Superior Spider-Man #11-13
By Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Giuseppe Camuncoli and John Dell
Alistair Smythe the Spider-Slayer is about to be executed on the maximum security facility known as the Raft. In order to insure that everything goes smoothly, Spider-Man is present. He has made sure that nothing will prevent the prisoner from escaping and that none of the witnesses to the event will come to harm. Then… everything goes wrong and it gets worse from there. Using his wits and brilliant tactical mind, Spider-Man must defeat a threat in several fronts and be prepared to go an extra mile when needed.
But this is not really Spider-Man at all, at least not the Peter Parker version. Otto Octavius, formerly at death’s door, has found a way out of the trap of his ailing body into that of his arch nemesis and is not only Spider-Man, but a superior breed of crime-fighter, using spider-bots that trawl the entire island of Manhattan at all times looking for suspicious activity and reporting back their data. Not content with responding to every red alert, Spider-Man instead treats this like a game of chess, only acting when the time is right and how it suits him. He is not like Peter Parker, who would remain in an unwinnable battle, escaping a hair’s breadth from death’s door.
Otto is smarter, wiser and more practical. A former prisoner of the Raft, he knows the ins and outs quite well and can anticipate any move that Smythe may take to escape. By his side is Mayor J Jonah Jameson who is eager to see Smythe die for killing his wife in cold blood. When Smythe makes a move to escape using miniature robotic spider-slayers, he draws swords with Spider-Man who is using spider-bots to contain him.
What’s more, Otto is a man who has cheated death only to find himself a new life. This isn’t a case of Doctor Octopus losing one body to re-emerge as the same character wearing a red and blue costume. He can appreciate the opportunity and challenge to create a new life, one in which he plays the part of the hero, and all evil-doers must pay.
Dan Slott has been at Spider-Man for some time now and has become a writer that one either loves or hates. He has reinvented the Spider-Man book several times over, but by placing Octavius in Parker’s body, he as raised the stakes for every issue simply because the reader has no idea what to expect next. The tension has never been higher before and that makes this a must read monthly book.
The real turning point in this trilogy is when Smythe is loose in the Raft and Jameson gives the web spinner an edict to kill the prisoner using any means necessary, For JJJ, this is a moment where his pain is revealed. He has lost so much and for all of his ranting and bravado, is a broken man. For Spider-Man, it is a golden moment that he has been waiting for. Given a free hand by the Mayor of New York, Spider-Man has become judge, jury and executioner, sanctioned by the Mayor himself!
Superior Spider-Man started as a dark series and has gotten progressively darker each issue. Watching Otto succeed as Spider-Man and become more ruthless and cutthroat is horrifying and fascinating all at once. Witnessing the final expulsion of Parker from Otto’s stolen mind is even more chilling.
Since Dan Slott swapped Octavius for Parker, he has come under fire from fandom. Nothing is permanent in comics, sure, but this era will be remembered, I can guarantee that. Will it be known as a follower to One More Day or the Clone Saga? Who can say, but the stories have been absolutely amazing with a superlative guest cast, great villains and the aforementioned raised stakes which get much higher in these issues.
The trilogy features amped up versions of Boomerang, the Vulture and Scorpion who threaten Jameson, the other civilians trapped on the island and Spidey himself. Having delivered a standard conundrum to hero of ‘save your friends or chase me’ Spider-Man makes the unexpected move to chase Smythe, surprising the villain immensely. But Spider-Man has a mission, kill the Spider-Slayer, and he will not deviate from that plan.
No Escape is yet another chapter in an ongoing story that Slott and company have been developing for years now. The status quot change at the end is significant and it also gives still more power to an evil villain operating inside the lie of a hero.
The artwork by Giuseppe Camuncoli and John Dell is a bit too tight at times (a close-up shot of the Lizard stopping the Scorpion becomes a mess of lines and green), but when it works it is excellent. If you are not reading this series, you need to seriously consider giving it a shot.