THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #8
“Troubled Mind Part 2: Proof Positive”
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Humberto Ramos
INKER: Victor Olazaba
COLOR ART: Edgar Delgado
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
- The Avengers subject Spider-Man to scientific tests to confirm his identity. Luckily for Otto, none of the actual scientists on the Avengers are present, and only Otto notices the anomaly in his brain patterns. Assuming that Peter must have just woke up on the wrong side of the bed the day he brutally murdered an unarmed man in public, the Avengers put Spider-Man on probation. Ghost Peter tries signaling Black Widow by making his hand draw a picture on a note pad, but Widow fails to understand the message.
- Carlie Cooper conspires with an unseen individual to expose Doctor Octopus.
- Spider-Man tracks Cardiac to his underground clinic to retrieve the neural scanner Cardiac stole last issue. Cardiac explains that he needs the device to save a child Doctor Octopus injured in an old scheme. Stricken with guilt, Octo-Spidey operates on the child himself. Spidey reconciles with Cardiac, who allows our hero to borrow the neural scanner.
- With the neural scanner, Otto discovers Ghost Peter, who represents Peter’s lingering memories. Otto prepares to perform a “Parker-ectomy.”
The subplot concerning the world’s reaction to Spider-Man murdering a man in cold blood has transitioned from frustrating to insulting. Although Spider-Man uncharacteristically and publicly shot a crying, disabled man in the face, he’s suffered no personal consequences except in the slow background plot involving the Avengers. Here, the Avengers finally take action, but nothing substantial comes of it because of the contrivance that the five dozen or so scientifically-inclined superheroes are too busy to administer the identity tests. And although Black Widow offers Spider-Man her support now that Spidey has “red in [his] ledger” (quoting the Avengers film), none of the other Avengers deign to inquire why their formerly-pacifist ally has become drastically more violent. They just declare he isn’t an impostor, say they’ll keep on eye on him, and call it a day. There’s no “jeez, Spidey, you just busted a cap in that guy’s skull, is something going on that you want to tell us about?” Actually, if the Avengers are convinced this is the real Peter Parker then that should provoke even greater alarm, not because no Avenger has ever murdered (Wolverine’s speech in #6 addressed that point), but because it is so unusual for PETER.
Meanwhile, Carlie Cooper has flat out been told the truth, but she’s stalling until she proves it to a scientific degree of certainty. Until then, she cannot bring herself to say her “theory” out loud. What a crock! Even entertaining the dubious proposition that Marvel residents would find a mind swap utterly implausible, Carlie must at least disclose that Doctor Octopus told her the mind swap occurred. She does not need to jeopardize her reputation by claiming to believe the mind swap occurred, but she does owe the people Peterpus endangers to at least relate Peter-Ock’s statement. Someone has already died because Carlie withheld that information, and more are at risk, including Carlie’s friends.
All of the above constitute pathetic excuses to keep this story from falling into the gravity well of logic that would otherwise pull it to its end. Characters act stupid, reckless, and irrational simply to lengthen the mind swap saga. I thought the benefit to dedicating an ongoing series to this premise, instead of the usual issue or three, was to fully explore the concept of one man living another man’s life. But exploring a concept means developing it logically, not rigging the story to wrestle it awkwardly into an insincere form.
Of course, everything I just mentioned was a secondary plot within this Cardiac story arc (which is part of the problem), and I should aim at least some attention toward the main event. The theme of “red” being in Otto’s “ledger” (i.e., he has a debt to repay) resurfaces when Otto realizes that as Spider-Man he can compensate for the harm he inflicted as Doctor Octopus. This angle on the scenario slightly changes Otto’s motivation because before he seemed more driven to make up for the humiliations Doc Ock experienced, but not necessarily the moral wrongs he committed. This shift in perspective arises through the little girl Otto previously injured. I give this series some credit because it established earlier that Otto sympathizes with children and now it uses a child to facilitate character growth. Sadly, Slott and Ramos deliver the scene itself with such schmaltz that I almost gagged and I did roll my eyes.
An interesting tension inheres between Otto’s turn toward good on one hand and his resolve to definitively “kill” Ghost Peter on the other. Hopefully, this development will lead to an interesting story next month. It better be good to make up for the crappy, botched Avengers subplot. This series has some brown in its ledger, if you catch my drift.
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