Major spoilers for Amazing Spider-Man #799 and mild plot details for #800!
Here we are at the conclusion of Dan Slott’s final Spider-Man story! With the exception of #801, which will serve as an epilogue to his decade-long stint on the title.Go Down Swinging reaches a thrilling, funny and emotional conclusion in this 80-page milestone issue. I’ll be getting to that soon, but first…
We Need To Talk About Normie
Well, last month I said I’d address #799’s shocking conclusion here. And boy, Dan Slott has made some surprising decisions over the last decade, but turning little Normie Osborn into Red Goblin Jr. (or Goblin Childe as he names himself this issue) definitely ranks high on the list. It’s particularly poignant because Harry has fought so hard to protect his family from Norman’s villainous legacy, only for his father to corrupt Normie with the Carnage symbiote.
In the last couple of years we have seen Harry reconcile with his ex-wife Liz Allan, change his name to Lyman to get out of his father’s shadow, and play a major part in running Parker Industries. So to see him emotionally tormented like this is pretty brutal.
Adding to that, Normie has felt neglected by his dad in favour of his younger brother StanleyAs we see in #800, these emotions manifest themselves dangerously under the influence of the symbiote.
Usually I avoid major spoilers, but this issue is too massive not to talk about. I’ll be discussing the ending and some of my favourite moments, so if you haven’t read it yet, turn back now. Anyway, without further ado, onto the main event…
Major spoilers for #800 past this point, you have been warned!
The Symbiote of Things
We open in the aftermath of last issue’s events, with Spider-Man’s allies down for the count and Flash Thompson tending to them with his Anti-Venom healing abilities. Last issue we discovered that Anti-Venom is the Red Goblin’s only weakness. Unfortunately, Flash can’t spare any to fight the Red Goblin, so Peter heads to Alchemax to mix some of their Anti-Venom into his web-fluid. This a classic moment of Peter using science to defeat the bad guy, and this kind of thing has succeeded many times. What I love about this issue is that this convenient solution is thwarted by Norman getting there first and disposing of the remaining Anti-Venom. With such a significant villain, this would have been too easy, which leads us to one of the issue’s most surprising moments…
After another unsuccessful tussle with the Red Goblin, and MJ narrowly escaping death, Eddie Brock gives Spidey the Venom symbiote, saying “The Goblin got a symbiote upgrade. You want a shot at beating him, you need one too!” Peter is reluctant, but he knows he needs the edge, and the symbiote has changed a lot since Flash Thompson rehabilitated it as Agent Venom. The fact that MJ can accept the necessity of this despite her once being traumatised by Venom speaks hugely to her strength and character growth. We also get a nice moment between her and Peter.
A Spider-Man of Character
There are some fantastic action sequences in this issue, but there are also a wealth of poignant character moments. It’s a testament to Slott’s familiarity with the characters that he is able to weave these old friends and former enemies together into this epic tale. I also appreciate that Aunt May and MJ both get hits in on their attackers.
J. Jonah Jameson gets some of his best material in years, as he deals with his guilt over accidentally revealing Peter’s identity to Osborn. Peter spends most of the issue mad at him, but they get a lovely moment of reconciliation at the end. It speaks a lot to Jonah’s character development that he cares so much about earning Peter’s trust back. After all, they are actually cousins. And in a nice callback to the days where he sent them after Spidey, he tries to take down Goblin Childe with a Spider-Slayer. Of course, he is defending his mother-in-law.
Even Otto Octavius gets some poignant moments. He’s been a huge part of Slott’s tenure, so it’s fitting that we get a coda to his story here, as he puts himself in harm’s way to save May Parker Jameson, the woman he once almost married. Last we saw Otto he was back to his villainous ways, but as he says to Peter “I still have your memories. Many of them. Rattling around in my head. Your upbringing.” It’ll be interesting to see where his story goes under Nick Spencer.
You’ll notice a pattern of redemption moments for former antagonists here. Eddie Brock, the actual Venom symbiote, Octavius, and of course… Flash Thompson. He earned his redemption a long time ago, but we get some beautiful closure here as he meets his unfortunate end at Osborn’s hand. He finally figures out that his old bullying victim and later best friend is Spider-Man. Flash has been one of the best written supporting characters for a long time, from his time in the army to his own series as Agent Venom. I’m sad to see him go, and I’ll admit that I teared up in the funeral scene.
