Superior Spider-Man #1 Review

supsp1A new era begins. Otto Octavius inhabits Peter Parker’s body, and this first issue gives a pretty clear taste of what his particular brand of web slinging is like as he goes up against a brand new Sinister Six and starts to settle into his new life. By setting up a completely new premise, Slott has really placed himself in his own element, and it shows. But he will have to walk a tight line in order to keep the attention of estranged readers.

Another big spoiler in this review, so beware!

The Superior Spider-Man #1

Words by Dan Slott

Art by Ryan Stegman

Colors by Edgar Delgado

Letters by Chris Eliopoulos

The fatal flaw in the setup of Superior Spider-Man has always been that, within the world Spider-Man inhabits, it’s just not a believable basis for an ongoing series. In order to make his idea a reality Slott has ignored too many common sense questions for me to buy into the premise. Inevitably these questions all revolve around the characterization of Otto as Peter. The dilemma Slott must have faced when writing this story was whether to make Otto very much like Peter or very much like himself, and he went with the only choice he could have — if there wasn’t a very noticeable change in behavior, readers wouldn’t be experiencing anything different. But the alternative is problematic.

1Since when does Spider-Man do that?!

This new Peter is a dick. There’s simply no other way to put it. The book opens with a confrontation between him and a new Sinister Six made up of Overdrive, Boomerang, Shocker, Living Brain, Beetle, and Speed Demon. Very few readers will be familiar with all or most of these characters — I certainly wasn’t — but artist Ryan Stegman does a very nice job of making them identifiable, illustrating their powers and crafting an eye-pleasing fight sequence. The most notable aspect of the battle is that Otto decides to bolt as soon as he takes some hits, declaring that he “can’t believe Parker put up with this.”

Otto’s further adventures are along similar lines. At work, he brushes off Max’s concerns about the tech he’s developing in a distinctly non-Peter fashion. He goes to dinner with Mary Jane and blatantly stares at her chest while ignoring what she’s saying to listen in on his bugged enemies. Later, when facing the Sinister Six again after developing a set of countermeasures to their abilities, he fights with a brutality that nearly leads to murder.

All of this is to be expected of Otto in Peter’s body. But it’s also one of the biggest problems with the book. Max never comments on the dismissive tone Peter has suddenly begun to take with him. Mary Jane barely registers his behavior. No one among the press or police objects to the savage and completely unnecessary beating he delivers. The longer this behavior goes unchallenged, the harder it’s going to be for readers to accept what’s happening. There are indications that coming issues will address this, but it’s still pretty hard to accept here, especially from Mary Jane, whose continuing to date him after the way he’s treated her is borderline pathetic.

Yet there’s a problem with Otto himself, as well. The whole basis for Superior was supposed to be that, as his dying move, Peter showed his enemy what it really means to be a hero and changed him. That scene was powerful and really seemed to suggest that the weight of Peter’s memories had an impact. Yet in Superior #1, there is no discernible difference from the behavior Otto exhibited prior to his epiphany at the end of ASM #700. He’s still dating Mary Jane without telling her who he is. He’s still not respecting the sanctity of life. He still struts about arrogantly and acts condescending to everyone around him. After reading through this, I’m left wondering what I am supposed to think or feel about this character at all, and why Slott even bothered to end Amazing the way he did. The only conclusion I can come to is that he was genuinely trying to fool readers into believing he was going to make Doc Ock a hero. But that questionable motive, if real, doesn’t justify the inconsistency of the story and the bizarre characterization it’s forcing on the supporting cast.

3This is what happens… when you cross this Spider-Man.

While I’ve probably given a negative impression so far focusing on the implausibility of the story, Superior #1 has its strengths as well. Slott has basically shed the responsibility of working with 50 years of continuity, at least to an extent, and has more breathing room to tell the kinds of chaotic and campy stories he likes to without diverging too heavily from anything. Both confrontations with the Sinister Six are extremely well executed, and the second one in particular really showcases the clinical, well-planned approach Otto takes to dealing with his enemies as opposed to Peter’s more improvisational style. Stegman’s art is gorgeous, expressive and highly dynamic. I found myself reading over both fight scenes multiple times just to take in all the action. 

