The folks in the webhead department over at Marvel have seemingly wanted to have a wacky body-switch comedy adventure as the central thrust of the new Superior Spider-Man, but they've had one particularly skeevy issue to deal with first. Namely, the fact that when you put a creepy old bad guy in a handsome young good guy's body, he's going to try to use that new body to bang chicks under false pretenses. That may have made for hijinks back in the 1980s, but in this more enlightened era, we realize that that kind of thing is tantamount to rape. Sorry to buzzkill, but the 'secret cunnilingus' ending to Revenge of the Nerds? Yeah…
So while Otto Octavius has been a nerd all his life, his revenge was going to have to take a different form than violating Mary Jane Watson if they're going to keep the 'wacky adventure' tone and steer away from a revolting exploration of sex crime. Save that for Stabler and Benson and Ice-T and Munch. When people first started piping up about this, writer Dan Slott promised us that issue would be addressed in Superior Spider-Man #2, and now that the issue is in our hands, we can rest easier. For the most part.
We're still in the process of establishing how the Otto Octavius/Peter Parker mind-sharing arrangement actually works. Right now, the Superior version of Spider-Man is being used in both Slott's book and in Christopher Yost's Avenging Spider-Man, and so far, the mechanics are a little unclear. It would seem that an old fuddy-duddy like Otto would have a hard time play-acting the part of the cheerful hip dude Peter, but he seems to be able to turn it on and off at will. Yes, we realize the consciousness of Peter Parker is still present in the mind-meld, but it currently seems impotent to do anything more than subconsciously prevent Otto from killing anyone. However, as established in Amazing Spider-Man #700 and again in the crucial portion of this one, when Otto tries to directly access Peter's memories, the emotions and conscience attached to those memories become a part of Otto's make-up, too, and force him to behave. Oh, and it's possible that Peter's consciousness is actually his astral form occasionally leaving the body to observe it, as one point, watching Otto trying to date MJ, he wonders if he can "ghost-vomit."
It's all very hazy and indistinct, but that's the human mind for you. One minute, you're thinking very hard about your budget for the week while humming "Dollar Bill" by the Screaming Trees to yourself, and the next, you've decided it's of paramount importance to start listening to the Singles sountrack again, and at the same time, you remember you haven't talked to your grandmother in a few months and also your inner thigh itches from that thing you picked up from that time things got weird with the dude who never washed his leather pants, and why IS the sky blue, exactly, and does it have anything to do with why people keep saying 'Bazinga' out loud when clearly Community is the better show – or at least it was before they fired the creator and delayed their half-season for several months so that their Hunger Games episode will feel utterly dated and wow, cheese is delicious.
So, anyhow, it seems we've got the methodology by which Otto will eventually have to relinquish Spider-Man back to Peter – the more Spider-memories he accesses, the more of Peter actually creeps into the forefront of the consciousness, until he can actually start wrestling Otto for bodily control. Keep an eye out for that, as it's been the key factor in making Otto try to be Spider-Man instead of being full-on evil, and it's the key factor in making sure Otto's selfish libido gets curbed enough to respect Mary Jane and not to fool with her emotions. Or maybe Dr. Strange will notice Peter's astral form. One thing Otto isn't is a magician.
We open with Otto calling press conferences to herald his returning stolen property to Empire State University, and his currying public favor has apparently even won over J. Jonah Jameson, who is publicly admitting he was wrong about Spider-Man, and shakes his hands for the cameras. Of course, the spectral Peter flips out that JJJ finally makes nice over his dead body. Then MJ and Carlie are talking, and the former seems almost sad at the idea that she and Peter might be getting back together, while the latter is still keeping mum about the fact that she may just be the only one who knows the truth about Otto/Pete because of her run-in with Pete/Otto a few issues back – but she's still too skeptical about the 'crazy-town banana-pants" of it all.
Cut to "Lunch with the Watson woman," which is interrupted by the typical crisis that requires Peter to bail and go be Spider-Man. Otto hates this nonsense, and he proceeds to invent Spider-Bots to patrol the city for him and alert him when there's trouble that requires his attention, making it so that he doesn't have to go on patrol. Both Peter and MJ think that's kind of clever, and perhaps it'll cut down on Peter's flakeyness in the future. I will say that I enjoy it when Peter dresses like Doc Ock in the goggles and the stylized lab coat, usually only when he's working at Horizon inventing stuff. It's just a fun bit, showing us that 'wacky' tone the story wants to have.
The "Watson Dating Trials" show Otto's clinical, cold approach to getting his "needs met," and MJ is taking things very slow – so much so that Otto gets frustrated, then realizes he doesn't even need to actually bed her, because he can just violate Peter's memories of bedding her instead, which is quite creepy and gross. Peter feels very violated, and the implication is that Otto is beating off to the memories and… yeah, I told you, creepy and gross. But it gets the job done, so he can be free from obsessing over her and "move onto other conquests." Peter's ghost is appropriately skeeved by that, too. But when Vulture goons attack MJ, Supey Spidey is forced into action, and that's when Otto realizes he's not only siphoned Peter's memories, but his feelings for MJ, and thus he realizes that the Peter/MJ thing is "a recrusive loop, an equation that can never be solved." They want to be together but they can't be because of who he is. "Our relationship is the greatest trap of all. And the only way to free you is to move on."
So. Thankfully, Otto has closed the door on the MJ thing, and in doing so, perhaps has closed it for Peter and MJ's eventuality as well, forcing them both to accept that they have to move on from each other because life (or Marvel Editorial) won't allow them to be a thing anymore. However, the 'other conquests' thing still looms as a potential skeeve-factory. I'm not sure what the difference will be if Otto/Peter tries meeting new women in this merged form. He's still sort of lying about who he is, but he's not trading on a shared history with them to exploit it for fraud-rapey gain. New people he meets will judge mainly on who they're presented with from the point of being met, and that will be more Otto than Pete – and as far as Otto's concerned, this IS his true self now. It's… well… maybe less awful with new people, I guess? It's still a bad guy disguised as a good one and lying about the presence of the bad one… but one supposes the goodness will eventually dilute that badness and we'll get some kind of fresh hero out of Otto when this is all said and done. Can we accept Otto's 'wacky relationship hijinks' if they're with people who don't really know Peter Parker?
By the by, the art from Ryan Stegman is odd, because it doesn't seem like the stuff he was doing in Scarlet Spider. Instead, it feels like he's trying to ape Humberto Ramos. That does make for some decent continuity with the old book, but Stegman should really just be Stegman. I mean, Stegman is good.
Anyway, Slott has at least averted this potential MJ crisis, although one supposes he figured out fairly quickly that this was an issue that needed to be addressed, so he made sure to do it right away in Superior Spider-Man #2… and he does it in part by having Otto Octavius masturbate to Peter Parker's memories of having sex with Mary Jane Watson. To be fair, that's not explicitly stated, but again, it is heavily implied. So. Yes. That happened in Spider-Man comics.
It can only get better from here, right?