Superior Spider-Man #4 Review

detailSuperior’s first instance of a Slott-created villain arrives, with Marcus Lyman, a Big Time invention, escaping from prison to kill again. And almost nothing else of interest happens until the last page, in what I think I can confidently call the most purely mediocre issue of Superior so far. Still, that last page has an awful lot of potential…

The Superior Spider-Man #4: The Aggressive Approach

Words by Dan Slott

Pencils by Giuseppe Camuncoli

Inks by John Dell

Colors by Edgar Delgado

Letters by Chris Eliopoulos

My greatest fear with this book is that it is going to wear out its welcome long before it meets its end. Issue 4 is already starting to worry me in that department, because so much of what’s in here is retreading territory we’ve already been through plenty of times.

I’m already tired, for example, of opening these issues with Otto’s internal monologues about what a superior Spider-Man he is. I think we’ve gotten that message already, that his cold and calculating approach causes him to run his life and his crime fighting more efficiently than Peter did. Yet Slott wastes the first four pages on Otto giving the reader a speech about how his spider-bots, which we already met a couple issues ago, let him stop more crimes by patrolling the city for him and how he’s not going to be a failure like Parker.

And then it just keeps going. But what’s the actual plot here?

1I refuse to live in a world without my well-earned title!

The drama that this issue revolves around is the escape of Marcus Lyman, the mass killer Slott created earlier in Big Time. At least I think it’s supposed to. Lyman first appears already out of his cell at Ravencroft, proceeding to murder Dr. Ashley Kafka and then a bunch of people in a fast food restaurant. Lyman was clearly created to emphasize the moral issue Slott is fond of raising around death and killing in Spider-Man’s world — the question of how responsible Spidey is for the deaths of those his enemies kill, when he refuses to kill his enemies. Summoned by Mayor Jameson to track Lyman down, Otto vows not to repeat Peter’s mistake of letting the villain live this time, obviously over the objections of Peter’s ever-present ghost.

Yet only a portion of the issue is devoted to this plot point. The other half is meanders about, first spending time on Otto’s patrols and his strategy for capturing all the Vulture’s wild-running kid goons. Then it retreads scenes where “Peter” acts obnoxious and overconfident while Max and Uatu remark on what a tool he’s been lately but never actually do anything about it. When Otto realizes, at the end of this, that Peter never got a doctorate because he was too busy being Spider-Man, he flies into a rage and decides to return to ESU to finish his academic career. I did find this scene interesting, as it drops some tidbits about Otto’s own past at the school and teases a connection to his new professor. But I also found myself wondering what this issue was moving toward when it seemed so incapable of making up its mind about its subject matter.

The issue’s final scene is another curveball — the last remaining of Vulture’s kid crew fly around the city, pondering how they can stay out of Spidey’s web, when they are greeted by none other than the Green Goblin, who assures them he knows every trick in the wall crawler’s book and exactly how to take him out. I’m sure many readers have, like me, been wondering when Norman Osborn’s escape would become relevant in Superior, and I’m glad to see him back so soon, as this is one of the few elements of Superior’s setup that I was actually interested in seeing play out.

2I… figured it out a while back.

As nice as it was to see Norman as the Goblin again, I felt like there was something really lacking when I got to the end of this issue, and as I started to go back through the book it became more and more clear. This fourth issue isn’t actually a story of its own at all, and doesn’t even feel like the first installment of one. All of the issues it raises — Peter’s objections to Otto’s interactions with women and his violent tendencies, the efficiency of his plan-everything-out approach, his hubris at work, the moral dilemma around killing — are extremely well-covered territory. So after all twenty pages are exhausted, what did we gain, story-wise, that we didn’t have before?

We didn’t. While I’m sure Slott has plenty more story ideas, it seems he wasn’t ready to get to them just yet, and so instead we have an issue that consists mostly of his trademark “tell, tell, tell” approach to setup. Someday, maybe we’ll be able to learn something on our own about the world of the Superior Spider-Man. But in the meantime there will be an ever-present, floating blue Peter to spoon-feed it to us.

Pros: It was nice to see the return of the Green Goblin at the end. Otto’s return to ESU was somewhat entertaining.

Cons: While a bunch of things happen in this issue, none of it is really new, which left me feeling very unfulfilled. There’s no real action or tension, and Peter’s constant exposition about Otto’s behavior is starting to really weigh the book down, because he’s saying nothing that isn’t already obvious to the reader. 

Grade: C-

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(26) Comments

  1. CrazyChris

    @24 - We saw her body strewn across the floor, unmoving, with her remaining eye open, while a professional crime scene investigator examined her with a flashlight. Spiderpus said "She was a friend." If she was still alive everyone would be rushing her to a hospital instead of standing around her, carrying a conversation. We are meant to interpret the scene as her being dead.

  2. Erik Lexie - Post author

    Actually, my personal theory is that Norman is going to realize the Spidey he's fighting is different.

  3. Sbee613

    @ #16 there's no way Norman will even be a threat to this spider-man slott wouldn't want his creation to look so weak so early on. every villian he's faced he's found new "superior" ways for taking out everyone so I'm sure slott will make it so doc Ock will defeat Norman rather easily.

