THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #5
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKERS: John Dell & Giuseppe Camuncoli
COLOR ART: Edgar Delgado & Antonio Fabella
LETTERER: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
- Miranda Pullman, C.E.O. of Phizzy Cola Industries, agrees to pay Massacre twelve million dollars to perform a mass killing whilst wearing a competing cola brand’s t-shirt, thus sabotaging the competitor’s publicity.
- Spiderpus integrates Uatu Jackson’s facial recognition software with the spider-bots, enabling Spiderpus to locate anyone in New York City.
- Peterpus then meets science tutor Anna Maria Marconi, a little person who makes chemically perfect Italian food. Peterpus claims her cooking tastes better than his mother’s. I guess Otto must be Italian, given the Roman origin of “Octavius.” But whenever I read Otto’s dialogue I still hear his German accent from the 90s animated series. Imagine someone saying “Homemade pignolata! From scratch! Perfetto!” in that voice.
- Spiderpus tracks Massacre to Grand Central Station, where Massacre’s killing in the name of Mocha Cola. Spidey renders Massacre helpless and holds a gun to his head. Massacre starts crying, showing human emotion for the first time. After some internal deliberation, Spiderpus pulls the trigger.
- Spiderpus menaces the evil soda C.E.O. to make her confess to the authorities. Our hero declares that his power and responsibility is to “watch over and JUDGE YOU ALL!”
As evil schemes go, Phizzy Cola and Massacre’s stands among the lamest on record, but that doesn’t hurt the reading experience because it’s so lame it’s funny. I think Slott may have drawn inspiration from the initial speculation on whether the Aurora, Colorado shooting would hurt the Dark Knight Rises’s box office performance. Part of me worries that mass shootings present too sensitive of subject matter to incorporate into a silly comic book at present (and this is quite silly—I mean, murderous soda marketing?). I take interest in how other people feel about that. Pleasantly, Slott never inserts overt messages about gun control into this story, and if you read his Twitter then you know he has strong opinions about the connection between gun policy and mass shootings. Comics can work as a venue for such statements, but here it would have distracted us from the story’s insights character insights regarding Otto.
Speaking of which, it looks like Spiderpus actually killed Massacre. We only see the muzzle flash from Spidey’s gun and no body, so maybe Slott’s tricking us somehow. But for now I choose the believe Spiderpus really murdered Massacre. That route certainly puts the story on a more fascinating track. Otto relenting due to his redemptive evolution or Ghost Peter’s interference would have rang as too obvious, even trite. Having Spiderpus actually kill a villain, on the other hand, opens the story to a host of ramifications. Hopefully, future issues will address the consequences. For now I am interested in what this means for Otto’s characterization. Has Otto retained even more of his true nature than we thought? The fact that Massacre started to display human emotion, perhaps embarking on his own redemptive evolution, makes the moment much more ambiguous than it might have been. It would have been too easy for this comic to water down the moral gravity of Spiderpus’s choice by continuing to portray Massacre as completely soulless. Granted, the emotion Massacre felt was fear for his own life, not empathy for his victims, but we are meant to view this as a milestone for Massacre because the story has always attributed his criminality to his incapacity to feel any emotion at all. Spiderpus tells Massacre that having new emotions changes nothing, “that killer will always be hiding inside of you.” Otto knows this because he also has new emotions (broadcast into him by Peter in Amazing Spider-Man #700), yet he can still sense the killer within himself. Otto could describe himself with the same words he speaks to massacre. Read between the lines, and this is Otto shooting his own mirror image. Arrogant Otto has more self-loathing than he lets on. In killing Massacre, he is lashing out at something he hates in himself. But in doing so, he exposes that very thing he hates, the killer hiding inside of him.
In another highlight, this issue introduces Anna Marconi. She’s my favorite Slott-brewed supporting character so far. She’s assertive, intelligent, and has great hospitality. What’s not to like? She also happens to have dwarfism, adding some welcome physical diversity into Spider-Man’s universe. In general, I endorse Otto having his own supporting cast apart from Peter’s. It gives Peterpus a context where he can act naturally without the distinctness of his behavior from Peter’s being an issue. With new characters like Anna, Otto can develop interpersonal relationships with genuine chemistry.
The issue’s remainder reads pretty typically of Superior Spider-Man. We get more proof that Otto is a more efficient Spider-Man than Peter. Otto uses his spider-bots to do his detective work for him, he thinks to rescue Massacre’s hostages before the big showdown, and he calls the police for backup ahead of the fight. The point that Otto plans and manages his time better than Peter has already been made and I don’t think this series needs to keep focusing on it this intensely. And, of course, Ghost Peter still floats around giving his irritating commentary and occasionally influencing Peterpus’s actions. Unless Slott gives Peter something better to do than whine about Otto’s carb intake, this book would be superior without him in it.
The final dialogue, where Otto declares he will “watch over and JUDGE YOU ALL!” made me giggle because of how awkward that line is and how excessively dramatic the lettering looks. I suspect Slott intended the scene to come off as goofy, but I am not sure. This comic weaves in and out of absurdity so often that I cannot tell when it’s speaking with a straight face. Sometimes that leads to disaster, like in issue #2. This time, though, Slott and company strike the proper balance between gravitas and levity, producing an amusing, thought-provoking read.
4 Phizzy Colas out of 5.
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