Last issue’s harrowing events left one question on every spider-fan’s mind: What’s Screwball been up to lately? Dan Slott answers that in Superior Spider-Man #6. There’s also some off-hand line about whether or not Spider-Man committed cold-blooded murder against a helpless, unarmed criminal in public, but that’s not what we care about. Bring on Screwball, Jester, and Humberto Ramos! Read the full review to learn my opinion on this issue, and leave a comment!
THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #6
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Humberto Ramos
INKER: Victor Olazaba
COLOR ART: Edgar Delgado
”RUNNING JOKE” (sic): Chris Eliopoulos
- As J. Jonah Jameson orates on cracking down on super-crime and closing down the “revolving door” Raft prison, Screwball and the Jester punk (for lack of a better term) Jonah by shoving pie in his face and pulling down his trousers. Jester alerts his “Titter” followers by “live jexting.” Their wicked scheme involves driving up traffic on their website, which contains an identity theft program.
- Jonah calls in his favorite ultra-violent psycho-vigilante, the Superior Spider-Man, to deal with these miscreants. Otto-Spidey agrees, remembering all of the times Peter embarrassed him and all of the bullying he received as a child.
- While the Spider-Bots track Screwball and Jester, Peterpus drinks coffee with Anna Maria Marconi (is her first name Anna or Anna Maria?) and Professor “Schnoz” Lamaze. When the villains are found, Peterpus rudely exits. He makes time to wreck a car belonging to some jocks who teased Ms. Marconi, and he stuffs the dudes in the trunk while he’s at it. When Marconi discovers the wreckage, she wonders who would do such a thing.
- Meanwhile, the Avengers discuss Spider-Man’s behavioral shift. Spidey’s been brutalizing enemies, he acts erratic, he committed murder . . . ahem . . . he acts arrogant, yada, yada, yada. You know, nothing too serious, but enough that the Avengers should keep an eye on him.
- Spider-Man’s fight with Screwball and Jester goes embarrassingly for Otto, until Otto loses it and dishes out severe beatings and lacerations. Everyone sees this live on Screwball’s webcam, and the Avengers decide to bring Spidey in.
Although I wanted a better follow-up on Otto’s slaying of Massacre, I enjoyed the main story involving Screwball and Jester surprisingly well. Slott gave a great reason why Otto would bother with these seemingly low-threat villains; he knows what public humiliation feels like. In fact, Otto developed his “I’ll show you all!” attitude precisely because people constantly abased him throughout his childhood and adulthood. Even Peter’s old tactic of webbing up Otto’s glasses dredged up those memories and feelings, so when Otto faces villains whose whole modus operandi is inflicting degradation, one can understand why he snapped. Slott used these minor villains effectively, as a platform to explore the protagonist’s deep-seated emotions.
I continue to enjoy Otto’s friendship with Anna Maria Marconi. They have the most genuine chemistry of any relationship Slott has written in this series. I think Otto respects her intelligence and her ability to healthily cope with social persecution similar to what drove Otto to villainy. I also enjoy seeing Otto deal with Peter’s problem of needing to shirk personal obligations to fight crime, and I am intrigued by the hint that Marconi may not like Otto’s true colors once she sees them.
Humberto Ramos’s art helps, for the most part. I normally dislike his preposterously exaggerated style, but I must admit it probably suits this story’s slapstick action and smirking, mocking villains perfectly. On the other hand, a key sequence where Jester pushes Otto too far by smashing his mask’s eyepieces—implicitly recrudescing the emotions associated with bullies smashing Otto’s glasses as a child—gets blunted by Ramos’s unclear art. Nevertheless, once I understood what I was seeing and why it mattered, I appreciated Slott’s great writing in the scene.
But here comes the part of the review where I discuss writing that isn’t great. After issue #5’s purposefully vague ending and the continued dancing around the matter at the start of this issue, I expected some sort of dramatic reveal of what exactly happened to Massacre. But nope, Captain America just casually mentions that Spidey killed someone as one of the reasons “this whole ‘Spider-Man situation’ seems off.” Seems off? That’s so tone deaf. Spider-Man shot a weeping, broken, unarmed man in the head with a high-caliber rifle in the middle of a crowded public subway station. Yeah, that seems pretty God damn “off” to me!
Why does Slott deemphasize the fact that Otto freaking murdered a guy last issue? Spider-Man blasting Massacre’s brains out would have made the nightly news, right? Massacre’s corporate-sponsored killing spree was designed for public visibility. The whole purpose was that the soda-buying public would see him wearing the logo of his benefactor’s business competitor. People would have been watching because that was the whole point. So why isn’t anyone but the Avengers talking about it? People seem more shocked that Spider-Man non-lethally beat Screwball and Jester. I somewhat understand that because Massacre was universally hated while Screwball and Jester are popular internet celebrities, and using excessive force against the latter two characters seems harder to morally rationalize, but I still want to see some broader reaction to the killing. On the bright side, Mary Jane finally seems to notice that Spider-Man isn’t himself. I just don’t understand why shooting someone in the head wasn’t the thing to clue her in.
Also, Slott’s take on Jonah is psychotic. There’s no other way to put it. Jonah encouraged Spider-Man to extrajudicially execute a New York citizen. After Spider-Man did so—in cold blood—Jonah congratulated him for it. Then Jonah practically salivates watching Spider-Man use bladed weapons to slash the flesh of a young man and woman whose worst crimes are childish pranks and attempted credit card fraud. Yes, Screwball and Jester embarrassed Jonah. But does that mean Jonah wants to see their blood ripped out of them? Stan Lee wrote Jonah as greedy, dishonest, and an occasional funder of super villains and killer robots, but I don’t ever remember him displaying a bloodthirst this sadistic.
When an issue presents such a mix of good and bad, a reviewer must decide which points are the most important. The great characterization of Otto earns the highest emphasis because that is this series’s primary draw. The bad characterization of Jonah is important but secondary because he is a secondary character. The brushing aside of Spider-Man’s committing murder can be rectified if future episodes focus on that subject intently, so that gets less weight, too. Thus, I give this issue a qualified recommendation.
3 live jexts out of 5.
LEAVE A COMMENT!