Superior Spider-Man #9 Review

superior9 In a battle for supremacy inside of one man’s brain, Peter Parker and Doctor Octopus put it all on the line to become the one, true Spider-Man!

Troubled Mind Part 2: Gray Matters”

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciller: Ryan Stegman

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos

THE PLOT: After finding an anomaly in his brain waves, Ock has found Ghost Peter’s being and attacks him in what appears to be part of Peter’s mind.

LONG STORY SHORT: After battling with morals, supporting cast members and villains, Ock gains the upper hand when confronting Peter on attempting to sacrifice the little girl from last issue to make his presence known. Peter begins to lose his memory and is buried under a pile of rubble.

MY THOUGHTS:  Before I start, a fond farewell is owed to Erik Lexie. For the past year and a half, he’s been providing the Crawlspace with some of the best reviews of ASM and SSM on the internet. He was one of my personal favorite reviewers and he will be sorely missed.

One of the things Erik ascribed to Dan Slott’s run on Spider-Man is that much of the high concept ideas aren’t so much stories as they are fly-by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants storytelling that makes up whatever happens from issue to issue. This issue is indicative of that, as the subplot of Ghost Peter attempting to regain his body comes to its close, leaving the series in the hands of Doctor Octopus yet again. Not only is this a three-peat of the endings from ASM #698 and #700, but the issue occupies itself with a battle between Peter’s friends and villains and a war of words between him and Ock. Ultimately nothing of real significance is gained aside from a sense that Otto Octavius is morally superior than Peter and the implication that evil has won out yet again.



I am legitimately confused as to how we’re supposed to take Ock in this role as Superior Spidey. At the end of ASM #700, it was implied that he would be a bit more righteous in his new life. Yet every issue that’s come after has played up the hook that this is a villain masquerading as a hero. While that’s admittedly more interesting, it makes the ending to #700 seem like a Hail Mary thrown in to assuage fears that Marvel had lost their damn minds. We’re left with a repugnant wretch whose appeal seems to derive from how bad he makes Peter Parker look or how insane he makes Spider-Man look. Again, the idea itself isn’t awful. The problem comes from how much the character has been allowed to behave in the manner he has without hardly anyone either noticing (Mary Jane) or doing much about it (Avengers up to a point). All throughout the Superior title, we’ve had the assumed ghost of Peter Parker poke his head in the background, presumably to reveal the true conflict of the title being the loss of his life and his struggle to reclaim it. Once again it’s a fair and straightforward conflict, even if it’s a bit, to this reviewer’s mind, silly. So when we see Doc Ock do things that are clearly wrong and immoral, we’re kept in check by having Ghost Peter’s presence espouse the notion that the better Spider-Man is not present and that we’re watching the antics of a fake. Even if much of Ock’s achievements in crime-fighting surpass Peter’s, he’s still not the character we should be rooting for.

This issue plays up that concept to the hilt. In this story, Doctor Octopus is an egotistical, savage, gleefully evil SOB who is every bit the villain that Peter sees him as. Conversely, Peter’s portrayed as a flawed, mewing, cowardly yet determined person who acts as though he’s been mugged and wants his wallet back. While Doc Ock comes off as the antagonist in his own book, Peter really looks bad in this issue, being ultimately defeated because his revealed cowardice infers that his self-appointed heroism is false. At the end of the day, this issue is about as Crazy Chris once described it “A douchebag” fighting “a jackass”.

There are good bits to this issue. Slott allows himself more moments to flaunt his knowledge of characters and continuity trivia with mentions of Nick Katzenberg, Joy Mercado and the infamous “Parker/Palmer” slip from the Stan Lee era. It’s hard for me not to see the writer puffing out his chest with pride with moments like these, but they work well for the story. Peter’s losing his memories and, were he a real person, tries to run through the memory databanks and keep his head together.

The art from Ryan Stegman is also quite strong. He reins himself in during the small moments, and explodes with energy during the action scenes. Panels such as the Superior vs. Amazing Spider-Men fight suck you in, especially with the nice touch of having the background bleed into all black, making the fight more intimate and personal.

battleBy the end however, this issue just leaves a bad taste in my mouth with it’s implication that Peter Parker would risk a child’s well being to save his own skin. There are multiple theories on this, ranging from excusing to reasonable. A popular one is the idea that what we’re seeing isn’t Peter Parker at all, but a manifestation of Peter’s memories in Ock’s brainwaves that has created itself. It’s essentially Alan Moore’s take on Swamp Thing. Others have commented that if this is the real Peter, trying to save himself at the cost of a little girl is actually a humane, natural thing for someone to do.

My thought is that no matter what the real explanation for the scene, we are supposed to be left with the idea that Ock  is morally superior than Peter. After everything we’ve seen Ock do as Spider-Man, this insinuation is particularly damning. It’s another example of why I don’t like Slott’s take on Peter. He can write the character well enough when he wants too, but if he’s not writing him as hyperbolic and spastic, he writes him as whiny and reactionary to the point where it stops being the character. The idea of Peter being a relatable everyman has in my opinion been used as an excuse to make him less and less of the hero the past 50 years of history have forged him to be. This to me seems like another instance where someone is trying to keep him in step with that notion of relatability and making him unlikable compared to how we’ve seen the character portrayed in the past.

