Peter’s dead. Doc Ock’s got his body. No one knows. Otto’s out to prove he’s Superior to his predecessor.
No, wait, strike that. Peter’s not dead, because a part of his personality is hiding inside Otto’s brain. And several people know about Ock’s theft of Peter’s body, including the new Green Goblin. And while Otto is still out to prove he’s superior, he’s at the end of his rope right now; while he used to be a high-functioning sociopath, these days, worn out by stress and adversity, he’s acting more like a low-functioning sociopath than ever.
|Executive Producer:||Alan Fine|
|Chief Creative Officer:||Joe Quesada|
|Editor In Chief:||Axel Alonso|
|Senior Editor:||Stephen Wacker|
|Associate Editor:||Ellie Pyle|
We open with the caption "31 DAYS LATER..." to find Spider-Man, bruised and with costume torn, looking out over the city. His sensors tell him that the city is at peace, yet his eyes tell him that the city is filled with violence and mayhem. Baffled by the discontinuity, he webswings over to the Brooklyn Bridge, to investigate a newly-emerged gap in his citywide surveillance. There he finds the bridge graffito-tagged with the icon of the Green Goblin. Otto immediately recognizes this as the work of Norman Osborn. "All this time it was you. And now you want me to know. Not just that it's you, but that it's over and you've already won.”
Meanwhile, inside Otto's brain, the newly-reappeared persona of Peter Parker is exploring what the caption box calls "the Mindscape". Only 31 pieces of Peter's memory remain, namely those moments Otto committed to his own memory before purging Peter back in Superior Spider-Man #9. Most of the surviving scenes are key moments in Spider-Man's history, but there's also hot Peter-on-MJ action, courtesy of Doc's pervy mental voyeurism back in Superior Spider-Man #2. Otto's consciousness appears within the mindscape to study the night that the Green Goblin threw Gwen Stacy to her death. Having no place to 'hide' from Otto, what with there being so few pieces of his own history to provide cover, Peter retreats into Otto's own memories, and begins to relive Otto's entire life.
In the real world, Otto is trying to understand how the Green Goblin hacked his spider-tech. His girlfriend Anna has fixed him a meal, with a side of chastising him for neglecting the newly-founded Parker Industries. But Otto has no time to sort out his business affairs at the moment, because he's realized how the Goblin suckered him; it was through Uatu Jackson's facial-recognition tech. While Uatu isn't taking Peter Parker's calls, the teenage scientist 's happy to talk to card-carrying Avenger Spider-Man, and is able to work out how the Goblin hacked the software. As a consequence, Otto can trace the hack back to the Goblin's lair... which is where the web-swinger is going next.
Two quick interludes follow. Firstly, we have an amusing aside as Mayor J. Jonah Jameson takes an impromptu press conference. Queried if Spider-Man and the Goblin are working together, JJJ says "Nonsense! Spider-Man is this city's greatest champion... No further questions!" He then mutters to himself that the assembled reporters are "filthy parasites". JJJ has come a long way from the proud press baron who regularly assumed Spider-Man was colluding with the supervillain du jour. We next see JJJ at Alchemax, where he's engaged Liz Allan, and her minions Tiberius Stone and Michael ‘Spider-Man 2099’ O'Mara, to build a new generation of Spider-Slayers. The Slayers, of course, are meant to kill Spider-Man. "He never stops," says Jameson. "I see that now. And now he and the Goblin are in cahoots, laying siege to my city. I have to put an end to it... before he dies, he needs to know it was by my hand."
So he does think the Goblin and Spider-Man are working together. Maybe he hasn't changed as much as I thought.
Secondly, we see police captain Yuri ‘the Wraith’ Watanabe try to track down Peter Parker. Naturally, she tries Parker Industries, but Sajana Jaffrey won't give Peter up... only because she doesn't know where he is either. Neither woman is pleased about this. "I find it hard to believe," says Yuri, “that the owner of a new start-up company could go days without contacting any of you." "Tell me about it," replies Sajana. "Believe me, Captain, whatever backroom interrogation games you've got planned for Parker are nothing to what I'm going to do when I get my hands on him."
