Superior Spider-Man #5 Review – Chris’s Take


SSM5covSpiderpus confronts the devious world of . . . SOFT DRINK ADVERTISING?! Does Superior Spider-Man #5 go flat? Read the review to find out! And leave a comment!

THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #5
 “Emotional Triggers”
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKERS: John Dell & Giuseppe Camuncoli
COLOR ART: Edgar Delgado & Antonio Fabella
LETTERER: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos

 

PLOT POINTS:

  • 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!”
Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 8.47.23 AM

I don’t know what’s funnier, the imagery itself or the implication that Massacre spent hours digitally rendering Adolf Hitler drinking soda just to make this one point in his pitch to Phizzy Cola.

OPINIONS!
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.

"You don't @#$% with the Pepsi generation!"

“You don’t @#$% with the Pepsi generation!”

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.

MY Otto Octavius prefers wiener schnitzel.

MY Otto Octavius prefers wiener schnitzel.

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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(15) Comments

  1. Max A. Frankow

    Just got done with issue #5. Wow. Jaw was on the ground during the final pages. Honestly, I didn't think he would do it. This is starting to become my favorite book out of my subscriptions!

  2. CrazyChris - Post author

    Osama Bin Laden was killed under the rationale, according to Eric Holder, that he was "an enemy commander in the field." The idea is that it was war, not domestic law enforcement, so different rules apply. But we do NOT send elite teams to kill U.S. citizen serial killers. We send teams to apprehend them, and they may use deadly force under limited circumstances where it's necessary, but an officer putting a bullet in the head of an unarmed suspect who has already been aprehended is plain murder. Morally speaking, the debate over whether heroes should kill villains is somewhat interesting as long as we realize that these stories operate under fictional rules that don't apply to the real world. In the Marvel and DC Universes, these kinds of villains are depicted as forces of nature that WILL inevitably escape and kill again. It's CERTAIN that unless the hero kills the villain, numerous more people will die. The real world doesn't work according to those rules. In the real world, someone like Massacre would be put in the federal supermax prison, which no one has ever escaped from. Heck, the average county jail has has better security than a comic book maximum security prison. So these "should the hero kill" dilemas are philosophically interesting but only as highly contrived abstractions.

  3. sthenurus

    I liked this issue mainly for one reason -that SpOck is right! This question of wether or not heroes should kill has always been a big debate but think about it; in the real world, we send elite teams to kill terrorrist or serial killers; and i don't think Bin Laden body count is any higher than Carnage or the joker. Aren't heroes, because they wont kill their ennemies, somewhat helping vilains commit even more crimes? And I dont think Peter is a ghost than subconsciously influence him. I believe he IS SpOck subconsicious.

  4. CrazyChris - Post author

    Erik - Starting with this issue I have resolved to view these issues in the best possible light and to err on giving them the benefit of the doubt. The hard thing about reviewing a serial comic story one issue at a time is that it forces you to judge one chapter of a story that isn't finished yet. That often leads to problems because so much what makes the present issue good or bad depends on how it contributes to the overall story, including future chapters, but you can't take that into account because the future chapters haven't been read yet. For example, I read many reviews of ASM #700 where the main negative point was that it was a bad send-off to Peter Parker. All of those reviews suddenly became meaningless and obsolete the day SSM #1 came out a few weeks later. But that's no fault of the reviewers because they had no way of knowing that Ghost Peter was coming. The problem is inherent in reviewing serial fiction one issue at a time. But given that it's what we have to do, we have to make assumptions about what's going to happen next. The choice is whether to assume that it's going to turn out good, or to assume it's going to turn out bad. To stay sane and not get burned out like I did with the Venom reviews, I'll assume it'll turn out okay. That doesn't mean every issue automatically gets a 5. It just means that if the story can go one of two ways and the quality of the current issue depends on which way the writer ultimately chooses, then I'll try to give the overall story the benefit of the doubt when evaluating the current issue. I'll still acknowledge the uncertainty, like I did in this review, but it gets the benefit of the doubt. If Massacre's alive, then I'll take it out on the issue where that's revealed to be true. Rob - "I suspect Jonah’s comment will be 'zerotolerance for . . . taking the law into your own hands.'" We know that Jonah has no problems with taking the law into one's own hands because he's been hoping for Spider-Man to kill Massacre. That's a good point about witnesses saw Spider-Man deliberate before pulling the trigger. That's good evidence that this wasn't a crime of passion or something and was actually premeditated murder. There should also be cameras in Grand Central Station. Wasn't the whole point of Massacre's crime to get as much publicity as possible, you'd think he would have chosen a place he knew his soda shirt would be caught on tape. So realistically there'd be video of Spider-Man shooting a defenseless, crying man in the head on every news station in the world. And you're right that Spider-Man being an Avenger means that he's essentially a law enforcement officer. The Avengers are still a government sanctioned team, right? And whether or not New York is a death penalty state doesn't really matter. The death penalty means the defendant gets a jury trial to determine his guilt, another hearing where a jury determines the sentence, plus appeals and postconviction proceedings, and an opportunity to apply for executive clemency. Getting shot in the head by an officer at the scene is not the death penalty. Even if this happened in Texas, that'd be murder. Hopefully future issues go through the consequences of this. I'll give this the benefit of the doubt until we know for sure.

