I have to had it to Slott that he manages to resolve a number of outstanding plot issues before the launch of "Secret Wars" without making this issue feel rushed at all.
The action in this issue revolves around Spidey's fight with the Ghost as he also tries to save the people inside Parker Industries. But, the real focus is Peter's relationship with his supporting cast, and Slott really delivers some great moments along these lines. I loved Clayton getting a chance to prove himself, using the sonic technology on Spidey's stealth suit to shock the Ghost corporeal and opening up a window for Anna Maria to use flaming webs to restrain him. (I'll admit that I don't really remember why Peter developed the flaming webs or why they were necessary here. Anna Maria hypothesized that the Ghost could feel heat, so she chose them to use against him. But, once he was corporeal, any ol' webbing would've done in terms of restraining him, wouldn't they? But, I'm not too fussed, since, after all, it gave us the moment where Anna Maria rode into the fight on the Living Brain's shoulders.)
With the Ghost handled, Peter, Sajani, and Anna Maria have a come-to-Jesus moment. Sajani is furious with Peter for keeping secret the fact that he was still designing Spidey's technology and for overruling her in deciding to take the prison contract, since both decisions may ultimately have doomed Parker Industries. However, Anna Maria admits to Peter that she and Sajani have been working on the nano-technology, and she encourages an outraged Peter to remember the feeling that he has in that moment, when he realizes that someone that he thought that he could trust has lied to him. Emphasizing her point, Peter pledges not to keep any more "important" secrets from them, but Sajani dismisses this vow, accurately suggesting that Peter'll decide what secrets are sufficiently important for him to keep. Parker Industries then collapses around them, forcing Peter to give a not-so-convincing speech that the people, and not the building, constitute the company. (Someone in the crowd notes that, even with the insurance money, they'll still be where they were before the first day, and another stresses that Peter designing tech for Spidey will always put them at risk. Obviously I wasn't the only one not convinced.)
Finally, in the epilogue, the Black Cat sets her former penthouse ablaze, with all the valuable bought from auctions -- along with Jay, May, and the heiress that we saw last issue -- inside it. Peter arrives just in time to save them, but the story provides two important hints about where Slott is going in the future. First, Peter suggests that the Cat has lost her mind, possibly due to some sort of unanticipated impact of her bad-luck powers. Second, May tells Spidey that his rescue reminded her how many times that he's saved her and her nephew and informs him that she would allow Peter to design for him again. It's an interesting development, in part because it really heightens Peter's dilemma. He's got free rein from May to design Spidey's tech again, but it's Peter's connection to Spidey that causes his colleagues at Parker Industries to worry.
In other words, Peter's life is a familiar mess. His responsibilities as Spider-Man once again threaten his professional life. His personal life is non-existent, though he gets a modicum of relief here as May gives him some breathing space in terms of his relationship to Spider-Man. Even his costumed identity isn't going well, as he watches a former ally fully embrace a life of crime (whatever her reasons). In fact, without Anna Maria, all aspects of his life would be in totally shambles. Thinking more about that, I'm starting to wonder if Slott isn't relying too much on Anna Maria to solve Peter's problems, as she does here not only in smoothing over Peter's fight with Sajani but also in making sure that he's able to preserve his secret identity by getting him his civilian clothes. I get that she's becoming his Girl Friday, but she's really becoming his Girl Monday though Friday.
Looking ahead, I could really use an issue where Peter takes stock of his life. Slott's greatest weakness in this series has been his inability to see Peter as a serious person and not a perpetual optimist. I could use a story similar to the ones that we used to see in the 200s era, with Spider-Man webbing around Manhattan to clear his head as he contemplates his life. (Maybe it's just because Gerry Conway is back.) I'm not sure if Slott is ever going to deliver that to us, but it would be interesting to see Slott stretch himself in that way.
*** (three of five stars)