Here we go. It’s the final showdown between Spider-Man and his greatest enemy, the Green Goblin. However, there’s a much different feel to the proceedings with the mysteries about which people are under the masks. Beneath Spider-Man’s mask is the face of Peter Parker, and beneath the Peter Parker mask lies the mind of Dr. Otto Octavius, the former Dr. Octopus, and beneath that mind lies the actual Peter Parker, and it gets even deeper than that in Superior Spider-Man #27. However, although he’s insisted that he is the one true Goblin Norman Osborn, we have not seen him without the mask, so we can’t be sure who this is. However, Otto believes he’s Osborn, and that’s enough to make the events of this issue tense and exciting.
Last issue saw the Green Goblin smacking down the Hobgoblin before turning his attention to Spider-Man at long last, who had done all the legwork by unwittingly consolidating all underworld power with the Goblin Kingpin of Crime by taking out all of his competition. The Goblin and all his cohorts (including the mighty 8-Ball!) had also remained completely invisible to Spider-Man’s vast network of spybots thanks to hacking the system, so he did all this right under Otto’s nose. Now, it’s a month later, and the Goblin’s forces are turning New York City upside-down with a massive crime wave, and Spider-Man is absolutely confounded by how it’s all happening. His obsession with learning the truth has him ignoring all his other responsibilities with Parker Industries and his newly co-habitating girlfriend Anna Marie.
Meanwhile, in a great script-flipping touch from writer Dan Slott, Mayor J. Jonah Jameson has found himself having to publicly defend Spider-Man (thanks to being blackmailed) while the rest of the news media is insistent that the wall-crawler is in cahoots with the Goblin. Of course, Jameson actually has his own plans – creating a personal Spider-Slayer patrol with the express purpose of ending Spider-Man forever. A dark turn, to be sure, appropriating the technology of the man who murdered his wife and all, but the fact that Spider-Man 2099* is secretly on the build team for this project likely means it won’t exactly work as intended. Also meanwhile, Peter Parker’s consciousness continues to evade Otto’s detection, although his psyche is so damaged that he only has 31 (yes, he counted) memories of his life remaining. However, in an attempt to find a way to get his body back, he tried to see if things were a two ways street and tried to access Otto’s memories and… well, something weird happened. It’s getting very Being John Malkovich. Or Being Otto Octavius.
But the main intensity of this issue comes when the Superior Spider-Man finally confronts the Green Goblin in his underground lair, and instead of a fight, they actually sit down for a chat – one in which Goblin reveals that he knows Otto’s really the main in the driver’s seat, thanks to Carlie Cooper putting it all together in the journal he stole from her before converting her into a Goblin flunky. It seems Goblin is impressed that Otto literally got under Spidey’s skin, and he offers a partnership. It’s a great scene, one that we’ve really been waiting for, because while the Green Goblin has classically been Spider-Man’s greatest enemy, this last year or so of Superior Spider-Man has established that Dr. Octopus could very well lay claim to that title as well, and here they both are, staring each other down. This is where we see Otto’s true colors – or rather, what those colors have become after a year of fighting the crime he once caused. He defies the Goblin, declaring his intent to stop him at all costs, but what set him off was the implication that the proposed partnership would make him a subordinate to Osborn. Drive, will, and ego, but now in service of what he believes is the cause of justice. Whether it actually is justice remains debatable – I’m sure Peter Parker will have some words about that.
The end of the issue is a couple of smart chess moves from both of them, one of which is violent on a massive scale. Slott’s had me hooked on this for a year, and I’m giddy with anticipation to find out how this is all going to finally shake out. The secret might not be entirely out yet, but it’s in the hands of a man who’s just declared war on him – and at this point, although Slott’s made a point of not showing us the Goblin unmasked which implies that it won’t be who we think it is, after this issue, it would probably be something of a letdown if it’s NOT Norman Osborn. Even Harry wouldn’t give it the street cred it needs to maintain the intensity of this arc. Also, Giuseppe Camuncoli is fantastic as always on the art duties.
Superior Spider-Man #27 is great. Watching Otto zig zag back and forth over that weird line between hero and villain is just fascinating. He’s a jerkwad we can’t help rooting for, but in an entirely different way than most characters who are jerkwads we can’t help rooting for.. He’s not the charming rogue or the snarky bad boy. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool supervillain trying really, really hard to be a superhero and doing a big thing badly. This series is slated to end with issue #31, the finale of this arc, but we really hope there’s some way Otto can carry on, albeit in a less mind-scarring fashion. Maybe he won’t be Spider-Man anymore, but he can’t just fall back into old Octohabits. He’s gotta be something new. I can’t wait to find out what that might be.
And I can’t wait to see how the Otto/Osborn showdown goes down.
*Oh, and the letters page reveals that a new Spider-Man 2099 series is likely in the works for later this year! Hot damn! Dare we dream that Peter David returns to write the character he created two decades ago?