Superior Spider-Man: ‘Hero or Menace?’
By Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, and Edgar Delgado
Peter Parker is dead. After his most fiendish villain Doctor Octopus swapped bodies with him, Parker found himself trapped inside Doc Ock’s ailing body before finally succumbing the inevitable. Now Otto Octavius lives inside the super powered body of Spider-Man and the also lives as the brilliant young bachelor Peter Parker, who is dating super model Mary Jane Watson.
All in all, a bit of a downer. The villain has won in the most intimate manner and taken over his opponent’s life. It’s very upsetting that this new Spider-Man is secretly a villain with his own evil agenda and that he has all of the resources that Parker has built up over the past few years at Horizon Labs and as an Avenger. But fans are more horrified at the prospect of Otto dating MJ in Peter’s body than the damage he may do as a superhero. It’s terrifying, so much so that series writer Dan Slott himself has been vilified by the some members of the comic book community and has even received death threats.
This is unfortunate as Slott has also made the Spider-Man monthly comic so very interesting since he took over and this is just one more way that he has breathed new life into a character who had become so established in his mannerisms that he could never surprise readers. That is no longer the case, though. The new Spider-Man isn’t just the brilliant yet twisted Doc Ock, but he still retains some of Parker’s persona.
The series opens with an attack of the new Sinister Six who are thwarted by Spider-Man… until the wall crawler realizes that the fight is pointless and retreats. The team is a mish-mash of villains including the Beetle, Boomerang, Shocker, Speed Demon, The Living Brain (??) and Overdrive. Doc Ock is not impressed by this group of nobodies sullying the good name of the group he formed.
It’s fascinating to see Ock experiencing what it is like to face odds that are not in his favor and decide instead of toughing it out as Parker would, he will instead remove himself from harm and rethink his strategy. As he makes ready to depart, a bystander is almost harmed before Spider-Man puts himself in the path of an exploding boomerang. Ock/Spider-Man is confused by his own actions, but it is clear that a part of Peter Parker remains inside the body that Octavius has stolen.
Otto moves on to impress his boss at Horizon Labs and woo his girlfriend Mary Jane who may as well be a living pinup for all he cares. It’s creepy to see Otto ignore MJ’s dialog and instead stare at her cleavage… something Dan Slott put in there no doubt to get the blood boiling for readers. It’s just edgy enough to be interesting without being overtly perverted.
I know this series has its detractors and many are decrying the ‘gimmick’ of swapping Doc Ock and Spidey as being too obviously temporary, but I really enjoyed it. The issue is really great and very quickly establishes that this is a new Spider-Man unlike the one we have seen before, yet all of the trappings of Peter Parker’s past are intact. It’s one of the more inspired ways to revive a comic that I have ever seen… far better than many others I could think of.
The Superior Spider-Man has attracted a lot of attention as it involves one of Marvel Comics’s tent-pole heroes, a pillar of the superhero community transformed into a twisted villain. Yet he’s not entirely evil. We see in this issue that Octavius is using his position at Horizon to help society rather than harm it and we also see that he not only will protect the innocent and defeat the guilty but even though he has amped up his arsenal to be far deadlier than before, he will also restrain himself from using lethal force… because a little voice inside of him is holding him back and no doubt in the coming months that voice will get louder as Peter Parker struggles to regain control of his mind and body.
The artwork by Stegman looked far better in the previews than in the finished product, in my opinion, but it may grow on me. Spider-Man has attracted some of the biggest artists in comics so it is always a tough book to come into and make your mark without detracting from the look and feel of what has come before. As Stegman is taking over from Ramos, he inherited a lot of the overly ‘cartoony’ mannerisms of his predecessor which… I have mixed feelings about.
I am very excited to see what comes next and am hopeful that Slott, who is very aware of the expectations placed on him by readers, has a stack of great tales on the way.