Superior Spider-Man #4 Review – Chris’s Take

ssm4covOtto gets schooled, Massacre catches Ashley Kafka’s eye, and the Vulture Babies find a new guardian angel. Access your memories, Crawlspacers, it’s Superior Spider-Man #4!

 “The Aggressive Approach”
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKER: John Dell
COLOR ART: Edgar Delgado
LETTERER: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos

  • Otto spider-mans so much better than Peter that he makes time to attend Aunt May’s therapy session. Otto intends to test a cybernetic walking aid on May, horrifying his Horizon colleagues.
  • Otto realizes Peter Parker cannot make people call him “doctor,” so he reenrolls at Empire State University.
  • Massacre escapes from Ravencroft, killing eight people including Ashley Kafka, and using Kafka’s severed eye to bypass the retinal scanners. Spiderpus tells J. Jonah Jameson that Spider-Man was an idiot to save Massacre’s life and swears to “end” Massacre.
  • The Vulture Babies encounter the Green Goblin, who tells them to spread the word that he will crush Spider-Man once and for all.

I enjoyed practically all of this issue, but one bad thing overpowers the whole recipe: Ashley Kafka’s death stank. Now, last time a character seemed to die (Peter), he returned one issue later, so take that for what it’s worth, but Slott clearly means for us to believe Dr. Kafka has stuffed her last padded cell.

How to retcon Ashley Kafka's death in four easy steps: (1) say she was just sleeping with her eyes open; (2) say that when Carlie called Kafka "one of today's first victims," she only meant that Kafka was the victim of a nonlethal assault; (3) say that when Spiderpus said "she--was a friend" he NEVER said she ISN'T STILL a friend; and (4) say that when Ghost Peter said "This is all my fault!" he really just meant to say it was Tuesday.

How to retcon Ashley Kafka’s death in four easy steps: (1) say that she was just sleeping with her eye open; (2) say that when Carlie called Kafka “one of today’s first victims,” she only meant that Kafka was the victim of a nonlethal assault; (3) say that when Spiderpus said “she–was a friend” he NEVER said she ISN’T STILL a friend; and (4) say that when Ghost Peter said “This is all my fault!” he really just meant to say it was Tuesday.


Dr. Kafka featured prominently in my favorite Spider-Man run, J.M. Dematteis and Sal Buscema’s tenure on Spectacular Spider-Man, so I retain a fondness for her. Unceremoniously slaughtering C-list characters to promote “now I know my ABCs, next time won’t you sing with me”-list characters just wastes character, period. Slott apparently sacrificed Kafka to bolster his own barely-established creation, Massacre. Therefore, this was bad. Was killing a familiar face supposed to garner audience sympathy for Otto’s mission to murder Massacre? If so, then it didn’t work because nothing explains why Otto would react more intensely to Kafka’s death than to any random person’s. Furthermore, Slott’s characterization of Dr. Kafka in her final moments seems off. She refers to Massacre as “actually less than human” because his brain injury made him sociopathic. I don’t think the Ashley Kafka that J.M.D. created, the hyper-compassionate crusader for mentally and physically damaged outcasts, would ever call a patient subhuman. I’m sure Slott meant this as an innocuous expository line and not as character assassination (not figuratively, at least), but gosh darn it, if you’re going to bring a supporting character out of limbo just to kill her, then at least write her perfectly.

Continuity guru Josh Bertone tells me Kafka’s current employment at Ravencroft is a continuity glitch, so there’s that, too.

But, as I said, I enjoyed much of Superior Spider-Man #4. First, despite myself I consider Massacre an interesting villain. Most members of the crazed mass killer villain trope are depicted as manic and deranged, but Massacre’s deal is that he is logical but utterly lacking in empathy. That’s actually a more accurate depiction of the real syndrome of psychopathy than what, say, Carnage or the Joker represents. Although one expects an emotionless character to be boring because that gimmick allows for limited range and dynamism, Slott and Camuncoli (whose art has never looked better) make excellent use of the tension this pitiless, unpredictable, yet eerily rational and honest, slayer brings to any situation. Mind you, the creators could have accomplished all of that without killing off Ashley Kafka.

Mocha cola actually sounds really good. Is that real?

Mocha cola actually sounds really good. Is that real?


Second, Otto’s intention of using unethical human trials to help Aunt May walk again wonderfully shows how Otto’s mad scientist approach to life differs from Peter’s. As my fellow reviewer Erik pointed out, this series has grown a little bit repetitive with Otto constantly declaring himself the “superior Spider-Man” and belaboring how much more efficiently than Peter he fights crime, but I do appreciate it whenever we see a new take on Otto’s gradual adaptation to Peter’s life.

Which brings me to my third and last “like” of the issue. I love Otto’s attempting to finish Peter’s graduate degree. A college campus makes for an unexpected atmosphere for Peterpus, cleverly returning the series to a college setting without regressing any character development. It never occurred to me that Doctor Octopus isn’t a doctor whilst he inhabits Peter’s body, and Otto’s own reaction to hearing the bad news from Max Modell produces the funniest moment in Superior Spider-Man so far.

Was this review written by a doctor? Accessing memories. YES! CrazyChris, J.D.

Was this review written by a doctor? Accessing memories. YES! CrazyChris, J.D.