  4. Jack Brooks

    Kafka's death is another example of people being written as stupid because Slott's plot requires it. Just like brilliant geniuses at Horizon hearing a sociopathic Peter -- who was the exact opposite before -- saying "accessing memories" out loud (fer cryin' sake), and thinking "Hmm."

  5. hornacek

    @17 The people you listed are either villains or major supporting characters. Villains come back from the dead all the time, that's a staple of not only Marvel but all comics. As for the supporting characters you mentioned, they have been around for many decades and have long histories. I'm sure many writers were eager to bring them back after they had been killed. I can't imagine any Spidey author in a few years saying "you know who I REALLY want to bring back? Dr. Kafka". (well, maybe JMD)@19 Thanks, but I think he was saying I was either very intelligent or in the mob.

  6. Enigma_2099

    "Lyman first appears already out of his cell at Ravencroft, proceeding to murder Dr. Ashley Kafka and then a bunch of people in a fast food restaurant."... HUH?!?!? Will he shoot Carlie next, or is she still off limits?!?!?

  7. Andrew

    @7 No, wise-guy. Like Norman Osborn, Harry Osborn, Kraven, Mysterio, Aunt May, Mary Jane, Hobgoblin, Doc Ock himself, Jackal, I could go on and on. Sure, there are exceptions, but the trend is clear. Besides wait a few years. Sure, DeWolff will come back eventually. They already teased it once. Everyone knows comicbook deaths are cheap and meaningless nowadays, so I never really care when a character dies. Maybe her ghost will haunt SpOck too.

  8. Donovan Grant

    #11: "The story is meant to be a character drama about Peter – he has his approach because of his personality, not because he’s perfect and it’s the only way to go. Even if Doc Ock’s improvements are better in some ways, that doesn’t mean Peter has failed, it just means Peter has to consider it going forward. Obviously I have no idea whether Otto’s improvements are going to end badly, although it seems likely at least some of them will for the sake of drama."Exactly right NickMB.

  9. Nick MB

    @13 Considering Slott's scripts are already implying that Ock's approach is brutal and emotionless, I'm not sure it'll be that simple. Ock is only "Superior" in his own opinion, Slott doesn't have to be 100% in agreement with all the dialogue he types.

  10. Sbee613

    It's not really surprising he's making the spider-man he created look smarter and "superior" he's said he's the biggest spider-man fan he never said he was the biggest Peter Parker fan. And this is his way to make the years of the real Peter look terribly ineffective unproductive and a huge mistake and that the guy who essentially murdered him in front of his loved ones deserves to be the "superior" spider-man.

  11. Nick MB

    The story is meant to be a character drama about Peter - he has his approach because of his personality, not because he's perfect and it's the only way to go. Even if Doc Ock's improvements are better in some ways, that doesn't mean Peter has failed, it just means Peter has to consider it going forward. Obviously I have no idea whether Otto's improvements are going to end badly, although it seems likely at least some of them will for the sake of drama.

  12. jack brooks

    Except that you know the series will revert back to Peter Parker, and it isn't good to have part of the reader's aftermath to be, "What do you know, the psychopathic mass murderer was right, Peter really is a doofus." The only way I see this working without further demeaning Peter is if Otto's "improvements" blow up -- i.e., the spider-bots go nuts and turn the city into a police state, Otto's ruthlessness makes crime in the city 10x worse. Then Peter's social values, refusal to kill, and general empoathy look really good in contrast.

  13. Nick MB

    @8 I think that's meant to be the big question isn't it... Otto might be "superior" in terms of raw efficiency and willingness to kill, but does that make him better than Peter? There's an uncomfortable ambiguity there. Surely it's a more interesting drama when the villain might have a valid point?

  14. jack brooks

    Massacre doesn't have any powers, right? How does he get away with all this? Even in the MU, the police and FBI ought to be on him like a chicken on a June bug.I don't like how SSM is steadily making Peter look ineffectual. A lot of what Ock is doing makes perfectly good sense. OK, he's not averse to killing, and that is a huge difference. Peter respects the rule of law. But a lot of what Ock has done is more logical than Peter, or more clever, and he's already outperforming Peter at Horizon Labs, and all that does make Peter look inferior.

  15. Andrew

    Guys, guys it's Marvel. Dr Kafka isn't really dead. Just comic dead. She'll come back in five years (or less) with the usual "I got better" excuse (if her death is even addressed at all).

  16. hornacek

    Slott killed off Dr. Kafka? JMD must have felt a disturbance in force when that happened. I can't believe Slott would so cavalierly kill off such a long-standing supporting character. True, she hasn't been in the book in awhile, and when she was she wasn't a constant supporting character, but still.Then again, given the fact that Slott killed off Spider-Man, should we really be surprised at anything he does? I mean he has clearly shown that he doesn't care about Spider-Man. "Hey, there's no bigger Spider-Man fan in the world than me! Now if you'll excuse me I have to write the story where I kill him off and replace him with a murdering psychopath."

  17. Donovan Grant

    What really stuck with me in this issue was the blase killing off of Dr. Kafka after being a supporting character in the pages of Spider-Man for decades. True she's not been shown for a while, but that's not a reason to not treat her death with a bit more interest.

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