This issue is much better than the other ones in this arc, mainly because Slott is forced to focus on only two of the various storylines that he's been trying to advance. Moreover, the double-sized issue gives him all the more space to do it.
Slott wraps up the Venom storyline more or less as I predicted, with Otto using his possession by the symbiote as an excuse for his recent erratic behavior. Otto claims that he was infected by "microscopic fragments of the symbiote" when he and Flash first fought in "Venom" #4. Otto seems to think that it solves all his problems, but Slott makes it clear that it's not the case. Although Mary Jane buys the story, Otto is going to have to decide whether or not to reveal his identity to May and Jay in order to get them to forgive him. (MJ herself seemed prepared to tell them.) Moreover, the Avengers don't buy it, and Tony Stark uses his special access to the Avengers' systems to prove that Spidey erased the results of the tests that the Avengers ran a few months ago. Slott also seems to be setting up a situation where Peter is going to have to also reveal his identity to the Avengers in order to earn back their trust once he resumes control of his body.
Speaking of Peter, we learn in this issue that he's been hiding in Otto's sub-conscious the whole time. Although I don't necessarily buy that Peter wouldn't have previously stopped Otto in other examples of his increasingly violent behavior (from killing Massacre, for example), I certainly buy that Otto's possession by the symbiote is on a greater order of magnitude and finally forced his hand.
Finally, Carlie becomes a Goblin here, though Slott uses a careful dodge when it comes to the Goblin trying to get her to reveal Peter's identity. The Goblin claims that he's Norman Osborn, though I think that it's pretty clear that he's not. But, rather than keeping this one on the back burner, we're finally going to see it come to fruition with the upcoming Goblin War. I have to say that I'm pretty excited about it. As far as I'm aware, we've never seen the Green Goblin and the Hobgoblin go head-to-head with each other, and it clearly seems long overdue.
Beyond the plot issues, this issue is as fun as it is due to Spidey's fight with the Avengers. It's suitably epic, with Thor have to scale up his attacks as it becomes clearer and clearer that Spidey's lost control. It made me realize that Slott really has neglected these sorts of direct stories in this title. Part of the reason that the Spider-Man 2099 arc and this issue were so great is that they focused on a central conflict. With recent issues fractured into numerous vignettes, Slott never manages to build excitement for any one story in particular. You just start getting into the inner workings of Goblin Nation and suddenly you've switched to newly bigoted Aunt May. By focusing mainly on Spidey's fight with the Avengers and then Carlie's integration into Goblin Nation, Slott actually manages to build and sustain that excitement (not to mention deliver a good ol' fashioned slug-fest). Hopefully we'll see more of that in coming issues.
**** (four of five stars)