In November of 2012 it was revealed that Otto Octavius had taken over Peter Parker's mind and readers lost theirs. A travesty! Marvel hates the stuff that makes them money! Mash the keyboard with my angry palms! Dan Slott hates caucasian male superheroes! Now that we are in the final throes of Slott's master plot "Superior Spider-Man" #26 serves as a pivot point where Ock's carefully crafted master plan begins to crumble and a good place to assess the overall story before hell breaks loose in the "Goblin Nation" arc.
Most of the recent issues of "Superior Spider-Man" have felt fast-paced and plot-dense. While there are three main stories happening in this issue, the pacing is brisk but not rushed. Goblins both Green and Hob have a showdown to decide who is the one true aerial monster worthy of war with Spider-Man. This looks to be the conclusion of Roderick Kingsley's involvement in the Spider books for the time being and I look forward to having him around again. The idea of franchising the identity of super-villains is clever and very much in line with a 21st century idea of a capitalistic villain. I like the reveal that he's also in possession of a mind-control device. It feels like a logical progression of the franchise concept. Kingsley always wanted to be the goblin with a plan, but he's too much of a micromanager to allow all these villains to run around of their own devices. This also empowers Hobgoblin to be a Doom level villain -- let's see a war between Doombots and Hobzombies! Slott is making Kingsley just as dangerous as he was when the Hobgoblin first appeared. Humberto Ramos knows how to make the Goblins look like contorted monsters and his angular kinetic style adds chaos to the war between Kingsley and I-just-don't-believe-that-it's-Osborn.
Spider-Ock's confrontation with the Avengers finally pushes the arachnid out the door of Stark Towers. Ock leaves with a bruised ego but quite honestly he was operating far more efficiently with his own private Spider Army than he did as an Avenger. Of course he won't let them fire him because he quits - Octavius would never let someone else believe they control his destiny, even if he's being boxed out anyhow. It is disappointing that we didn't see more interaction with Spider Ock and the Avengers throughout this storyline but I understand their limited interactions as the lens through which superheroes are viewed leaves them to more scrutiny than we'd expect of citizens like Aunt May or Mayor Jameson. At a certain point readers would be up in arms about a room full of hulking detectives constantly being unable to suss out that something was seriously wrong with their friend. The moments we have had with the Avengers have been just enough to leave me satisfied. Javier Rodriguez turns in gorgeous, crisp color and linework during these sequences that leave me salivating for more Spider-Man work from him. He has a grasp on body language that leaves me in awe of his art.
Finally, we get a few pages of Peter traipsing across whatever is left of his mindscape, trying to find a reason to fight for control. This is classic low-end Pete. The Ghost of Parker's Past made his full return last issue and though he feels more despondent we need this quiet moment of self doubt because it's what makes Peter great. He has real doubts and he allows those doubts to pull him down sometimes. That is what makes seeing him rise above his challenges so rewarding. I loved that all that is left of his memories are the defining moments - all shown throughout the storyline - which Ock had used to help distill the essence of Peter Parker. What was once his gift will now be the lynchpin to his defeat. Marcos Martin turns in very minimalistic and beautiful page work. It's even more reminiscent of Steve Ditko's work than his past Spider art - fitting as we're really digging to the core of Peter as a character.
So has the concept of Spider-Ock worked? Based on sales and the stories that I have read I would say, "Hell yeah." I know, I know, a few of you will respond to this and say you never liked it and you still don't; that's okay. Those of us who have enjoyed the ride, though, are at the top of the hill and are about to be thrown through a serious wringer over the next few months. I think Spider Ock will be revisited in the years to come as one of the most unique and well-executed long cons in the Spider mythos.