Billed by “Marvel Worldwide” as a “special issue that sets off the Amazing Spider-Man event of 2018”, this twenty-page periodical reads more like one of the New York-based publisher’s “What If?” stories, than a particularly serious addition to their flagship character’s canon. In fact, it many ways Dan Slott’s narrative for “Personal Demon” seems to play out as a somewhat perverse re-imagining of Doctor Stephen Strange’s origin story by having a physically flawed Norman Osborn desperately turn to The Temple With No Name after modern-day conventional medical treatment has failed to destroy the billions of “microscopic nanites spider-man put into my system… [which] were designed to block any trace of my [Green Goblin] serum.”
Just how the “genius industrialist” finds the Buddhist sanctuary amongst a range of snow-capped mountains is never actually explained, nor is the willingness of the three aged monks, Masters Hawk, Ox and Snake, to try and help the human mutate. But whatever the rationale behind Harry’s father being able to place his hand upon the Emerald Oracle of Ikkon, it’s profound impact upon the impotent supervillain is enthrallingly extreme, and for the rest of this comic its 58,885-strong audience must have read with increasing dread as he quickly establishes himself to be an omnipotent rival of the Sorcerer Supreme himself…
Indeed, Osborn’s battle against the titular character is undoubtedly one of the most one-sided conflicts the arch-rivals have ever experienced, with the facially disfigured “proficient scientist” immobilising his wall-crawling opponent using the Chains of Krakkan, rendering him unconscious courtesy of the Flames of Faltine, and then sickeningly swallowing the super-hero whole having transformed him into a normal-sized arachnid; “You don’t know the bug like I do! He crawls back! He always does! This time the Goblin gets his just desserts!” Of course, none of these sense-shattering moments are actually real, just visions of Norman’s future should the monks have been so unwise as to have “instructed him in the ways of magic.” But even so, the thought of an all-powerful Green Goblin, even for an instant, makes for scary stuff.
Brought in as a “guest artist” following his cessation as the regular illustrator on “Moon Knight”, Greg Smallwood’s rather recognisable drawing-style doesn’t initially seem to particularly suit Dan Slott’s somewhat sedentary script, at least until the former Iron Patriot dons a painted wooden goblin mask and teleports Spider-Man to his location. However, once the spells fly, and the temple’s stone-bricked walls are ominously glowing luminous green, then the Will Eisner Award-nominee shows just why at the time of this comic’s printing he was “one of the industry’s most in-demand” pencillers.