The Vulture returns in an issue that puts some interesting emphasis on Octavius’s history of having worked with Toomes before. While the book still seems to be finding its footing, this is a marked improvement over last issue and helps to move the story forward at a respectable pace by cementing Carlie’s suspicions that Peter is not himself and upping the tension around Otto’s proclivity for violence.
The Superior Spider-Man #3: Everything You Know is Wrong
Words by Dan Slott
Art by Ryan Stegman
Colors by Edgar Delgado
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
What are you doing, Peter?
Slott’s humor is very hit or miss. Sometimes you end up with a bomb like crazy-town banana-pants that makes you wonder how it ever got past an editor. But other times he really manages to split my sides open, and I have to admit the opening of this issue is one of those gems. It’s almost the perfect gag — mayor Jameson, now believing Spider-Man works for him, setting up his own “spider signal” on top of the NYPD only to have Otto unceremoniously destroy it and then somehow get away with blatantly chastising him for its construction.
While many of us are still skeptical of the long term value of the whole Superior enterprise, it does undeniably offer opportunities to explore “what ifs” for a little while, and this version of Spidey with no patience for anyone or anything outside his own plans really does bounce off of Jonah quite well.
Another thing I liked about this issue is something that carries over from Slott’s last Vulture story, and that’s the revamp that Toomes has gotten. Between his new all-black getup and his new gravity powers that allow him to double his flight mechanism as a massive strength enhancer, he feels like a much more worthy opponent for someone at Spidey’s tier.
When Otto tracks the vulture’s new mini-me goons back to the nest, Slott takes the confrontation in an interesting direction that has its ups and downs (no pun intended). The scene is interspersed with Peter’s explorations of some of Otto’s own memories, a reversal of roles that puts the reader 100% back in Peter’s point of view for a while and is quite welcome. These flashbacks are executed quite well, allowing us to discover as Peter does that Otto still holds some respect for his old accomplice. When he drops in on Toomes, he immediately offers to simply pay him a retirement fortune to quit, coming out of hidden bank accounts he apparently possesses around the globe. But the Vulture doesn’t buy it and orders his new minions to attack.
I was right on board with Slott for most of this scene, but I didn’t really care for the way it developed. Otto discovers that the Vulture’s new goons are actually little kids, presumably orphans he’s collected, and he starts to well up with rage at this exploitation of the innocent. This is another area where Slott hasn’t done an adequate job of convincing me. Otto is just way too hot and cold in the morality department, and further complicating matters is that Slott suggests this rage comes from Otto’s own memories, via a new flashback to an abusive father that’s supposed to link to the kid he just unknowingly backhanded himself. If I was meant to believe Otto went into a frenzy over child abuse purely because he’s a changed man, my only complaint would be that his changes are being cherry picked to suit the story. But I’m now supposed to believe this man has a tender soft spot for little children when a few story arcs ago he literally set out to burn alive every child on the planet. Sloppy on top of unnecessary.
Fortunately, once that tripe is out of the way, we’re treated to a nice fight between Spidey and the Vulture that showcases the villain’s new power as well as the new Spidey’s relentless use of force. The sequence does feature a “ran out of webbing” moment I turned my nose up at, but as long as that only happens once until the end of Superior, I won’t make a big deal out of it, especially since the whole thing is once again so beautifully rendered by Stegman. I’ll be really disappointed when he switches out for Ramos again.
Otto, what’d you do?
The other major element at work in this issue, and probably the one that will have the most significant consequences, is Carlie’s development of her suspicion into full-on investigation. I’m not completely ready to get behind this yet, because it’s still frustrating that no one else is pushing the issue and it absolutely should be Mary Jane who’s on the trail here. But I will say that, ever since she and Peter split, I’ve felt that Slott has made good use of Carlie when she does show up, and this is no exception. She’s a detective, so this is a natural role for her to fall into, and it’s a huge relief at the end of the issue when she fails to be swayed by Otto’s attempts at coming up with an excuse for how savagely he’s beaten on the Vulture.
I mean, if I had to pick one character of the entire Amazing cast to not be a total and complete moron in this book, there are several I’d choose before Carlie. But it’s a relief that someone isn’t, even so.
Pros: A great opening with the “spider signal” joke. Ock’s meeting with Toomes is intriguing, at least initially. The fight sequence is enjoyable and Vulture’s redesign is great. No banana pants!
Cons: The lame attempt at making Otto suddenly have a soft spot for children out of nowhere. Drat, I ran out of web fluid!