that was a failing of Dan Slott for how he scripted it, or Humberto Ramos for how he drew it, but that little hiccough is baffling.

Anyway, the crater apparently confirms that it is indeed Norman under the mask and not some pretender. Normy then proceeds to beat the ever-loving crap out of Hobgoblin, and then choke him to death. When Normy and the rest of his underlings go off to celebrate, our old friend Ben Urich the Goblin Knight decides to check under the mask. He sees that it is in fact NOT Kingsley, the real Hobgoblin. We cut away to Kingsley, where we see him brainwashing someone into thinking that they are Kingsley. Apparently he does this so that he can fake his death when he feels like it, which isn’t a bad idea considering how many enemies he has.

We’re back down to a regular sized team with this issue, and we’ve also got Camuncoli as the penciler this time around. This cover works pretty well, with Spidey being heavily shadowed in the foreground representing danger. Behind him is a beat-up American flag sporting the heraldry of the Goblin King. The only problem I really have with the cover is in the upper right corner, where we get the title of our final story-arc in the series; Goblin Nation. First off, it’s a misleading title considering that this is (like oh so many things in the Marvel Universe) contained entirely within New York City. It’s not even the Goblins taking over the entire state, just the city! Second, there’s the giant #1, making it seem like the thing is the first issue of a new ongoing series, as opposed to the 27th. This was supposed to be keeping in line with a bunch of other Marvel NOW titles, serving as a jumping on point to various series, which would be great… if the series wasn’t going to be ending in like 2 months! If people haven’t bothered to pick up the series yet, and they can already see solicitations for a relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man, why would they bother picking this up? The only reason I can think of is that they’re just trying to trick people into buying something that they wouldn’t normally pick up.

The issue begins a month after the last one. While Spidey narrates about all of his data indicating that organized crime has been eliminated in New York, we see various scenes of the Goblin’s minions causing havoc. He doesn’t understand how this is happening, but he does finally understand who is behind it.

So wait… Osborn spent all this time quietly absorbing all of the elements of organized crime in New York, trying (and succeeding) to keep a low profile the whole time. He’s the undisputed crime lord of the largest city in the country, and even has taken over the Hobgoblin’s villain franchises schtick. So why is he having his men drawing attention to themselves like this? Why is he doing it himself!? If this were some other place, fine, I could accept it. But this is NYC in the Marvel universe! The Avengers and the Fantastic Four both have their base of operations here, not to mention all of the other heroes who live there like Doctor Strange! How is Osborn stupid enough to think that all of this wouldn’t draw the attention of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?

I really hate to belabor this point, but this is YET ANOTHER thing that makes it seem like the series finale got pushed up by several months. Sure, Osborn’s got a bunch of supervillains on his side thanks to absorbing Hobgoblin’s little empire. That might be a reason to think he could make a go of things, except for the fact that all of those guys are D-listers! The Avengers exist almost exclusively to take on A-list threats (when they’re not fighting their colleagues, of course), a horde of D-listers aren’t even going to slow down Thor or Wolverine, let alone them and all of their friends! Osborn could rule the criminal underworld unopposed for a long-ass time, making millions upon millions of dollars, and he blows it in order to… what? Have people know it’s him? Who the fuck cares! None of this makes any damned sense, especially when we learn his supposed motivations later on.

Sigh. I suppose I should get back on track. Deep within his mind, we see Ghost-Pete once again looking at the fragments that make up his existence. It seems that there is in fact the iconic bridge scene in there, but we just didn’t see it last time. We’re looking at it now, and so are Ghost-Pete and Ock, since Normy decided to use that particular bridge to send his message, which makes sense. Ghost-Pete looks around to try and find a place to hide from Ock, and he decides to try hiding in Ock’s memories, and to also try and find a weakness within them. Unfortunately, Pete doesn’t get to root around like he did before, probably because he’s a lot less “solid” this time around. Instead he gets swept into the memory of Ock being born. Hope he gets to skip the spanking part.