Slott even inserts a whiff of some new supporting characters, which might be a good idea because that gives Otto characters he can interact with without raising the suspicion which should come naturally to Peter’s friends and family. I have nothing to say about the Green Goblin’s appearance. Let’s see where Slott takes that subplot.

2 dead psychiatrists out of 5. If Massacre killed a nameless extra instead of Ashley Kafka, then I’d have enjoyed this much more.


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(20) Comments

  1. RDMacQ

    @"Anyone else feels that besides the Green Goblin coming back again once Peter returns all of Superior Spider-Man’s adventure won’t matter?" I believed that long before the Green Goblin even came back. Nothing Slott is doing is all that radical or ground breaking. Hell, JMD covered the same ground- villain "killing" the hero, impersonating him, being more "brutal" in his methods to prove himself "superior, but the hero being "alive" all along- in Kraven's Last Hunt over twenty years ago. And THAT had far more impact than ANYthing Slott has done. Hell, even Norman coming back isn't that big of a deal. Somebody already resurrected him. Slott's just following common tropes, and not really doing anything new with them. As par for course.

  2. The Spot

    I would have thought based on the review it would have been a a 3/5, yes Kafkas killing was a downer for you but based on the tone of the review and everything else 2 just seems harsh. But nice review all the same.

  3. Douglas Ernst

    That's true Erik, and hopefully it will be addressed. Regardless, it's just another facet of the whole debacle that makes me roll my eyes. I can't wait until this is over with.

  4. Erik Lexie

    One typical view of ghosts is that they are spirits who have some kind of unfinished business to attend to or something they can't leave behind and so they can't go to their eternal rest. Seems to apply pretty well in this situation.

  5. Douglas Ernst

    "Hi, my name is Peter Parker. I died, and instead of reconnecting with Uncle Ben, Gwen and countless other loved ones ... I follow around Peterpus. I'd enjoy heaven, but it's so 'eh' that I constantly sneak off to blame myself for things that are happening on Earth."

  6. Enigma_2099

    So he brings back Kafka, writes her way out of character... and then just kills her off. Oh we're dealing with a real genius here, folks![/sarcasm] "She refers to Massacre as “actually less than human” because his brain injury made him sociopathic." This is the woman who went above and beyond to help VERMIN and CARRION!!!! Slott, you're doing it wrong!!! ... why couldn't he have killed Carlie?

  7. hornacek

    @7 We can only hope. No wait, I'm sure all of these stories will matter years from now, the same way all of the Mackie/Byrne stories matter now!

  8. Symbiotic_€vO

    The gigantic holes in the security of every super prision in Marvel is necesary and basicly needed, if a writer can pull a outbreak that sounds logic i every way my hat is of for he/she, But I strongly agree with the huge con of killing Dr Kafka, asi it is we are running out of doctors here, taking her eye of I can deal with, probably will give her the Fury effect. Also, Dr Kafka dealt with Cletus Kasady and boy that was a moutfull, (Its a wonderfull Life, comes to my mind, ayone else remembers that?) she did therapy for Chameleon and many others that in my opinion are way more evil than Massacre, it was completly out of character her final lines, horrible way to kill off a character As always loved the review

  9. Erik Lexie

    At this point I think it's just part of the world of cape comics that the "high security" prisons designed to hold super villains are ridiculously ineffective.

  10. Sbee613

    @#5 there's no way ravencroft could be that efficient then slotts own creation wouldn't look so clever and diabolical hed look like what he actually is a tired mundane cliche' that a over zealous troll of a writer made.

  11. Extreme Spider

    Anyone else feels that besides the Green Goblin coming back again once Peter returns all of Superior Spider-Man's adventure won't matter?

  12. CrazyChris - Post author

    By the way, in the real world there is a very mundane way to prevent what Massacre did in this issue. In the maximum security prison I've visited, the procedure was that before a prisoner can be let out of his cell he has to put his hands through a slot in the door so that he can be shackled before the guards are ever in the same room with him. Plus, every inch of the place is being watched on surveillance cameras. And I don't believe a guard would ever go inside a cell with a prisoner by himself, anyway. Thus, killing a guard and stealing his uniform to escape is pretty much impossible. In other words, Ravencroft should spend less money on retinal scanners and focus on the fundamentals.

  13. Donovan Grant

    Ah I s'pose. That was my biggest con as well. It's like Slott's move now is to kill off 90s era supporting female characters. Only this time it was as if the comic book was like "Ashley Kafka died. That's interesting I guess." I also didn't like how Slott had her put Massacre over as such a hardass villian who's separate from all other psychopaths. Her dealings with Carnage I would think would have affected her more so that Slott's homemade creation. Kinda like putting Modell in the same league as Captain Stacy and Uncle Ben.

  14. CrazyChris - Post author

    Ashley Kafka's death was so bad that it all my pros could not make up for it. I said it "overpowers the whole recipe." Quantity of pros does not mean the pros outweigh the cons. One brick weighs more than three pebbles.

  15. Donovan Grant

    "and (4) say that when Ghost Peter said “This is all my fault!” he really just meant to say it was Tuesday" XFD This so much

  16. Donovan Grant

    2/5? Judging by your review and how the pros outweighed the cons, I honestly expected at least a 3.5

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