Back to Otto, who's tracked the Goblin to his lair, far below the city. The Goblin isn't alone there, for he's gathered a squad of new supervillains that Roderick Kingsley set up. Most of them are obscure identities - a SpiderFan No-Prize to the first person who writes me with IDs for all of them - but I think I recognize Killer Shrike. And maybe the Melter? But the Goblin isn't looking for a fight. In fact, he's so confident he dismisses all of his goons. What's his edge? Why, the fact that, thanks to Carlie Cooper's notes, which he captured back in Superior Spider-Man #21, he knows that Spider-Man's mind has been colonized by Otto Octavius! Given Otto's history as a would-be criminal mastermind and gangster overlord, the Goblin is happy to offer Spider-Man a place in the underworld as the Goblin's second-in-command.
Otto is furious, partly because he's embraced Spider-Man's mission of fighting for justice, and partly because his ego is punctured at the thought of being inferior to the Goblin, though he keeps that reason to himself. The Goblin isn't put out at Otto's rejection, and simply blasts him with lethal energy emitted from his gloves. Well, it would be lethal, if Spider-Man were actually present, but he's not. The figure inside the Goblin's lair is actually only a holographic avatar, conjured up by the same equipment that allowed Angelina Brancale to operate her Stunner persona (confiscated by Otto, also in issue #21). "Don't let my youthful appearance fool you, Norman," says the avatar. "I've been at this for years. Longer than you."
"But apparently not long enough to know why they're called 'secret' lairs. Begin the assault."
This last was directed, not at Spider-Man, but at Osborn's forces, who the Goblin has contacted through his communicator. Hordes of flying Goblin warriors, led by Menace, Goblin Knight, and a third Goblinesque figure, begin attacking Spider-Island with high explosives. "Fire all weapons! Raze this place to the ground!"
As we see the complex explode, the Next Issue caption tells us to begin expecting "Assault on SPIDER-ISLAND!"
As I noted back in my review of Superior Spider-Man #18, one fan complaint about Superior Spider-Man is that the stories are overstuffed, leaving the reader no chance to breathe as we rush from one overwrought scene to the next. I hate to say it, but this time, at least, the complaint seems fair. I recognize that Marvel is in a hurry to bring Peter back to the main role in time for the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 this summer (i.e., the summer of 2014), but it’s not like they didn't know the film was coming. In other words, there’s no excuse for the poor pacing on display here.
Evidence of this poor pacing is on display right from the first page. 31 days later (later than what?) we open with Spider-Man, costume torn and bloody (why?) in the midst of city-wide mayhem. I’m all for an in media res opening, but only if the story allows us later to piece together what we missed. What have Otto and the Goblin been up to for the past month? Apparently Otto has been neglecting his start-up, but why? If anything, the apparent decline in crime should have led him to dial down his Spider-life, like we've seen him do before. Given that Yuri began her investigation of Carlie’s disappearance a month ago (in Superior Spider-Man #22), why has Yuri waited this long to try to talk to Peter Parker? That doesn't seem like something a good cop would do. And why has the Goblin decided to act openly now, jeopardizing his hard-earned criminal empire by being so brazen?
In other circumstances, I would have faith that later entries in the arc would delve into this, but one advantage to writing these reviews a few issues behind (ahem) is the foreknowledge about where the story is going. And it’s not going anyplace that answers these questions. Instead, we’re forced with a Goblin who suddenly initiates a crime spree to force a climactic showdown… because the publishing schedule calls for a climactic showdown. It’s a disappointing start to the end of what has been a great title.
The abbreviated confrontation between the Green Goblin and Otto was fun, but it doesn’t make up for a pointless month-long hiatus in the story, nor to the inescapable conclusion that the book is hurriedly tying up its loose plot threads to make way for the Next Big Thing.
I have to harp on the question, why do we open with Spider-Man bruised and battle-scarred? Was he just in a fight, right after the ‘31 days later’ tag? As written, it’s a pointless detail. I am holding out hope that the backstory here will be revealed later, and that it has something to do with the strange time-warp that Otto fell into, and then out of, back in Superior Spider-Man #19.