  5. Robert Dye

    I suspect Jonah's comment will be "zerotolerance for . . . taking the law into your own hands." If PeterPus shot an unarmed man, he will have a lot of explaining to do, especially as it can be argued that he is acting as a member of law enforcement. He is an Avenger, and Jonah has been in communication with him (there are witnesses), telling him that he has to deal with this. I think Slott will cheat somehow, claiming that PeterPus shot Massacre in the kneecap or some such, permanently disabling him. You cannot do that, especially as a member of law enforcement. Not with an unarmed man. I don't care if he just shot a hundred people. You cannot get away with shooting him. MAYBE if Otto shot Massacre as soon as he got his hands on Massacre's gun, and claimed that he thought Massacre was still armed. MAYBE if he could claim that he had to shoot Massacre before he could set off the detonator. But there are witnesses who know that Otto ALREADY freed the hostages. The are witnesses who know that Otto deliberated BEFORE he pulled the trigger. Unless we are going to somehow claim that Otto pulled the trigger to alert the police to whee he and Massacre were (WTF? Firing a weapon in Grand Cetral Station? Even if you could get by with that, which you cannot, pointing it DOWN???), it looks as though Otto shot Massacre SOMEHOW, and thee needs to b e a consequence for that. If Spider-Man is not taken into custody, then he is at the very least a fugitive from justice. Poor writing. I'm sorry. I *really* want to like this. I liked the scene in the tutor's apartment more than I can express. Maybe Slott has some "out" that I have overlooked. It's possible. But it had bettr be a very good one, or he's gone too far off of suspension of disbelief. I'l believe that the hero can crawl walls, but not that he lives in a version of New York that has a rule of law, but lets a costumed vigilante shoot an unarmed man without any consequence. If NY were a death penalty state, it might have been interesting to see how that alternative would play itself out. Otto is right that he does not have any really good solutions here, considering how frequently super-villains escape from prison. But the end (stopping Massacre from killing again) cannot justify the means (shooting an unarmed man). It just can't. Rob

  6. Erik Lexie

    Chris -- I agree that revealing Massacre is still alive would be a huge cheat. I'm not sure what makes you think that would stop it, though. At this point, lame cop-outs are what I've come to expect from his cliffhangers.

  7. Eddie deAngelini

    My money is that Massacre isn't dead. The reporter at the end only said that Spidey 'neutralized' him. Even though Peter's not in the driver's seat, we can't have Spidey forever known as a killer. <a href="http://www.collectorscomic.com" rel="nofollow"></a>

  8. CrazyChris - Post author

    1 - The "dictator" direction seems like where this is headed, and I do think the line was supposed to be chilling . . . but I think at the same time it was supposed to be goofy. It's chillingly goofy. 2 - I can buy Peter not being indecisive here because (a) it's easy to be decisive when you're not the one who actually has to make the hard choice; and (b) Massacre kills people due to physical brain damage that he didn't choose, so even though he has a high body count he's arguably not as responsible for his actions as someone who is actually just bad, like the Kingpin (an example of someone in recent memory that Peter seriously wanted to kill). In fact, this issue all but told us directly that murdering Massacre might not have actually been the only solution. 3 - That's a good point, actually. Killing Kafka accomplished nothing for this story arc. I don't remember her even being mentioned in part 2. It was just a total waste of a character. 4 - I had the same thought and the issue does seem like it is being intentionally vague. But the more I look at how the page where Otto shoots is composed, the more I think that revealing that Massacre was alive would be a huge cheat. We see the gun pressed directly against Massacre's head. Then the perspective changes so that we're seeing the barrel of the gun pointed at the camera. There's no indication that anyone moved. Then he fires, with specks of blood visible in the muzzle flash. Still no indication that anyone moved. Then JJJ, who has always felt that Massacre should be executed on the spot, praises how Spidey handled it. They'd have a lot of 'splaining to do to say Otto didn't bust a cap right in Massacre's forehead. 5 - I hope not. If they do something like that, or say that the bullet went through the already-damaged portion of Massacre's brain, then I hope they at least make it clear that Otto intended to kill him. If it's revealed that Otto intended for Massacre to live, then you can retroactively drop my grade for this issue by one point.

  9. Javi Trujillo

    So, Ock with his superior aim, shot Massacre in the exact spot in the head that wouldn't kill him, but give him a lobotomy of sorts, making Massacre not want to kill?

  10. Bertone

    I think it Massacre was dead they would have made it more obvious. GhostPeter would've freaked out....we would've seen a body...they would have given us the shock value. The cliffhanger left it vague so Slott/Marvel could watch us squirm for a month.

  11. spideytothemax

    I think this issue brought me fully on board for Superior. Pete's reaction to the whole Massacre thing just annoyed me. Not even a moments hesitation about sparing that monsters life? Am I just flat out wrong in thinking that that doesn't really seem like Peter Parker? A thought bubble with some indecision on Peter's part would have been nice. This guys been out of jail for hours and he's killed probably upwards of thirty people including one person that Peter knew fairly well. I just can't relate to Peter here. Maybe I'd feel differently if someone was using my body to do the deed though. If this is the reason the Avengers cut him loose I hope they send Wolvie with him.

  12. stillanerd

    "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." I don't think Slott intended that moment to come across as goofy at all (even though it was an awkward line) but that it was supposed to give readers the chills. Because what that scene firmly establishes, which was reinforced by the earlier scene of him killing Massacre, is that Doc Ock had taken Peter's "With great power comes great responsibility" mantra and twisted it into making himself believe he has the "moral obligation" to be above the law and appoint himself judge, jury and executioner and that the frightening thing is that the people of New York--including J. Jonah Jameson of all people--are giving permission to do exactly that. Basically, Doc Ock, as Spider-Man, is on the path of becoming a self-appointed "dictator" of New York because he feels he has the "power" and "responsibility" to do so. Which mean, ironically, he's now become an even greater menace. To quote Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

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