Back with Ock-Pete, we see him fiddling around with one of his Spider-bots, trying to find out how Osborn and his men have escaped notice for this long. There’s also something else I missed before;

Yeah, Ock-Pete’s planning on asking Anna Maria to marry him. Unfortunately, we don’t get to linger on that for too long because there are superhero shenanigans afoot. He discovers that the flaw is not in any of his programming (of course not) but instead is in Uatu Jackson’s facial recognition program that he’s been using since the whole Massacre incident. He tries to call Uatu, but just gets hung up on. We cut away briefly to Mayor Jameson, who’s checking on the progress of his little Spider Slayer project, which is all done but for the testing. Back with Ock-Pete, he’s confronting Uatu in his Spidey garb, and the two of them actually manage to use the hack in the software to trace it back to where Osborn’s hiding out.

We once again have another one page cutaway, this time to Captain Watanabe. She’s at Parker Industries looking for Peter, since he’s still considered a person of interest in Carlie’s disappearance. Wait, this is taking place a month later. How is Captain Watanabe still looking for Peter? He’s hidden from the cops for a month, and nobody finds that suspicious? There aren’t any cops watching his apartment? Anna Maria hasn’t been questioned about where he is? What has the NYPD been doing this whole time!? Ugh, yeah, so Captain Watanabe is still looking for Pete, Sajani is also wondering where the hell he’s been. While I’m glad the whole plot thread hadn’t been forgotten, I really think that this cutaway would’ve worked better right after the Jameson one, instead of going back to Peter for a page.

Back to Peter, and thankfully there are no more cutaways for the rest of the issue. He’s following the signal to the Goblin Underground, marveling at how Osborn managed to run all of this so discretely. Speaking of Osborn, he and a group of his D-lister minions have apparently been waiting for Peter. Before Ock-Pete can formulate a plan to deal with all the thugs, Osborn sends them away and invites Spidey to sit down for a chat. Osborn reveals that he knows exactly who “Spidey” really is, and of course makes the whole “join me and we can rule the galaxy” offer. To be fair, this is one of the situations where the offer is most likely to be accepted, and it almost seems like Ock might go for it. That is, until Osborn says that Ock would be his second, at which point he flips out. The Star Wars parallels continue, as Osborn zaps Spidey with lightning. But of course it turns out that Spidey is just a Force-ghost- I mean, he’s using the hard-light hologram-projecting thing from issue #21. Which was a good idea, not going into the proverbial lion’s den like an idiot. Of course, the plan would be better if Spidey’s lair wasn’t public knowledge. The issue ends with the Goblin Knight, Menace, Monster and a bunch of nameless mooks bombing Spider Island.

I had intended to look at issue #28 in this review as well, but I’ve gone on for long enough. These issues aren’t terrible, but they do have their problems. They all seem to stem from the overall rushed feeling that the series suddenly has. It’s frustrating, because I would love to see exactly what how Osborn’s master plan would’ve reached fruition. Unless this was the intention from the outset, in which case I’m really disappointed. I was really enjoying Dan Slott’s writing, and it all seemed to be going great. Osborn was pulling off an excellent long con, and could’ve kept on going with it until he had amassed enough power to actually challenge the combined might of the various superhero factions. Instead, this all feels very forced and moronic. It’s also disappointing that we have other plot threads that aren’t amounting to much. Sure, the NYPD is looking for Peter, but it’s not causing any sort of problems in his life (or the lives of his loved ones). He’s planning on marrying Anna Maria, but with Ghost-Pete’s return, that means we’re just going to have another frustratingly disappointing romance for “Peter.” I enjoyed the issues at the time, but after looking at them again, the faults are really showing.

As close as we are to finishing the series, we’re going to be taking a break from it. March is the month of my birth, and as such, I feel like celebrating. So, instead of any of the stuff that I had scheduled, I’m going to be looking at a bunch of stuff that is important to me. What are these things? Well, you’ll just have to check back in the coming weeks and find out. Until then, citizens!

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