Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #263

Background

Norman's back... with supposed godlike powers granted from "The Gathering of Five", an ancient mystic ritual. Alison Mongrain is dead, and Aunt May isn't.

Story 'The Triumph of the Goblin'

The issue opens with Norman "That's MR. Green Goblin to you, pal" Osborn busting in on Spider-Man's encounter with a woman looking unseemingly like Aunt May (you know, Peter's aged aunt who died rather effectly a few years back?) The woman, of course, is extremely confused about everything, but the Goblin silences her with a vicious backhand. Proclaiming himself to be a god, Osborn first demands the woman's return, then suddenly changes his mind and let's Spidey swing off with her. His destination: the Fantastic Four's new digs.

At Spider-Man's urging, Reed Richards subjects the woman to several intense-looking examinations. He ends up proving the woman is "real" (not a clone or construct like Peter's fake parents turned out to be) but can't verify completely that it's May Parker. Needing an untainted sample of May's DNA, Peter swings back home to Forest Hills and digs out an old high school science experiment that contains blood smears from their entire family. MJ, throwing a party downstairs, interrupts and seems skeptical that Aunt May could be alive. (Imagine that!) However, she gives him her support nonetheless and Peter boogies back to the Fantastic Four.

Once there, Reed makes it official: the old woman is May Parker (Grrrrr). And that's not all. It seems that there's some kind of object lodged in her brain that's slowly killing her. Reed says he needs authorization to perform surgery and remove the object and Spidey tells him he'll get it. ("I'm an old friend of the family's")

Spider-Man has one stop left to make, though. Can you say "Norman, you got some splainin' to do"? However, when he arrives at Osborn Industries' Corporate Headquarters, Norman overpowers him and forces him to watch a demonstration of his DNA bomb, which reduces people to their component DNA that Norman can restructure in his own image. With Spider-Man completely at his mercy (a little too easily, perhaps...?) Norman hops on the bat glider and flies out over the city, leaving scores of pumpkin bombs in his wake. And then he spills the beans. The "Aunt May" who died in ASM #400 was nothing more than a genetically-altered actress hired by Norman before he made the scene again in "Revelations." Moreover, the object in the real Aunt May's head is the trigger for his worldwide DNA bomb; remove it and the world's population becomes a lump of human Jell-O. Having spilled those beans, he sets down in front of the Daily Bugle (which at some point takes serious damage) and unmasks Spidey in front of a crowd of onlookers, then kills him with a pumpkin bomb right in the face. That's right, Norman Osborn killed Spider-Man.

Or did he...?

General Comments

Where to begin?

Okay, the resurrection of Aunt May. Forget what an inherently dreadful idea this is for the moment, I'm going to explain why I think this just doesn't fit the facts. We first see the mysterious "package" wheeled out of the hospital where MJ just gave birth by the late, unlamented Alison Mongrain (who survived her yacht being blown up from under her only to die after getting hit by a small chunk of pavement, but I digress.) This package is put onto her yacht and she sails around for a few months by herself, then Norman takes the package back and (unfortunately) we know the rest. Here's my question, just what was "Aunt May" DOING all this time, and why stuff her in a box? Moreover, when did Norman pull the switcharoo with that actress? Why would Aunt May be held originally in the same hospital where MJ gave birth? It doesn't fit. It's a bad idea. It's bad storytelling. And I'm not buying it.

The Final Fate of Norman Osborn: Great. He's still around. I don't care if he's two tacos shy of a combo plate, HE'S STILL AROUND and they're going to bring him back eventually, dammit! Ever since he came back in "Revelations" I've thought that the only way the decision could be justified was if he died at the end of the storyline AND STAYED DEAD! Incinerate him, vaporize him, I don't care, just come up with something that would make bringing him back a third time too stupid to contemplate. But no, he's still sround. Lovely. Of course, if they could bring back an elderly woman who's had one foot in the grave since 1962, I suppose that was just wishful thinking on my part.

The Final Chapter as a Whole: I'm an English major and as such they make me read a lot of stuff. Call me crazy, but shouldn't the final chapter of a story actually RESOLVE THE PLOT THREADS? (We've got Norman still floating around, the other three living participants in the Gathering of Five, and what exactly happened with Norm and his face, to name a few.) This whole storyline was a hopeless mess. I knew, I just KNEW that after wasting the last two issues of "The Gathering of Five" with filler, "The Final Chapter" would be a rushed, confused mess, but I didn't think it would be as bad as it was. So how did that ceremony work out if Norman went nutso, anyway? Then again, do I really care? I'd just as soon forget all of this ever happened as quickly as possible.

Overall Rating

I suppose I should be honored; I've just witnessed Spider-Man history. There may be debate as to the BEST Spider-Man story of all time, but as for the worst, this one's got it going away. I wouldn't give it a single web - except that the rating system won't let me go below a semi-web. But it deserves less.