Most importantly, Slott has made a wise decision here that may help win back some some portion of the readers that were dismayed at the way Amazing ended. The issue’s final page finally offers an explanation for the sudden, unintentional acts of goodness Otto’s been surprising himself by performing — Peter Parker, as a ghost or spirit of some kind, is still very much present in the pages of this book, and it appears that he retains a little more influence over his body than Otto realized. The gesture is appreciated — we may all have known that Peter would be making a return sooner or later, but it makes a world of difference to have Slott talk to us about it instead of act like we’re wrong. With a simple vow of, “I will find a way back!” Peter’s given us the sense that we’re in the middle of one more story in the character’s life, and not solely a bloated work of fanfiction turned publicity stunt.

Pros: Ryan Stegman has got to be the best artist to appear on Spider-Man since Stefano Caselli. Otto’s battles with the new Sinister Six are prime examples of well-executed comic book action scenes and the reader is treated to an appearance of the spirit of Peter Parker at the end, assuring us that he’s still watching over his body and that he won’t stay dead.

Cons: It’s really difficult to swallow that no one has questioned this new Peter more heavily, especially in Mary Jane’s case. Otto still seems to ultimately regard himself as Otto and definitely still behaves as Otto, rendering the powerful breakdown he experienced from Peter’s memories virtually meaningless and calling into question the legitimacy of this whole enterprise. I’m still waiting for Slott to write something that explains to me why this character needs his own series and why I’m supposed to want to read about him as Spider-Man instead of Peter.

Grade: B-

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(19) Comments

  1. RobertDye

    Just reread it so I could comment. I think Stegman and Delfado nailed most of the art. I especially liked the bits of blood spatter hitting SpOck's lenses during the endgame fight with Boomarang. Not because I'm into blood spatter, but because it stated some very fundamental things about what SpOck is willing to do, how far he is willing to go. For SpOck, THIS is what it would mean to be Spider-Man, to be a "hero." Many have commented that Otto's transition at the end of ASM 700 seemed rushed. True, in many a sense. But . . . he didn't get moved to the side of the angels in tjose moments. He only went as far as Otto's idea of what it would mean to be a hero would take him. That's not as far as some people seem to have imagined. For Otto, it seems to be an opportunity to start "over," to have a good lab, the respect of colleagues (okay, "lesser" minds, but still.), no more prosecutable history, etc. He'll make use of the SM powers, but not because he now has innate "goodness," but because it gives him a continued excuse to create in the Horizon Labs, and HE gets to use what he creates. Not someone else . . .HIM . . . Otto, the "great scientific mind." If he gets fired from Horizon, I am not quite sure what his motivation for fighting the bad guys would be. I *suppose* he could go back to one of Ock's many secret labs we heard referenced in Avenging 15.1, but who then knows who is creating the tech? How does Otto's ego get stroked by that? A bit murky, that. I think the artists also nailed it in the expression on Pete's face at the dinner with MJ. He looks like a total DB (and that DOESN'T stand for "Daily Bugle," either). This look on the real PP's face would be appalling, but on SpOck? Nails the character. Also made good sense that SpOck would call the press in advance. A real DB thing to do, but perfectly in character. I'm looking forward to seeing some interaction between SpOck and Mayor Jameson, as well as Peter and Jameson. Should be fun. As to the nature of the character of SpOck, I still think that this is basically PP with a recording of Otto. The ending seems to bear this out. PP is still in there somewhere. This raises some interesting possibilities. If this strong a recording of a personality can be made, why can it not be used to make duplicate copies? So Doc Ock is not really gone, even if Pete fights off the Ock aspect of his personality. "Ock" can return at any time, either in a cloned body (didn't the Jackal show up somwhere this month? Can't recall where . . .) or a mindwiped body with the recording implanted. (Or maybe an "OttoBot.") Any of these would be a much truer "Doc Ock" than PeterPuss actually is. What about the memories/recording used to make the original Otto think he was PP? Can these memories be implanted into another body? Can they be used in some other fashion? If a copy of the Otto persona could be made, why not a copy of "Peter" as well? This tech could also be used to wreak more general mayhem. Copies of political figures, other heroes in non-heroic bodies, etc. (Almost makes me want to see Dr. Bong brought back to do counselling sessions. Almost.) (Can you imagine how SpOck would interact with Howard the Duck? THAT could be fun . . .) (Enough stream-of-Consciousness for now). If this copying tech can be generally applied, would a new Ock necessarily know who Spider-Man is? We could end up with SpOck fighting recordings of Ock, recordings unaware of the events of ASM 700. If the recording tech predates One More Day, there could be OTHER recordings floating about with memories NOT affected by MagicalMephisto's noodling around of the SM universe. (Can anyone say "Norman Osborne" or "J. Jonah Jameson?") Plenty of interesting places to go with such notions without resetting the Pete and MJ relationship to what it was before. (I was greatly disappointed that JJJ did not get to/have to remember beating the crap out of Pete, and being handed film of the fight, and destroying the pics. Of being a decent man, finally a bit ashamed of himself. Be nice to try that out again, for a bit, anyway.) The way this will play out with Peter's friendships is a problem I can't see Johnny Storm ignoring Pete just brushing him off, but the FF would catch on right away that something is seriously wrong with their friend, much more so than the Avengers, I think. (Well, except for Cap. Didn't Pete help Cap on writing a Comic Book, or a Strip, or something? That's pretty intimate, co-writing with someone.) Seems as though SpOck is going to have to sustain a major head injury, or fake one, if this ruse is going to be kept up for very long. I'm willing to suspend disbelief on quite a bit. Spider-Man can crawl on walls? Check. Spder-Man has something called "Spider-Sense?" Check. Spider-Man can fly? Noooo . . . unless you explain to me where he got this ability . . . (Didn't he have this at one point? "The Power Cosmic," perhaps?) None of Peter's friends or acquaintances notice such a bizarre change in personality, or they notice, but just accept it without questioning what has happened? Um . . . no, unless you give me a good explanation, such as a brain injury, or the effect of an attack by an enemy with some kind of mind-altering ray. You'll have to explain it SOMEHOW. I am enjoying SM again, so the book gets extra points right there. I'd give it a B+. Rob

