While I am very proud of myself that I called this, I must also state that Marvel’s tactics with Spider-Man are once again lacking in the respect the character deserves. What am I talking about? Today marks the debut of Superior Spider-Man, the reboot of the web-head but minus the Amazing before his name and, of course, his normal mental state. In the much-ballyhooed and talked about Amazing Spider-Man #700, Otto Octavius switched his mind with Peter Parker’s, determined to thwart death by living in the body of his greatest enemy. Good trick, except Peter bested his old nemesis by unloading a lifetime worth of memories into Octavius, forcing a personality change on the old criminal. Instead of being an evil Spider-Man, Octavius will be a kind-of-good but all around "Superior" one.
Superior Spider-Man #1 picks up just after that. Otto, relishing in the fact that the real Peter Parker is dead, carries on trying to assimilate himself into Peter’s life. His first call is to stop the new Sinister Six, who are concocting a plan that means absolutely nothing to the issue, it’s just a way to get Superior Spider-Man into action. During their first confrontation, when things get a bit too hairy for the new Spidey, he retreats, announcing he has no desire to get hurt fighting the bad guys. However, just as he’s pulling away, and just as rocket is about to explode and kill a cop, Spider-Man turns around and saves him. What trickery is this? Even Otto Octavius has no idea why he did that.
But we do, don’t we?
The rest of Superior Spider-Man #1 means very little other than to introduce Spider-Man acting like a pompous jerk, and to show Peter Parker make his friends bristle with his new arrogance and curt nature. The Sinister Six are just a means to an end, a way for writer Dan Slott to unveil the back-page TAA-DAA moment in issue #1. In the end, Otto is just about to beat one of the Six to death when, suddenly, he stops. Like the earlier rescue of the police officer, Otto is confused as to why he stopped just short of killing the Sinister Six member. Can you guess why? If you read my prediction in past reviews, you’ll know, if not, I’m sure you can figure it out.
Beware, spoilers ahead.
It turns out, GASP, that Peter Parker’s consciousness is locked inside his brain with Otto. Yep, Peter’s kicking around his own brain and he’s helping to stop Otto from wreaking havoc as Spider-Man. Conveniently, Otto can’t hear Peter in his head, but can feel him enough to allow Peter a certain sway over his actions without even knowing it. The end of Superior Spider-Man #1 reveals Peter Parker, looking more like ghost Obi-Wan Kenobi, stating that he will find a way back into controlling his own mind. After all the falderal, all the cooing and primping and all the “end of an era” rhetoric, Peter Parker is back in one issue. To quote Johnny Rotten: “Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?”
Dan Slott is not to blame here. His writing, as always, is first rate and a lot of fun to read. The blame for this travesty lays squarely at Marvel’s feet. The speed by which Peter Parker returns shows clearly that this whole idea began as just another story arc in Slott’s run. Then, when the big wigs heard about it, they figured out a cheap ploy to fold it into the exhaustively boring “Marvel NOW” idea and get a bit of easy publicity out of it. In short, like they always do, Marvel prostituted one of their greatest characters to try and shill another of their lame products. I don’t know why the management of Marvel hate Spider-Man, but they obviously do.
Left to its own devices, this would have been a killer story arc. A really neat pickle Peter Parker became involved in, one that gives no easy outs. Slott’s script is wonderful, the action is high and the reveal done very well. The lack of excitement in the issue is because it all happens too fast after the build up. Superior Spider-Man fails because it’s not enough of a resolve to have carried all the crap Marvel heaped onto it. We went from the possibility of really clinging to each issue to see how Peter saves himself, to knowing he would be back because they’d never kill Peter Parker forever. Way to shoot the tires out of your own car, Marvel.
The art for Superior Spider-Man is handled by Ryan Stegman, whose style is so close to Humberto Ramos that it makes you more miss Ramos than champion Stegman. Nothing is inherently wrong with the pencils, I’m just unsure why Marvel would stick Slott with a Ramos clone as opposed to just getting him Ramos. Even if I loved the story, I’d still think the art is an average copy of a superior artist.
"Superior Spider-Man," the idea, had no chance to become great because of Superior Spider-Man the Marvel hoopla game.
(3 story, 2 art - though the story grade would have been higher if this had been left alone to be part of Slott’s ongoing work)