Last issue, we learned that Dr. Octopus and the Green Goblin got together, during the time that Norman Osborn was believed dead, and plotted the destruction of Spider-Man. Just as the plan was ready for implementation, Norman went off the rails, kidnapped Otto’s old girl-friend Mary Alice and infected her with a “deadly virus,” a scenario that seems to conflict with the events of Spider-Man Unlimited #3, November 1993 in which Mary Alice dies of AIDS. If it turns out that is being retconned, I will not be happy.
|Artist:||Marco Checchetto (Pages 16, 18, 20)|
|Pencils:||Ron Frenz (Pages 1-15, 17, 19)|
|Inker:||Sal Buscema (Pages 1-15, 17, 19)|
|Cover Art:||Paolo Rivera|
Otto Octavius is understandably upset when he learns that the Green Goblin has infected his old flame Mary Alice with a “deadly virus.” He slams the Goblin through a wall, pins him to the ground, and rips open his shirt to reveal his Goblin-Glider-induced chest wound. He strikes the wound over and over, though he realizes, “The more I pounded, the more I realized I wasn’t trying to destroy his heart…I was trying to destroy my own…Stop it from feeling…From caring…From beating.” Just then, Mary Alice briefly regains consciousness and recognizes Otto. In that moment, with Otto unable to do more than stutter a reply, the Goblin escapes and Spider-Man arrives.
Sometime later, Otto tries to find a cure for Mary Alice’s disease but fails. (“See Spider-Man Unlimited #3,” advises a footnote, though I doubt it’s sincere because a look at that issue will show you how skewed this version is.)
In the aftermath of Mary Alice’s death, Ock vows the death of the Green Goblin. He returns to Osborn’s European mansion and smashes his way in. Norman’s voice leads him into the study where machine guns (which we saw hidden in the walls last issue) pepper him with bullets. Otto fends them off with his metal arms and vows to tear Norman limb from limb. But Norman taunts him, saying, “You poor fool, I’m not even there…Hell, I’m not even in the country. I’m away on business.” Otto doesn’t believe him. He asks Norman why he killed Mary Alice and Norman replies, “We shared a fundamental difference. But hopefully now you share my views.” That view is that “rage is better than reason.” Instead, Otto declares that he will defeat Spider-Man using reason which will “hit [the Goblin] the hardest” in his ego. “Instead of the enemy of my enemy being my friend,” says Otto, “he became my inspiration, my drive, my nemesis. For I knew that wherever Norman was, and despite what he had said, the fear of losing was already consuming him.” Otto leaves the mansion and Norman comes out of hiding; he is in the mansion after all.
From that point on, all of the Ock and Goblin battles with Spidey are a contest between Ock and the Goblin. A contest that Otto appears to win when he decides “that the way to prove I was the superior enemy was to become the superior hero.” He takes over Peter Parker’s body and becomes the Superior Spider-Man. But the Goblin interferes yet again.
Now, Otto sees the parallels between the past and the present. In the past, his mother rejected his relationship with Mary Alice and the Goblin took Mary Alice’s life. In the present, Aunt May challenges his relationship with Anna Maria and the Goblin kidnaps Anna Maria. Realizing that only Spider-Man can save her, Otto lets Peter’s mind take over the body.
And so the narration is passed from Otto to Peter, who tells us, “To his credit, it was Otto’s scientific findings that helped create the Goblin cure. So in a way he did win his battle with Norman because not only did he kill the Green Goblin as we know him, but he did it through science.” (Peter injected Norman with the Goblin cure in Superior Spider-Man #31, in case you didn’t know.) Pete continues, “The irony being that what finally enabled this scientific mastermind to become a superior person was when he stopped thinking with his head and started thinking with his heart.”
The story finishes with a final page of the Amazing Spider-Man web-slinging and talking about how good it is to be back.
I am not happy. But let’s start with the good stuff. I do like this notion that the different battles that Ock and Gobby have with Spidey are attempts to demonstrate the rightness of their respective worldviews. I like the parallels between Mary Alice and Anna Maria, resulting in Otto realizing that the difference between life and death for his loved ones is the timely intervention of the web-slinger. It’s a better explanation for why Otto relinquishes the Parker body to Peter than anything mentioned in Superior Spider-Man. Peter’s summation of how Otto won the contest with the Goblin and became a “superior person” at the end, is nice too. I like Paulo’s cover and the way it links up with last issue’s cover. I also like Ron and Sal’s artwork, although it seems a bit rushed this time compared to last issue. Perhaps it’s all the full-paged collages and symbolic splashes they use this time. (But compare page 8, of Otto with ghost Mary Alice at her grave with page 19 of ghost Otto at a picnic with Anna Maria to see a very nice juxtaposition.)
All of the symbolic art and flashbacks are a good segue to the bad stuff because they demonstrate that there isn’t much story here. And what there is is pretty reprehensible. It turns out that, yes, Norman Osborn gave Mary Alice the virus that killed her, a retcon that shows an utter contempt for the story from Spider-Man Unlimited #3 and its laudable effort to throw a spotlight on the AIDS epidemic. The “virus” in this issue isn’t even identified as AIDS. So, we’re retconning AIDS out of existence now because…nobody talks about it anymore? In the name of cobbling together a story to finish off Superior Spider-Man Team-Up? That leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.
Not only that but Kevin didn’t have enough interest in his own story to bring it around full-circle. Last issue began with SpOck trapped by the spider-slayers as seen in Superior Spider-Man #29. This issue forgets that entirely and blazes right through to Peter’s re-assumption of the Spider-Man body, ending with what amounts to a full page ad for the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man, which makes the conclusion both tacky and tawdry.
Finally, a question. Is this what the Goblin has become? A lunatic who will scuttle his own plans and casually murder just to prove a point? In the early days of the character, the Goblin was logical and methodical. Even when Stan revealed in Amazing Spider-Man #40, September 1966 that he was the diseased part of Norman Osborn’s mind, the Goblin was still a rational, albeit maniacal and evil, opponent. That’s what makes stories like Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2, November 1968, Amazing Spider-Man #96-98, May-July 1971 and Amazing Spider-Man #121-122, June-July 1973 so chilling. Granted, Norman received madness in the Gathering of Five, as revealed in Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #98, November 1998. But is that what makes him the irrational lunatic portrayed here? In Superior Spider-Man #31, Spidey gives Norman the Goblin cure. Will that cure his madness? Is it possible for Norman to return to the good man he was when the Goblin persona was in remission as seen in those pre-ASM #122 days? What ever happened to that part of his personality anyway? Perhaps future issues of Amazing will tell.
If you thought the last issue of Superior Spider-Man was a letdown, then how about this last issue of Team-Up? It’s even more disappointing in some ways, with a retcon so unforgivable that I’m still plenty angry about it. I’m giving it a web and a half for the Ock-Goblin competition and the artwork but I feel like I’m being far too nice. Call it my going-away present to another cancelled team-up book.