The flames that engulf Spider-Island II mark the first time that Otto’s Spider-Man has ever been truly unprepared for the threat he faces. As his Spider-Minions are scattering around him and the structure of his remote base begins to shatter, readers get to witness Otto’s first real moments of hesitancy. How can he combat the growing threat of the Goblin army?
It is through the actions of those close to Spider-Man, their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the perceived security he provides, that we first see just how weak Otto is. Readers realize, that it is only the relationships formed by Peter Parker that provide any sense of hope in “Goblin Nation.” Otto’s ego has built him a false safety net, one that has come crashing down around him.
Otto is on full retreat in this issue, leaving his soldiers to die at the hands of the Goblin and his forces. With Spider-Island II destroyed, the Goblins have set their sights on Peter Parker and his friends. This allows the supporting cast of Superior Spider-Man #28 to shine. After being mishandled throughout most of Superior Spider-Man’s run, Mary Jane gets her first moment that reminds readers why she is such a strong character. Her relationship with Peter is one of mutual respect and friendship, but when the chips are down — and she’s being written correctly — she’s not overly reliant on him. If readers have been waiting for Mary Jane to get her hands dirty, this is the issue for them.
That being said, Dan Slott’s storytelling in Superior Spider-Man #28 isn’t always consistent. It has been made clear that Carlie as Goblin Monster, who has an interesting moment of clarity here, hasn’t revealed who is behind the Spider-Man mask to the Goblins, other than the mind of said body being occupied by Dr. Otto Octavius. So it isn’t exactly clear why the Green Goblin is rounding up all of Peter Parker’s friends and family. Sure, Spider-Man and Peter Parker are friends, but are readers to continue to believe that with all of the evidence and knowledge that the Goblin team has on Peter that they couldn’t put two-and-two together?
Speaking of Peter Parker, Superior Spider-Man #28 manages to return to the mindscape of Otto Octavius. Peter continues to be forced to relive the life of the six-armed doctor and his mind seems to get more and more lost in the struggle of separating one man’s memories from the other’s. The sequences are interesting but interrupt the flow of the action that is besieging New York City. While there is progression for Peter within Otto’s mind, it is hard to see where this is going or what the possible endgame of this sequence is. Perhaps an additional level of mystery is a good thing, but this sequence is just so odd that it steals a bit of the show from the action antics of the physical world.
What is remarkable about the mindscape sequences is the artwork of Giuseppe Camuncoli. His double-page spreads are gorgeous to look at and truly represent the first time that he has opened up his layouts to become more abstract. The work is reminiscent of what Marco Rudy and Val Staples were doing in the Marvel Knights: Spider-Man mini-series that just ended, and that’s a compliment. His use of the spider and octopus imagery to separate the panels is unforgettable and a welcome growth of Camuncoli’s often stiff layouts.
The rest of the book represents the very best and worst of Camuncoli. He continues to excel at costumed action, with his renditions of the Goblins and their gliders taking top billing. The way he utilizes the page layouts to heighten the Goblins’ ascent on their gliders is a hallmark of his work. Despite Camuncoli’s fantastic action, he still has trouble with rendering human faces naturally. He is showing marked improvement, his Peter is less bulky here, but he’s not on the level of Ramos, Stegman, or Martin.
Superior Spider-Man #28 successfully rearranges the chess pieces and reduces Otto’s Spider-Man to a lone wolf, set to battle an overwhelming Goblin force. Just like Slott’s “Spider Island” event, “Goblin Nation” feels incredibly well calculated and that every part of the story counts towards the series inevitable end. Every page shows the finger tightening on Chekov’s gun and readers should be excited for the round to fire, especially considering how this issue ends.