Superior Spiderman 1

And so we come out the other side. Though many were forced to wait in horror for two weeks and anyone enjoying my blog enough to be upset had to suffer another one, we now have issue #1 of The Superior Spider-Man. Feels worth mentioning that this review will follow the half and half spoiler system I’ve been using but will be spoiling Amazing Spider-Man #700 throughout. Don’t read this if you’re still waiting for ASM 700. Otherwise come on in.

Well, Otto Octavius is the new Spiderman. Who’d have thunk?

Now that we know who Spiderman is, what makes him so “superior”. Well, one can’t argue that Doc Ock isn’t adjusting well to his new four-limbed life. He’s dating Mary-Jane (see my review of ASM 700 and the comments for discussion of that can of worms), he’s revamped the whole Spider-brand to be slicker and more efficient, and he’s still got Pete’s job at Horizon Labs, focusing on new and more powerful weapons for Spidey with enough time left over to advance science fifty years on the side. Gotta say, for all the time Dan Slott spent showing us how wasted Peter’s potential had been, he wastes not a second showing us that Mr. Parker is just naturally terrible at getting the most out of himself.  Perhaps that’s the superior: superior organizational skills.

Otto makes for a fun lead, but he frequently crosses the line into ass-hattery. I can see Grady not noticing Peter being a little short with him, but Max not noticing his brilliant prodigy designer starting to call him Modell at the same time that he begins designing scarier weapons? I know Max has to consider Horizon’s bottom-line, but, even if you don’t think, ‘maybe Peter’s been taken over by a mad scientist’, I’m pretty sure it’s your job to notice when your employees have sudden violent changes in personality, Mr. Modell. MJ even notes that he’s started drinking, a major Peter Parker warning sign.  While she’s likely to turn on him next issue, she should already be clued in that something’s wrong. Maybe it’s superior gullibility among the supporting cast.

Despite these problems, there should probably be a part of every reader that acknowledges that they’re complaining about the requirement to suspend disbelief about how the friends of a boy who gained power from a radioactive spider are responding to the fact that his body has been taken over by a chubby middle-aged German man (is Otto German? He feels German. But then again Peter isn’t actually Jewish. Am I the only one who’s surprised that Peter isn’t J- Back to the review!). The point is: the Rule of Funny is clearly in effect.

That said, Ock’s un-Peter-like tendencies around friends (even when they’re not particularly rapey) aren’t the really funny part of this story. No, the funny parts of the story come from the new Sinister Six and Spidey’s reactions to them.

With Doc Ock dead, Slott has a perfect opportunity to give us a look at an odd grey area in superhero adventure: who holds the trademark on super villain team names? Norman Osborn’s out of commission? Rhino hasn’t been heard from? Mysterio mysteriously disappeared? Guess it’s time for the B-listers to be a-movin’ on up. This ragtag group of second string villains (and Shocker. Poor Shocker), has just the right balance of power and personality to keep a story interesting while still feeling like the game-starters are resting (get well soon, Scorpion).

Meanwhile, Spider-Ock is outraged that these posers would dare defame the diabolical name of the devious Sinister Six. It’s hard not to get a smile from that. After some dark moments at the end of ASM it looks like Slott is returning to writing some superior comedy.

The story moves well, flows simply. It’s quite well structured, but this isn’t an issue that benefits from being a pilot for the series, it’s a pilot that benefits from being part of an excellent run.

So what about the art? New series regular Ryan Stegman gives the opening salvo of Doc Ock’s hostile takeover of the Spiderbooks energy and style. He’s an excellent choice to follow Humberto Ramos, conveying the same cartoony excitement without quite as many deviations from anatomy and physics. And if you were concerned by Ramos’ problems drawing Mary-Jane last time, do not fear, she’s back to her gorgeous self this issue. While some of his characters, unfortunately including Peter/Otto, are a little stiff and blocky, I’m expecting good things from him (it’s also worth noting that Peter/Otto has very nice posture so the stiffness in him sort of suits what Stegman was going for). I’m not ready to give up on Humberto Ramos, but, especially compared to ASM 700, we are getting some superior artwork here.

The Superior Spider-Man is off to a fine start. Slott is obviously super excited to tell this story and Stegman is fresh and ready to draw some quality webslinging. Each of them have moments of weakness and the story loses a bit of momentum, but it seems likely that we’ll be back at full speed soon enough. It may be strange, but this new era of Spiderman is off to a good start. It’s definitely a fun comic. Superior? Let’s take that to the comments

From here on out we’re in spoiler territory, if you don’t have the stomach for it you should turn back now.

Alright?

Alright.

Let’s spend a minute discussing the beginning of the issue before we get to that ending.

The Superior Spider-Man starts with Otto Octavius saying goodbye to one life and hello to a new one. Yeah, it’s kind of cheesy and probably there to help exposition, but it does illustrate one of the themes of this story.

The whole issue is about Otto trying and failing to separate himself from who he used to be. He visits his grave but still feels a sense of ownership over the Sinister Six. He claims that he’s now Peter Parker but he’s none too happy to realize that Parker will get all the credit for his genius. Slott seems to be challenging the very idea of a brain-swap with this series. Even when he transfers into Peter’s body, Otto still wants to be himself. Stranger still, being Peter is making him less himself. I love using superheroes to explore themes of identity so I’m hopeful that we’ll have some follow-up on these ideas.

Before this issue came out I assumed that its title, Hero or Menace, would refer to Otto’s arrogance and selfishness causing him to change public perception of Spidey. I’ve seen many people around the web who are concerned that one of the reasons that this story is being told is to reset the status quo to a point where New York hates Spiderman. I can’t draw any strong conclusions about that yet, but it seems like we could get a much more introspective answer to that question. We may see Slott questioning who is and what makes the ‘superior’ Spiderman either way, but I’m hopeful that this arc will be looking at whether Otto wants to be a hero or a menace.

As I said, this body swap plan of Ock’s is already showing signs of failure but there’s one more flaw that Otto didn’t foresee. HE’S ALIVE!  Yes, friends, Peter Parker might have died but that was only round one. He’s back and next time he gets a shot at Ock you know he’ll be ready.

This revelation adds a whole new dimension to the book and I, for one, am excited to see the Peter’s half of the status quo illuminated. I also think it will be interesting to see what effect his influence will have and not have on Otto. After all, it’s one thing to have a shoulder angel, but it’s quite another to have a ghost (or something) manipulating you. I wonder whether Peter’s interference will aid or hurt Otto’s burgeoning morality.

The Superior Spider-Man has a lot of roads open to it. Especially if you gave up on Slott when he killed Peter Parker, it might be good to come back and see where he’s taking our web-headed protagonist(s).

Advertisements