In many ways it’s arguably hard to credit this particular twenty-page periodical either being the second best-selling comic of April 2018 or shifting a staggering 233,235 copies during a single month. True, this continuation of “Dan Slott’s final Spider-Man story” features the first appearance of Norman Osborn as the Red Goblin, a highly-anticipated debut which had made previous editions of the title theatrically fly off the spinner racks in unprecedented numbers. But until this book’s conclusion, when Peter Parker’s defeated alter-ego disconcertingly ‘waves the white flag’ so as to save his mangled hide, there isn’t really anything within the Eisner Award-winner’s script which hasn’t been seen numerous times before.
Indeed, for many of this ongoing series’ long-term fans “The Rope-A-Dope” must have struck them as a seriously straightforward ‘pen-by-numbers’ Spidey storyline, which initially depicts the Green Goblin unsurprisingly smashing into the offices of the Daily Bugle demanding that Web-head reveal himself, then threatening the staff with one of his gimmicky explosive devices when the wall-crawler doesn’t appear as quickly as he’d like, before finally engaging his hated nemesis in a bout of over-glorified fisticuffs as the clock ticks down. Incredibly, the Berkeley-born writer even manages to somehow squeeze in a another reference to Gwen Stacy’s dramatic death by having the crazily costumed super-villain threaten to ‘sell’ Betty Brant “a bridge in Brooklyn” and enthusiastically enquire whether she’d like to see it in person.
Such pulse-pounding proceedings do admittedly conjure up plenty of tension and sensationalism, especially when they are so very well illustrated by the likes of penciller Stuart Immonen and inker Wade von Grawbadger, yet debatably still disappoint with the contrived circumstances apparently employed in order to populate this twenty-page periodical. In fact, with the exception of hired help Emma, shockingly gunning down Harry and the rest of the Allen family with tranquilizer darts so as to take charge of Lyman’s young children, there’s debatably no surprises to be had at all within the American author’s script until Norman makes a spine-chilling recovery from his seemingly fatal wounds; “What the hell’s going on? All of his blood, it’s — The Carnage Symbiote!”
Disappointingly however, even this long-awaited altercation is frustratingly a far cry from the “no quarter” fright-fest “Marvel Worldwide” promised in their pre-publication publicity. Advertised as containing Osborn’s “ultimate revenge” upon Spider-Man, the pair’s fleeting fight following the arms dealer fully donning his new persona, quickly resolves itself into an all-too brief game of ‘hide and seek’ which unbelievably sees the truly-lethal, blood-thirsty symbiote offer his deadliest opponent his life if Peter will simply “give it up” and “stop being Spider-Man”..!?!