THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #1
“Hero or Menace”
WRITER: Dan Slott
ARTIST: Ryan Stegman
COLORS: Edgar Delgado
LETTERER: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
The Superior Spider-Man (Doctor Octopus’s personality in Peter Parker’s body, in case you’ve been tuned out) fights a new Sinister Six comprising Boomerang, Shocker, Beetle, Speed Demon, Overdrive (who has “pimped out” Big Wheel’s vehicle—awesome!), and the Living Brain. After the villains retreat, Peterpus (a name coined by someone Bertone interviewed on the release day of Amazing Spider-Man #700, whose name I do not know) enjoys a date with Mary Jane. Using audio gleaned from nano-spider tracers his clawed gloves injected into Boomerang, Peterpus predicts when and where the Sinister Six strike next. Peterpus prepares technological traps for the villains, notifies the media in advance, and easily defeats them as Spider-Man. Spider-Man beats Boomerang severely, but stops short of killing him because Peter Parker won’t allow Otto to kill using Peterpus’s hands. The art depicts Peter as a translucent blue “Jedi ghost” who floats around Peterpus, controlling certain of Peterpus’s actions. Otto cannot see or hear Ghost Peter, and remains unaware of Ghost Peter’s existence.
On the January podcast, which we recorded before I read this issue but will probably not get released until after I publish this review, my primary “con” with Amazing Spider-Man #700 concerned the mechanism behind Otto Octavius’s personality change. Previous issues established that Peter and Otto could experience each others’ memories, so what did Peter beam into Otto’s mind that Otto did not possess already? More importantly, isn’t explaining a character like Otto’s abrupt decision to fight crime by having new thoughts literally forced into his head a dramatically unsatisfying substitute for gradual, natural character progression? Thankfully, Superior Spider-Man #1 downplays that aspect of Otto’s transformation. This Otto reads 100% true-to-character, and one can adequately explain his actions without reference to #700’s befuddling final scene.
The best elucidation of Otto’s mindset comes in his second battle with the Sinister Six in front of the media, where he proclaims “I get to win! I’M beating the Sinister Six. And Everyone gets to see it! And they’ll get the message! THIS is what happens when you cross this Spider-Man!” Otto has grown sick of humiliation and pain, and he wants to be on the winning side for once. He wants validation. As J.R. explained (or will explain) on the podcast, Otto doesn’t see himself as evil; he believes the world wronged him by depriving him of the recognition he deserves. Considering that, Otto continuing Spider-Man’s work in his own glory-seeking, egotistical way does not depart from his established traits.
Otto is still Otto. The way he acts and carries himself in Peter’s body, and his use of words like “dolts” and “unmitigated gall” has not gotten old yet. Soon, supporting cast members should notice the change or else they will look stupid. Characters like Mary Jane or Aunt May shouldn’t be fooled for very long at all. But for issue #1, this is still fun.
In a key scene, Otto laments that Peter Parker’s name, not his own, will receive credit for his achievements. However, Otto tells himself that he needs to accept that he is Peter Parker now. This should create a long term conflict within Otto because that rationalization should not quench his ego long term. For now, though, this makes sense. The second Otto reveals his true identity, he loses the life he worked so hard to steal. He would resume being hated and being a fugitive. Ultimately, Doc Ock’s ego must overpower his reason—that’s what makes him Otto—but his resolve can wear down gradually.
Although Otto retains the desire to kill, apparently Peter has returned as a ghost who will prevent Otto from crossing that line. I like that Marvel has so swiftly abandoned the pretense that Peter will not return. We all know how this works in comics, so belaboring the fantasy that Amazing Spider-Man #700 presented Peter’s actual death would have proven tedious, especially when the circumstances of the “death” were so bereft of verisimilitude that exclusively the struthious elided hypothesizing imminent recrudescence. And look, Peter is back one issue later.
The “twist” of Peter’s return serves this story well. There needed to be a way to keep Otto within the boundaries of quasi-heroic behavior without disregarding his character traits or relying on a contrived modification of said traits. Also, this keeps Peter in the book, giving us someone to root for while Otto acts despicably. Unlike in the recent “deaths” of Captain America, Batman, and Human Torch, we’ll actually see Peters reaction to a world without him in it as the events unfold. That has me interested.
For instance, Peter will surely have something to say about Otto’s courting of Mary Jane, during which Otto identifies his favorite part of Peter’s life:
I somewhat resent the use of first person perspective because it forces me to look through the eyes of someone who is taking advantage of the object of his gaze in a profoundly creepy way. This type of scene makes you glance over your shoulder to ensure no one can see what you’re reading. Granted, one would undoubtedly expect this behavior from Otto’s ilk in this situation. This is not poor Otto writting, but it is lackluster Mary Jane writing. Every Mary Jane appearance since Otto first took over Peter’s body has seemed preoccupied with Otto conning his way into her pants. Even in ASM #699, where Mary Jane did not appear physically, we saw Peter’s anxious daydream of Peterpus poised to violate her. Thus, for four consecutive issues, Slott has portrayed MJ as nothing other than the unaware target of a psychotic killer’s predatory sex schemes. Slott, please give MJ something more to do, or at least don’t portray her as so passive. Even if she cannot tell Peter isn’t Peter, what type of person tolerates being treated this way?
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 (Good). I loved every part besides the MJ scene.
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