“Superior Spider-Man” #16 by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos isn’t what you’d call a return to form for the title — it’s never been anything less than fantastic — but it’s certainly one of the more exciting instalments of late as Phil Urich’s double-life as the Hobgoblin stands revealed.
The use of Urich as an “evil” version of Peter Parker throughout Slott’s has been fantastic, and the idea of his identity being revealed forcing him to go on the run reflects Parker’s own worst fear. The fact that it’s being perpetrated by a “hero” rather than a villain makes the twist all the more intriguing. Urich’s plight is sympathetic, even if he’s not, and that fantastically reflects the themes of “Superior Spider-Man.”
Slott’s use of the Green Goblin is particularly interesting too. Although it’s been open to speculation before now, this issue is the first to directly raise the possibility that this isn’t the Norman Osborn version of the Goblin. Who is it? Harry Osborn? Someone else? Identity-based mysteries are always engaging, and trying to follow the clues Slott lays down is a real treat for readers who like classic Spidey stories.
If anything’s wrong with the book (and very little is) it’s that things start to feel a little crowded. There are subplots spilling over every page or two, and increasingly little time spent with Parker/Octavius himself. Given the complaints about decompression, it’s admittedly a little churlish to complain about there being too much going on, but a bit of breathing space would help make this story even better.
Still, at least the pace of the writing matches Ramos’ art, which is always dynamic and spiky. In many ways, it’s probably responsible for the crowded and rushed feel of the story — not because Ramos’ art looks rushed, but because there’s movement and energy in every part of a scene, even when things are technically happening slowly.
There’s no question that “Superior Spider-Man” is a classic era of storytelling in the making, and it’s particularly impressive for forging entirely new ground, rather than homaging or re-imagining previous Spidey stories. Readers have never seen the character written like this before, and while Dan Slott has always been one of the best Spider-Man writers around, there’s a real sense that this is his opus. Quite simply, a must-read title for any superhero fan.