Cardiac returns to the pages of Spider-Man as an unexpected new opponent, which catalyzes a renewed struggle on Peter’s part to assert his influence and ultimately leads to a long-overdue confrontation with the Avengers. It’s nice to have the story moving again.
The Superior Spider-Man #07
Words by Dan Slott
Pencils by Humberto Ramos
Inks by Victor Olazaba
Colors by Edgar Delgado
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Me? I just woulda rushed on in by now…
Slott’s penchant for involving obscure characters from the past is something I find very hit or miss. But this time was definitely one of the hits. Cardiac, unlike most of the characters Slott has brought back to face off against Dr. Parkerpus, really seems like a great choice of antagonist. Otto’s superficial encounter with him highlights how the new Spider-Man’s approach is “superior” in the eyes of New York’s current authorities but is lacking the deep-seated morality that drove Peter.
As he’s done several times now, Otto flies off the handle at his opponent, preparing either to kill or at least brutalize him. He’s fueled largely by the realization that the tech Cardiac is trying to steal is his “neurolitic scanner,” the device he came up with way back in the day that allowed him to control his robotic arms. I really liked that development because it underscores the fact that if Otto bothered to consider what kind of man Cardiac is he’d be able to see that he was fighting on the wrong side. This is a mistake Peter never would have made.
Ghost Peter rears his annoying head again during the battle, but I didn’t mind it in this case because it’s serving the purpose of furthering the story of his struggle to regain his body. I was genuinely relieved when he was able to stop Otto from delivering the beating he intended against Cardiac, though I did feel it rang slightly hollow after we saw no intervention of this kind at all during Otto’s last few acts of violence. After all, we saw Peter staying Otto’s hand as early as Superior Spider-Man #1. Now in this issue he acts like he’s doing it for the first time, which strikes me as somewhat sloppy writing.
I even have to say that Ramos did a pretty decent job rendering the whole fight. His action sequences are often highly confusing, but here he did a nice job of showing the super-powered scuffle between these two as they crashed into warehouse crates and leaped around with bolts of energy flying everywhere.
Part of the reason why I appreciated this issue is because it felt old school in the right ways. Slott is relying even more heavily than usual on internal dialogue to move the plot forward, going so far as to have Cardiac give a mental monologue to himself for the whole first page of the book just so readers know who he is and what he’s up to. Cardiac’s thoughts are delivered in old school style “thought bubbles,” rather than the modern square caption style — but those captions are still used for Otto’s thoughts. It separates the two in an effectively subtle way and distinguishes Cardiac as a sort of forgotten hero of a lighter, nobler time. (This characterization is a little bizarre, I’ll grant, considering that Cardiac was invented in the early 90s. But somehow it works for me.)
Otto’s woken up by his phone alerting him of trouble, and with barely even a monologue about how superior he is (finally!), goes swinging off into the night. There’s no delay before he comes face to face with Cardiac and a skirmish ensues that moves the plot along quickly. The focus on flashy superhuman combat with a lot of cheesy expository dialogue, while still developing a lot of story, reminded me of old 60s and 70s Spidey stories in a way I genuinely enjoyed. I was particularly impressed by this because I usually feel much less warm towards Slott’s attempts at bringing back “old school” writing to his comics. It didn’t feel forced to me here, and that made all the difference.
Finally, Spidey goes to see the Avengers, and I’m right alongside Ghost Peter this time as he expresses his relief that they are finally expressing a delayed reaction over Otto’s suspicious behavior. It’s still annoying to me when I see lines like “I was starting to think you were all taking stupid pills” from Peter, because it’s proof that Slott must be aware of the weak links in his own plot chain, but the upshot of all this is that Cap and his squad are finally putting their feet down and insisting that Spidey get checked out, leaving us on an exciting cliffhanger just as Otto prepares to resist them with force.
While I don’t love every part of it, for the most part this is the issue of Superior I’ve been hoping for. It’s finally delivering on some of the promising plot developments Slott has been teasing, and it was an action-packed read not bogged down by too much absurdity. If this had happened a few issues ago I’d have a much higher opinion of Superior as a whole.
Pros: A solid return for Cardiac, and a very well done fight scene between him and Otto. Characterization is good throughout, and Slott is finally moving the Superior storyline forward in ways that grab my attention and keep me interested in the next issue.
Cons: The only significant one I can think of is the way Peter’s sudden intervention was treated like a fresh discovery, which was a bit of a head-scratcher for me.