  2. Spiderman320

    I actually liked it Slott is a good writer, and looks like Parker will be back as we all knew would happen. But overall I give it 4 out of 5 stars

  3. David S

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on the art - Ryan Stegman and Stefano Caselli are the two best spider-man artists of the last few years.

  4. spideytracer

    I was disappointed that SpOck didn't kill Boomerang, and that Obi-Pete stayed Otto's hands at the last second. I was also disappointed back in the '90's with the Clone Saga. I thought it would have been a brave move by Marvel if they had gone the route that we'd all been reading about the clone for years. We know this will revert in time and Peter will triumph in the end, but let Otto have some fun. Put him in situations that he has to be the hero we all know Spider-Man to be. Let him learn firsthand that With great power there must also come great responsibility. No-one loves Peter Parker man than I...heck, I've been reading about him for forty years. Octavius has always been my favorite Spidey villain, and I can't help but feel that if this storyline is done the right way, we'll be talking about it for years to come, and talking about it in a positive way. But here's the problem; I don't think Slott's the man for the job. I hope I'm wrong, though.

  5. Nick MB

    @11 Why is this more dumb than any other Spidey storyline? Much sillier things have happened to him, and he's hardly the first superhero to be temporarily replaced. Batman was temporarily replaced with a nasty version of himelf (Jean Paul Valley/Azrael) and that story is looked on pretty well in retrospect. (Well, the ending was a bit of a let-down in my opinion, but you can't have everything.)

  6. Wall_Crawler

    @#9 @#10 Couldn't agree more but this almost always falls on deaf ears. Story telling shmorytelling, it's a dumb idea. The review however was badass. I received a digital copy so I did read it but it was free. Agree with some disagree with some but you put together one awesome review. Great work brah!

