What happens when you’re injected with the version of the Goblin Serum that the Goblin Nation is currently forcing on its recruits? You apparently spend your time in a perpetual state of rage and diminished reason, if Silk’s recent experience with the stuff is to be taken as typical. It’s a welcome change of pace from the repetition we’ve been seeing during the last couple issues, though if it’s enough to get things back on track remains to be seen.
This issue starts with a flashback to the mysterious eight months ago period, with Silk and Black Cat in the middle of a fight as Cindy tries to convince Felicia to let her join her gang. We then zip forward to the present, where Black Cat is questioning Killer Shrike about Cindy’s disappearance, Cindy is tasked with assassinating Felicia while she’s under the thrall of the Goblin Serum, and the various people in Cindy’s life wonder how she’s doing, apparently copping to the fact that she’s disappeared for at least a couple of days.
After a couple of missteps, Robbie Thompson has successfully injected some genuine drama into the narrative, with Cindy losing her agency for most of this issue and Black Cat showing her hand as a cunning manipulator of events as she saves her. It’s not exactly replete with substantive or deep matter, but it takes the undercover plot and, at long last, makes it far more compelling than it’s been up to this point, with Cindy finally getting what she thought she wanted and realizing that it may have cost her more than she was comfortable paying. I’ve been waiting for this particular thread to yield some interesting storytelling, and the scene at the end of the issue with Silk begging Black Cat to stop beating Killer Shrike makes me hopeful that we’ll see more consequences of this choice in the near future.
Another development comes in the form of Cindy’s occasional nameless ally, who now reveals he knows her name and who manages to phase in and out of tangibility during conflicts. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest for now that this is Peter Parker, trying to keep an eye on her and using his technology to create another costumed identity for himself for this purpose. He manages to momentarily pull her out of her rage state, knows who she is, and expressed concern for her–all consistent with the Spider-Man we know. I’m not sure that it makes me any more interested in the existing narrative, but it’s as good a speculation as anything else I can come up with at the moment.
I know I’ve been critical of the quick, page-long check-ins on other areas of Cindy’s life in previous issues, but now that things are expanding to two pages, they get to breathe a little more and we get some genuine character moments that make these scenes more relevant. From Jonah’s blowhard attempt to mask his concern for her to Bobbi and Jessica’s commiseration over her sudden disappearance, it’s nice to see these scenes in the context of her life suddenly spiraling out of control for an issue. Hopefully we’ll see things start to dovetail a little more as the superhero parts of her life put her at odds with the civilian parts.
It was surprising to see Felicia masterminding the encounter between Silk and Goblin Nation, as well as managing her distrust of Killer Shrike. While I won’t completely put aside my issues with her recent characterization, I can’t deny that, within this new paradigm, this is a pleasant trait to see from her. If she’s becoming as simpatico with Silk as the narrative suggests, it could make for some interesting developments and narrative decisions down the road between these two characters, which I hope Thompson will continue to portray.
Veronica Fish ably continues the crisp, animated art style that Stacey Lee started when this title launched, most noticeably with facial expressions and eyes. It’s perhaps not quite as smooth as her artistic predecessor, but there’s no denying it has a charm all its own. She draws a memorable Goblin Silk, with her pointy ears, sallow green skin and anger-crazed eyes, but shows herself as adept at capturing Black Cat’s amusement at Shrike’s imminently changing fortunes as she is at crafting dynamic action and fight scenes. There are occasional issues with composition and posing, but overall she makes her style work to support Thompson’s narrative in a pleasing way.
Overall, I’m hopeful that we’re back on the right track with this title. While I’d like to wait another issue or two before declaring all is well, the improvements I’ve seen make me think there’s a good shot that Thompson is making his way back to form. If things continue to improve like they did with this installment, then we should be enjoying this title again without reservation in the very near future.