This is a massive issue, so I’ve tried to cover a lot of bases, but now I think it’s time we move on to the ending…
The Spider and the Goblin
At the end of the day, the final battle comes down to how well our hero and villain know each. Norman decimates Times Square, realising that Peter doesn’t just care deeply about his loved ones, he cares deeply about everyone. Things look pretty dire for a second here, and Osborn is about to kill Pete. Thankfully, our hero realises his arch-nemesis’ one true weakness: his ego. He points out that it won’t be Osborn’s victory, but Carnage’s. He casts off the Venom symbiote and convinces the Goblin to fight him man to man. It’s fitting that Osborn’s pride gets the better of him, and it leads to a powerful speech as Peter takes him down with the last of his strength.
Of course, it’s not quite over, as Norman tries to bond with Carnage again and Spidey stops him by disrupting a gas tank. And finally, JJ arrives on the scene and attempts to shoot the incapacitated Goblin. Cementing one of the things Slott does best, Peter’s moral character, he throws himself in front of the bullet, taking it to the shoulder. As he puts it: “Because with great power there must also come great responsibility. To everyone. Even the worst of us.”
In the wrap-up we get a moment weirdly reminiscent of the Riddler at the end of Batman Forever, as Osborn has apparently gone insane and thinks Spider-Man is Norman Osborn and he is Cletus Cassady (Carnage’s original host). Whether or not this is an act, only time will tell. Slott also plants a seed that I hope Nick Spencer uses. The symbiote has been removed from Normie and he is reconciled with his family. Except there’s a glimpse of red in his eye…
And finally, the absolutely beautiful funeral scene. Drawn by former Spidey artist and a man of vast talent, Marcos Martin, this scene hit me right in the heart. A fitting eulogy for Flash, and a touching moment between Peter and Jonah. And our hero swings off to save the day once more, leaving us with this kernel of wisdom. “Fight the good fight. If you fall, pick yourself back up. And if your neighbour falls, give him your hand. That’s how we all save the world… one friendly neighbourhood at a time.”
But Wait, There’s More…
Of course, there’s a “post-credits” scene. We find Otto Octavius taking on a role at Horizon University under the pseudonym “Elliot Tolliver”. A rekindling of his and Anna Marconi’s romance in the future, perhaps? And will he really earn his redemption? Only time, and Nick Spencer’s upcoming run, can tell.
Overall, this was an epic and emotionally resonant issue. Up there with the best of them, definitely the best of Slott’s run. I was worried that it would feel like four comics stuffed into one but the pace never let up and the five artists aided the flow instead of halting it. I was a little frustrated with how Norman hadn’t managed to be at all lethal this issue, despite trying to kill multiple loved ones. But then he revealed his implanted spikes and I was genuinely terrified for a moment. The Anti-Venom fix could have felt cheap. However, seeing as it resulted in the emotional consequences of Flash dying, I’d say it was an earned win.
I’d be remiss if I praised Slott’s writing without paying tribute to the fantastic art. Besides the weird looking lines on Spider-Man’s mask in Nick Bradshaw’s segment, it was top-notch all around. This issue showcased that Spidey consistently has the best artists in the biz. Bradshaw does fantastic facial expressions, and he did the hilarious “Mr. Sym” scene between Jonah and Eddie wonderfully. Humberto Ramos and Giuseppe Camuncoli, previously main artists for much of Slott’s run, made a welcome return. Ramos’ more cartoony style was perfect for the crazy Red Goblin vs. Venom and Goblin Childe vs. Dock Ock and Spider-Slayer action. Camuncoli was my favourite artist of Slott’s run, and he was on top form with the sinister boardroom and Osborn vs. Osborn scenes. Marcos Martin did beautiful, evocative work for Flash’s funeral and the final image of Peter swinging through New York. Finally, Stuart Immonen who has been the main artist for the last year, is unparalleled. His sense of action, emotion and body language is always top-tier. He is aided by Wade Von Grawbadger’s slick inks and Marte Gracia’s rich colours. I’m sad we didn’t get a longer run from Immonen, as he may have taken Camuncoli’s spot as my favourite recent Amazing Spider-Man artist.
I’ll leave you with Peter’s eulogy for Flash.
Join me in two weeks for Dan Slott’s final issue, drawn by Marcos Martin!