  7. Sbee613

    As soon as one just one of peters close friends figures out this cheap charade this series for all intensive purposes should be over. What is he going to do take out Carlie or get rid of aunt may? There are so many dead ends with this story telling it shouldn't last 5 issues

  8. Spec Spider Fan

    Ok, here's my 5 cents. You know how you could relate to the down and out kid from Queens who was smarter than most but beat down by circumstance and fate, yet still rose to every occasion and always found a way to win thus making him an iconic and inspirational hero to everyone? Yeah, that isn't how it is anymore...who can't relate to a megalomanical killer who is using our hero as his personal playground to do whatever he wants and remain unaccountable essentially for his actions...nope?...neither can I. Storytelling wouldn't have Moriarity take over Holmes's mind, nor would Bane become Batman in a "superior" fashion...this is simply a bad idea....good review however. I simply hope this arc is undone well before the 2014 release of Amazing Spiderman 2......

  9. Lee Swain

    Peter is still in control of his body. He just has Ock's memories making him a little schizo. Pete's personality is at war with Ock's, but Ock is not actually in there. You don't perform a "mind swap" by adding your memories to someone else's. Pete just now has Ock's memories and since Ock is the addition to his mind, he thinks it is the controlling element. Pete's own personality will eventually win out and then he will realise what is actually happening and erase the Ock memories. I would bet good money I am right about this one. This is why this "Ock" in Peter's body still wants to be a hero and still cannot help himself doing good and can not bring himself to do bad. Same reason why Ock that supposedly had Peter in him in ASM#700 was able to use villains to help him and put all those guards lives at risk, not to mention he also told them to KILL Spider-Man. Something Peter would NEVER do.

  10. Jared N.

    I thought the book was OK overall until the end. I was a bit perplexed that it seemed like Otto had learned nothing from his revelatory moment at the end of ASM #700. But the 'twist' at the end was my biggest problem with the book. Having "Peter's ghost" show up to stop Otto from killing anyone takes what could have been a decent redemption story and turns it into a deus ex machina-laden plot that looks like something from the 90s cartoon. It's terribly uninteresting and poor storytelling. I get that people are upset at the way Peter was dealt with, and I even agree with that sentiment. But I was hoping to see a writer take a bold chance and try something new. Instead we were treated to a cheap copout that appears to be more marketing trick that plot device. If anything, the whole experience makes me less interested in super-hero comics.

  11. jack brooks

    It is true that, like the scientists in "Prometheus", everything in this story depends on all the characters acting stupidly. MJ was raised by an abusive father, and shook off her victim mentality a long time ago, so she shouldn't put up with Peterpus' behavior for an instant.

  12. Erik Lexie - Post author

    #1: Sorry to disappoint, but like Chris I've been going the digital route myself. It's a lot more conducive to the reviewing process.

  13. Nick MB

    @3 In Dan Slott's defense, the critique you just did is aimed at a story which hasn't actually been published yet, so I'm not sure it proves a huge amount about him. Since we haven't actually seen what the Avengers will do/how they'll act.

  14. K-Box in the Box

    As Graeme McMillan suggested on Newsarama, I suspect the agenda here is to get Peter fired from Horizon Labs and kicked off the Avengers, and to drive an even deeper wedge between him and Mary Jane, specifically to undo all of his successes during "Big Time" and revert him to the "loser" that Joe Quesada insisted he had to be, at the expense of his marriage, which is why "One More Day" happened in the first place. But as another poster so amusingly and astutely noted on that same thread, it all falls apart if the Avengers acknowledge that every one of them has suffered similar villainous identity thefts. But that would be expecting characters written by Dan Slott to respond intelligently to circumstances they’ve faced before. I never thought anyone could beat Mark Millar for letting idiot plots trump characterization, but this is Slott’s forte. Dan Slott’s plots only work when one character is promoted to Mary Sue God Mode and everyone else is reduced to an Epsilon Minus sub-moron.

  15. Shaun Martineau

    Man, I can't wait until Peter gets back and chews out everyone who didn't realize he wasn't in control of his body... Until then, count me out. Good review though Erik, I felt like I got what I needed from the issue from your review and an in-depth take on what you read; kinda want to see how Ock kicks the Sinister Six's ass.

  16. Justin

    Nice review. If this Superior thing were a permanent change, I'd hate it but since it's a temporary change-up, I'm more than willing to shell out some money for a different side of my favorite hero. Also, I figure there's no code since there's no mention of one but I guess it can't hurt to try. Do youu happen to have a free code to hand out Mr. Author-sir?

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