The Goblin King’s rampant destruction of New York City and incessant taunting of Spider-Man reach a boiling point in Superior Spider-Man #29. These actions have pushed the series as far as it can go before the inevitable physical showdown between these two villains. Everything Doctor Octopus has known in his life, both as Spider-Man and as the six-armed, mad scientist, has been stripped away from him: his minions, island, home, inventions, friends, family, and lab. With Mary Jane and Aunt May (plus significant others) safely outside of the city, only one element of Otto’s life remains unharmed and she’s in the arms of the Goblins.
Even with all this destruction and tension, Superior Spider-Man #29 is not all that satisfying as a standalone issue in this series. This is the second issue in a row that depicts the obliteration of everything Otto knows and most of the plots we see here reach no satisfying conclusion or manage to update themselves in an interesting way.
Last issue, readers were treated to Jonah arming his Spider-Slayers. This issue, he turns the key and sends them on their way. Last issue, readers learned Carlie could fight against the Goblin serum and needed a cure. This issue, we see Peter and Sajani trying to do exactly that, to a certain extent. The Mindscape sequence seems to advance Peter’s consciousness closer to the events of Amazing Spider-Man #700 but at two pages can’t help but feel obligatory. Everything just feels like a slight update or a check-in just to maintain that these storylines are still ongoing.
The story itself seems self-aware of its own structure with even the Goblin referring to a “grand finale.” The character’s planned destruction seems too convenient, as if he is only operating according to some grand, operatic storytelling structure. Sure, the Goblin has always had a flare for the dramatic, but always to make a point as a strict pragmatist. Here, readers aren’t given much in the way of getting inside of the Goblin’s motivations. They appear only to be to tear down Otto for defeating Spider-Man first, a sentiment that continues to point the Goblin’s identity towards that of Norman Osborn. Even some of the dialogue, penned by Slott and Gage, seems to break the forth wall; at one point Spider-Man notes that the Gobin “emphasized” his words, did he notice the bold font?
This would all work if the core way of conveying this grand revenge made any rational sense. For the majority of Superior Spider-Man #29, readers are privy to a conversation between the Goblin King and Spider-Man over headset. Readers are asked to believe that the Goblin hasn’t yet figured out the body that Otto’s mind occupies but also is able to hack into Parker Industries and Otto’s particular headset without making the connection. It strains credulity, even if this issue explains the Goblin’s motivations behind capturing Anna Maria, and weakens the rest of the interactions between the characters.
Where Superior Spider-Man #29 is successful is when it allows its scenes to play out longer and build to a dramatic conclusion. This is particularly true during the first minor confrontation scene between the Goblin and Spidey wherein it is revealed that Don Lamaze is being held captive. Lamaze’s death reveals the character’s struggle with his own cowardice and his desire to become a hero. The story works as a strong parallel with Otto’s own journey where he started as a “fat, pompous ass” that has tried to be a hero, modeled after the works of the original Spider-Man. Regardless of Otto’s motivations, it appears that the image of Spider-Man still means something to a few New Yorkers and still has the power to inspire.
The scene is handled wonderfully by Camuncoli, whose work is still of a mixed quality when compared to the other artists on Superior Spider-Man, imagine how Ramos might have depicted Spider-Man 2099 joining the fight. The typical missteps with Camuncoli’s awkward character poses and nearly identical facial constructions appear in Superior Spider-Man #29 alongside his attention to detail. Camuncoli’s art always looks better when read digitally, allowing for the details to appear when observed up-close. On a full page his artwork seems cramped and scratchy, with the inks treading lightly and never fully fleshing out his pencil-work. Even though Camuncoli’s Goblin continues to look more and more like the Joker, his double-page rendition of the Goblin triggering bombs across the city is a great example of comicbook storytelling.
Superior Spider-Man #29 will likely read well in a collected format in its inevitable paperback release, but on its own it is a bit frustrating. All of these storylines need to be wrapped up, hopefully in a satisfying way, but with Superior Spider-Man #29 only landing one of them, the chances seem to be more and more remote. Even the reveal of Norman Osborn (as spoiled in the issue’s cover) is a bit of a letdown with no particularly exciting visual or narrative buildup.