Dan Slott’s tenure on The Amazing Spider-Man lasted an incredibly long time, especially for a modern run. While it had some lulls and dips in quality here and there, its peaks stand among the best of the character’s history. Thankfully for readers, Slott left the book on a high note, with Red Goblin providing an emotional, high stakes conclusion to nearly ten years of Slott’s voice for Spider-Man.
This trade paperback recollects the final two arcs of Dan Slott’s run on Amazing Spider-Man: Threat Level Red and Go Down Swinging, along with #801, Dan Slott’s final standalone issue that serves as a coda for his run. Threat Level Red is a three-part arc cowritten by Dan Slott and Christos Gage, with art by Stuart Immonen and Mike Hawthorne. The main plot of this arc is about three seemingly unconnected incidents that happen to Peter, connected by the overarching plot of Norman Osborn acquiring and bonding with the Carnage symbiote. The plots of each issue aren’t really noteworthy, nor is the writing for this arc – it reads very much like setup for the following arc. In addition, while Mike Hawthorne is a fine artist in his own right, his taking over of the arc after a single issue by Stuart Immonen leads to some artistic whiplash.
The meat of this volume is Go Down Swinging, a 4-issue arc that focuses on the Red Goblin attacking Spider-Man and all his loved ones. This conflict was building in Slott’s run since Superior Spider-Man ended, with some skirmishes between Peter and Norman here and there since then. The majority of this arc is pencilled by Stuart Immonen, with inks by Wade Von Grawbadger, and the entire arc is gorgeous. Osborn’s onslaught against Peter and those he cares about continues to ramp up until Amazing Spider-Man #800, the extra-long conclusion to the arc. This issue is longer than the three before it combined, and is an incredibly intense and emotional climax to Slott’s entire run on Spider-Man, let alone this single arc. It feels like a grand tour of Spider-Man’s side cast and where they currently are, with characters like Silk and Miles and Agent Anti-Venom all making significant appearances. This arc does an excellent job showing Peter’s relationships with those he cares about, and how everyone who he loves is willing to help him in return. The arc even features appearances by Eddie Brock, AKA Venom, and Otto Octavius. All of these characters feel meaningful to the story, especially Flash Thompson who gets to steal the show. While this arc is Slott’s grand farewell to Spider-Man’s friends and world, it especially feels like a personal goodbye to Flash Thompson – a character revitalized and reinvented under Slott’s pen. The conclusion to this arc is incredibly emotional, as both Peter and Slott say goodbye to Flash.
Issue #800 features a myriad of artists, each one working on a different chapter of the issue. While each artist is talented and brings their own style to the book, the result feels at times like a cacophony of discordant styles and tones. Mike Hawthorne, Humberto Ramos, and Giuseppe Camuncoli don’t mesh very well together, which isn’t helped by their chapters not feeling very distinct from one another beyond the art. Marcos Martin’s epilogue to the issue is wonderful without feeling discordant, as the content of his chapter is entirely different from the rest of the issue. Overall, while each part of the issue looks good on its own, as a whole it does not fit as well as it should.
The final issue of this collection is Dan Slott’s final issue on Amazing Spider-Man. It’s not climactic or intense or even really focused on Peter – it’s about the impact he has on everyone he touches, and how he saves far more than just the people in harm’s way. It’s a touching, emotional tribute to the character that serves as a wonderful farewell from Dan Slott to both Spider-Man and the readers. Marcos Martin’s art is perfect on this issue, with the final splash page looking beautifully peaceful as Spider-Man swings away. When it comes to final issues, this one is one of the best.
Overall, Red Goblin is far more than the sum of its parts. The individual issues and arcs may be rocky and have some problems here and there, but at the end of the day the final product is an excellent showcase of Spider-Man at his best. Slott’s voice for the character works incredibly well, and the art is excellent even if each artist doesn’t necessarily mesh well with the rest. As a standalone volume, this collection showcases some of the best of Slott’s tenure on Spider-Man, and ends on a wonderfully high note that near anyone can enjoy.
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