Superior Spider-Man #16: Hobgoblin’s Fall


This is the last issue before Spider-Man 2099 shows up! I’m stoked and… and I’m getting ahead of myself. Sorry. Big fan of Miguel O’Hara here.

Superior Spider-Man #16 is the fallout issue from Otto Octavius going full-on ‘no-BS’ to tracking down the Hobgoblin by announcing his secret identity to the entire city of New York after commandeering every television screen in town. Phil Urich is standing right in the middle of the Daily Bugle offices where he works when that happens, and he’s not slick enough to plausibly deny it – especially since he’s been cashing in on his supervillain identity by filming his own fights and selling them to the Bugle as exclusives… a lot like Peter Parker used to do. Of course, it’s not ENOUGH money, because he has to license the Hobgoblin identity from the originator, Roderick Kingsley, and he’s in hock to the Tinkerer for all his high-tech gear. Not to mention the fact that the TInkerer’s assistant, Tiberius Stone, hates him and sabotaged all his equipment.

Now, the curtain is raised, Urich panics and takes his furious girlfriend hostage (which she elbows her way out of in short order) before getting her fired, and puts another black eye on the Daily Bugle’s record of accidentally employing supervillains… and that’s not even counting J. Jonah Jameson’s history with Mysterio, the Scorpion, his own Spider-Slayer robots. Joe Robertson is now in charge, and he doesn’t deserve being painted with the brush, but he’s going to be. That may build into some serious unanticipated blowback… but Otto Octavius is not the Spider-Man who would care about that. Aside from maybe a few memory traces, he doesn’t know Robbie from Adam. More relevant to his interests, however, is the potential trouble for Mayor Jameson, whom Ock has in his pocket, much to JJJ’s chagrin. And more dangerously, this has broken Phil Urich enough that he’s ripe pickings for the new Goblin Kingpin of Crime and the underground army he’s building right under Otto’s nose.

This Green Goblin intrigue is very… well, intriguing. The fact that the face under the mask has been kept secret this long means it can’t be Norman Osborn. Now, we haven’t seen Harry Osborn for a while, and he’s got a Green Goblin history, but last we saw, he was in Seattle starting a new life and raising his son… but we did see him beat up an ex-police officer with a Green Goblin tattoo way back when – Vin Gonzales, who was also Peter Parker’s ex-roommate who hated Spider-Man – and that tatt’s the calling card of the current Goblin army being built. Vin seemed to have an in with Norman, which would seem to indicate that maybe Norman IS the Goblin… so now we’re back to square one, because it can’t be. He’s a Goblin King, he made Urich a Goblin Knight… is there an obscure royalty-themed supervillain in Spidey’s past that I’m not recalling that may be trying to upgrade? Or could this be Gabriel O’Hara, Spider-Man 2099’s brother, who was the Goblin of 2099, and it’s setting up for his appearance next issue? Doubtful, but I just like talking about 2099. Hell, maybe this is all a huge bit of theatricality courtesy of Mysterio.

Superior Spider-Man #16 remains good, entertaining business, with the top-notch team of Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos bringing a kinetically-charged and briskly paced feel to the proceedings. Phil Urich is a jerkwad who got what’s coming to him, and at least that was supremely satisfying. In the comments to my article speculating on possible endings for Dr. Octopus’ run as Spider-Man, there was some criticism that this whole series is just “grimdark” worse than the 1990s, but I disagree completely. If that were so, this would be the Superriorr Spyderr-Mann: The NightBloodHawk. 90s “grim and gritty” was all about the hollow attempt to be edgy for its own sake, but this is something very different. While there is some visceral thrill to watching Ock’s no-nonsense, quantity over quality approach to superheroing when it takes out some grade-A jerkwads like Urich or the Kingpin or Massacre, but there’s the overarching sense of ‘this is wrong.’ We’re not supposed to cheer Otto Octavius without reservation and go ‘dude, kewl!’ because we know his entire ‘do-good’ career is based on mind-rape and murder of our most beloved of superheroes. It’s an illustration – a long-form one, sure – of the difference visceral justice and legitimate justice, a line that is blurrier than hell these days of perception distorting reality.

This is good stuff. I have every confience that it will continue to be good stuff to the point of being great stuff.