Spider-Man reached a historic milestone this week with the publication of Amazing Spider-Man #800. This was also the penultimate chapter of writer Dan Slott’s celebrated run on the series. For the finale, Slott pulled out all the stops and gave Peter Parker a truly monumental threat to face for his last story arc on the book. Slott’s story has been building to an epic confrontation with Norman Osborn, unquestionably Peter’s greatest adversary.
Though memorably played by Willem Dafoe in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film series, I always hated Dafoe’s campy and cartoonish performance as one of comics’ best villains. But that’s an article for another day. In the above mentioned comic book story arc, Osborn has returned to once again torment Peter Parker and everyone around him, but this time not only has he regained his abilities that made him so dangerous as The Green Goblin, he’s also bonded with the alien symbiote worn by Carnage, creating the seemingly unstoppable: RED GOBLIN!
Osborn has never been so deadly and his new persona as THE RED GOBLIN is a terrifying, unstoppable monster. To use a cliché: All the strengths of The Green Goblin and Carnage, but none of their weaknesses. It takes everything Peter has, including the aid of everyone from all the other Spider themed heroes like Miles Morales to semi-reformed villains Venom and Otto Octavius, to bring down The Red Goblin. Hell, even MJ and Aunt May get some licks in. Ultimately, Flash Thompson, Peter’s former high school bully, turned good friend, turns the tide of the battle. Now the military war vet/super hero Anti-Venom; Flash sacrifices himself to give Peter the chance to defeat Osborn.
With Osborn beaten, Peter takes a moment to appreciate his victory and take in the destruction caused by their fight. When J. Jonah Jameson walks out of the smoke with a gun, intending to finally put an end to the death and misery caused by Osborn. It was far too close this time, Peter didn’t even come close to beating Osborn on his own. It took unprecedented amounts of help and a whole lot of luck to just barely defeat this monster.
Jameson knows Norman will be back like he has so many times before to bring death and horror into their lives. Osborn has killed thousands of innocents, used a U.S. Intelligence agency as his personal kill squad when he became head of SHIELD, started a war with Asgard, and finally he was responsible for one of comic books’ most iconic and heartbreaking deaths: the love of Peter’s life Gwen Stacy.
Not to mention the countless other innocent victims that have been caught in the crossfire between Osborn and Spider-Man over the years. He knows Peter can’t and wont do what needs to be done: kill Osborn. But this is a burden Jonah is willing to bear for the young man he once saw as a menace. So, doing what needs to be done, what he believes is right, he pulls the trigger to kill Norman Osborn….
…. And Peter dives in front of the bullet to save Osborn. Taking a slug in the shoulder for the man who juts killed one of his best friends. …..Wait… …Um.. …Hold on a second… ….Ummmm… WHAT?!…. WHAT THE FUCK?!!!!….. WHY?!!!!!!
Because Peter Parker isn’t a hero, he’s a coward. With great power comes great responsibility. Flash Thompson understood that and gave his life for it. Jameson understood by the making the choice to take on the burden Peter didn’t have the strength to. When Peter took that bullet he spat on Flash’s sacrifice. Every death caused by Osborn from this moment on is Peter’s responsibility. Trust me, this is Comics. Osborn WILL be back to kill and maim again, in some form or another.
Police and their use of firearms is a very touchy subject in this country right now, so I’m speaking hypothetically here. I understand that police using their firearms inappropriately is a serious problem in this county at the moment and I take that very seriously. But stay with me here for a second while I make a quick point, hypothetically in a world where police officers use their weapon in the line of duty only in the situations where it’s absolutely necessary or if a psychopath is killing people, isn’t it their responsibility to save lives? Even if it means killing the perpetrator? Or what if an officer were defending themselves from an armed and dangerous individual? How is this different than the many times Norman Osborn has murdered people, put lives in danger, and terrorized people over and over again. If the police had encountered Osborn in almost ANY of the senario’s that Peter has, they would have killed him (if they could of course, Osborn is probably impossible for a normal human cop to take down). Peter should have put Osborn down for good a long time ago. If he really believed in dedicating his life to being a hero, he’d have realized that so many of the lives Osborn has taken are on him.
I think this is a good time to point out that Peter Parker is a superpowered, masked vigilante whose identity isn’t known to the general public. You and I cant go around taking the law into our hands, but he can. In fact, he does it all the time. That’s what being Spider-Man is. He just doesnt have the guts to kill Osborn and because of his abilities and persona as Spider-Man, this is a crime he could very likely get away with, in a way normal people couldn’t.
This isn’t the first time Peter has pulled something like this. A few years ago through a convoluted set of circumstances, Norman Osborn became head of SHILED and the Avengers instantly became outlaws. Hawkeye argues that Osborn is insane, homicidal, and cannot under any circumstances be allowed to keep control of SHIELD. Hawkeye thinks the only thing to do, the thing they need to do, have a responsibility to do is kill Osborn. The public doesn’t know that he’s a madman and potentially millions of lives are in danger with Osborn controlling the weapons at SHIELD’s disposal.
At which point Spider-Man argues that HAWKEYE is the one who’s crazy for even suggesting they kill Osborn and tells the rest of the Avengers that Osborn will inevitably shoot himself in the foot and the public will see him for the monster he really is. Well, how many people will die while you just sit around waiting for this to happen, Peter? In a world where individuals can be classified as a “Person Of Mass Destruction” isn’t it dangerously negligent for Spider-Man to have this attitude? Isn’t this the very definition of “With great power, comes great responsibility”?
This is why I think Spider-Man only works as a character when he’s a teenager. I only read Amazing Spider-Man #800 because it was a milestone issue. The only Spider-Man book I currently read on a monthly basis is Spider-Man which stars the other younger Spider-Man, high schooler Miles Morales. When a teenager sees the world in such morally black and white terms… well, they’re teenagers. What the fuck do they know? I remember when I was 16 I thought good and evil were clear lines and I’d never see the world as a place where thing like “necessary evils” must exist. But of course as I grew up, I changed and so did my view of the world. It almost seems like Peter Parker never grew up. It seems as if he never matured past his childish and naive sense of morality. So when you read a Spider-Man book or see a Spider-Man movie, they tend to be at their best when Peter is a teenager. It’s no coincidence that my personal favorite Spider-Man stories ever told were part of Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man run, which chronicled Peter as he navigated the dangers of super villains and his New York City high school.
Tony Stark and Steve Rogers debate morality all the time, but they’ve never debated the morality of killing murderous, super-powered lunatics. Spider-Man is always talking about how “with great power, comes great responsibility”. But I say Peter Parker is a coward who doesn’t have the courage of his own convictions. Heroes do what needs to be done, they don’t hide behind some bullshit code. SPIDER-MAN IS NOT A HERO. SPIDER-MAN IS A COWARD. Let online onslaught of hate begin…
In all honesty, I’d love to hear your opinions on the points I bring up in this article. Please write you comments below or on our Facebook Page and maybe we’ll read your question or comment on an upcoming episode of The World’s Best Podcast.
As always, thanks for reading!