Superior’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?
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.
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.