Superior Spiderman 6

Things have taken a decidedly dark turn in the story of our less than friendly neighborhood Spiderman. Last issue we saw the superior Spiderman execute a criminal at point-blank range. Despite the real Peter Parker’s earlier successes in controlling Otto, it seems that the influence of Peter’s memories has only made this Spiderman more driven to wipe out crime, by any means necessary. This week, old Parktopus takes on Youtube.

I grew up aspiring to be Peter Parker and some of my fondest early memories were sneaking downstairs to hear the screeching tones of the Spiderman: TAS theme song. Despite the show’s many flaws in hindsight, it left me with a strong feeling of who Peter Parker was. For me Peter is defined by his moral fallibility, his love of science, and his humor. Seven years later, when Spider-Man hit theaters I found myself deeply disappointed to find none of these things strongly represented outside of the origin story.

As such, I was on board with Dan Slott as a Spiderman writer as soon as I read his first issue of Big Time. There was something in Slott’s wit that just screamed Peter Parker to me. His jokes were clever, but occasionally just stupid enough to be improv, and his judgments reflected the internalized pressure that kids so often have to endure. Slott has always brought that needed comedy to his Spider-Man stories and Screwball and Jester are perfect villains for him. They’re funny without being joke villains, they move the story forward without sacrificing their personality, and they even have a twist in their scheme that keeps them from being another ‘new media is evil’ character. The New 52 Green Arrow opened with a similar concept, but from what I’ve heard it fell way short. It seems like Screwball and Jester walk the line between topical and timeless just well enough. We’ll hope that history doesn’t remember them in the same breath as Rocket Racer.

Unfortunately for our knavish duo, I’m not the only one who wanted to grow up to be Peter Parker. The way that JJ gets Spiderman to take on this assignment is pitch-perfect. While I feel that Slott is running the risk of repeating himself on this series, it’s hard to argue with Otto’s motivations, even if his methods are extreme. Of course, Spiderman has always been something of a nerd revenge fantasy. Otto shows the twisted cycle of abuse that comes from a response like Spiderman.

The only character who truly shines as a moral individual is Anna Maria Marconi, Otto’s diminutive tutor. She faces her bullies with class and dignity, and acts in a moral and admirable way throughout the whole of the issue. Slott’s quickly building Marconi and Mayor Jameson into this Spidey’s new supporting cast and, honestly, I’m in favor of it. Slott has managed to keep Jonah’s interactions with this Spidey fresh despite playing to the same dynamic in most of them, as well as make JJ both comical and relatable. Though I hate commenting on the restrictions of the genre without something new to add to the conversation, it’s hard to argue that The Raft has lived up to its reputation. As for Marconi, she’s wonderful, the kind of friend I wish the real Peter Parker had had. She’s smart, funny, honest, and unique. Best of all her height is commented upon but never made a defining feature of her character. As she put it, she’s bigger than that, and I’m glad Slott is too.

The final plotline in this issue is the beginning of the long-awaited Fired story. Slott gives a solid version of the Avengers in this issue, however briefly. Thor, Cap, and especially Wolverine get the most out of their few lines. The arguments fall more or less where you might expect but they never feel like foregone conclusions. Whether he means it or not, Slott takes an honest and valuable look at what it means to be an Avenger and, by extension, a hero.

In short, this issue confronts you with the complexity of Otto’s brand of heroism. Some may not find value in one of the arguments presented, or even notice what he’s doing, but if you want to think, this issue will provide plenty of food for thought, and that’s what appeals to me in a comic book.

The one thing that’s missing is a response to the shocking events of last issue. Though they’re mentioned briefly, it feels like Spiderman publicly acting as judge, jury, and executioner would be a more divisive issue. Though it’s clearly on the minds of more than a few people, it’s mashed up against Otto’s actions in this issue. What does the public think? Can Mayor Jameson really protect an undeputized vigilante from the law once he starts murdering the mentally ill?

This issue also sees the return of Humberto Ramos. While his style seems to be controversial, I’ve made no secret of my love for his work on Amazing Spider-Man. It’s hardly work that I’d think to point out if asked to illustrate my love for Ramos’ art and at times it borders on the distractingly cartoony. Still, the things I love are there. The characters all look alive and energetic; a sensation heightened by Ramos’ layouts and the eye-catching work of colorist Edgar Delgato. But perhaps most notable is Ramos’ careful work on his characters’ eyes.

Given the way this issue plays out, it would be hard not to notice the attention paid to eyes this month, at least relative to most other comics. Maybe I haven’t been reading closely enough in the past, but I’m only realizing here just how much Ramos can express in the glisten of an iris or the curve of a brow.

Also he draws at least one panel of a truly hideous Wolverine.

The Superior Spider-Man #6 revisits some familiar ground but manages to synthesize an excellent taste of the series, while setting up for what is to come. It’s clear that the status quo on this book will be in flux, at least for the foreseeable future, however, the hints we’ve received, in universe and not, point strongly toward some new turns in this polarizing chapter of the Spiderman legend. Particularly if you’ve been on the fence, this would be a good place to come back to the fold.

 

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