When this issue was first solicited, Marvel advertised it as a more anger-inducing story than #700. I don’t know if they were referring to the fact that Peter predictably lost or that the way he lost revealed him to be an utter wuss. The fact remains that this story, as it always has been, was sold on sensationalism to the point where its storytelling has forgone established characterization whenever convenient and varies from issue to issue. The reason I left reviewing the title after #700 is that based on reading Dan Slott’s run up to that point I figured the potential of Ock running around as Spider-Man would be lost in a cloud of nonsense and style over substance. Several months later, I have yet to be proven wrong.

Grade: C-

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(34) Comments

  1. eddiebrock

    @32: Did not know about this comment from JRJR. That is extremely telling, because his last issues with JMS were the last time I felt like Spider-Man truly felt like Spider-Man. After the Ezekiel saga ended, I feel like the whole story, from Sins Past onward, is someone else's tale and I dropped the book very shortly afterwards (this was 8-9 years ago). I really wish someone could bring back that sort of laid back, simple, homely atmosphere that permeated Spidey in those days. An air of maturity pervaded the book, the type of which was never seen before and quite frankly, will probably never be seen again.

  2. Fred

    "And now, I honestly find myself getting a kind of dark enjoyment out of Superior because its like I feel that “Peter deserves this” No one deserves being degraded and humiliated as much as Spider-Man has been under Joe Q, Steve Wacker and Dan Slott. They manage to take their flagship character and made him irrelevant to the point of people not taking him and the book seriously.

  3. J

    I agree with #31. Ever since OMD, I've felt like this just isn't the Peter I grew up reading about. And as a result I've felt this kind of awkward detachment from him as a character ever since, like I don't care about him all that much anymore. Kind of like when you bump into an old friend that you used to be so close to and, for whatever reason, you haven't seen in a long while and you feel distant, which feels weird because you were once so close. And then you start to doubt and question: "Did I really know this person at all?" . . . Anyways, I know Peter's just a fictional character, so it doesn't really do much good to get too attached. But I remember reading this "Marvel Spotlight" issue that came out right before "New Ways to Die" and seeing John Romita Jr's comment, (paraphrasing) "When I left, it felt like I was drawing a brother, now that I'm back it feels like I'm drawing a cousin." And that just hit the nail right on the head for me. And now, I honestly find myself getting a kind of dark enjoyment out of Superior because its like I feel that "Peter deserves this" after the choices he made in OMD, like he's getting his comeuppance for (in a completely out-of-character fashion) abandoning his marriage. So, yeah, I'm with #31: OMD was definitely the beginning of the end for Peter and inevitably was going to lead to this.

  4. Dan

    I always felt that the situation that led to OMD was Mephisto's own handy work. He had to create those circumstance that led to the Kingpin putting a contract hit on Peter by making him reveal his identity to the world. Otherwise, why would Peter be stupid enough to reveal his identity to the world anyway when he knows that his enemies would come after him? To me, the real reason why Mephisto wanted to offer a deal to Peter to save his Aunt May's(who wasn't really dying to begin with) was because he needed Peter's soul to unlock a door that leads to a weapon that he could use against the Gods. In my opinion, Peter should never had made a deal with Mephisto to begin with because his gifts comes at a price. I was counting on Peter being dead sooner or later and his soul finally going to Hell as part of Mephisto's plan. Peter's soul will remain in Hell until it finds a way to escape. In the Pre-OMD universe, if Peter had turned down Mephisto's offer then it's likely that Mary Jane and Aunt May would have been killed. In addition, Peter Parker would probably be put on trial and sent to jail from a corrupt judicial system and have his spider-powers removed. This would be another of Mephisto's tactics until he gets what he wants. To me, OMD was the beginning of the end for Peter Parker and birth of Superior Spider-Man.

  5. Sbee613

    Thanks to #29 and#11 I know I'm not the only person who reads these reviews and at times get dumbfounded at where this story is heading and wonders what idiotic turn it will take next. I just hope marvel wakes up and realizes they've been asleep at the wheel for far too long.

  6. webhead37

    @#10 I would like your comment a hundred times if I could. But yea honestly.... this comic didn't make me angry... bc I knew that wasted sack of life would kill Peter. Explain to me how a guy who claims he's a huge spider fan would write a character completely out of character? I honest to god believe if they really wanted a new Spider-Man, they should have used Kaine

  7. Priory

    The end of Superior can't come soon enough, Ock is the LEAST interesting major Spider-Man villan. The concept was weak to begin with and the execution has been terrible. But its nothing new, the overabundance of awful hack writing and schizophrenic editorial direction at the 'Big Two' has caused me to severely curtail my book buying and overall interest in this hobby over the past couple of years. I really do get the feeling that the true professionals have left the room, and the bulk of what's left are fanboys who write bad fan-fiction quality stories while constrained by largely directionless and incompetent editorial staffs. There has never been a better time for the parent companies (Warner/Disney) to do a complete house cleaning, and rebuild from the ground up, an industry that is clearly rotting from the inside.

  8. WKB

    Sorry Don, I didn't read your review because I am staying away from this title. For this one reason: Spider-man has killed

  9. Dan Gvozden

    @25 I'm not really sure what you are talking about when you label the "SSM reviews at CBR are more like ads." Check out this review: I'm no cheerleader for CBR but they are a pretty exhaustive site that seems fairly fair in their reviews of the books. SS#9 is far away my favorite of the series so far, I think it is absolutely pitch perfect, and their 2.5/5 review goes against my beliefs about the book but I'm still willing to give them credit where credit is due. Everyone deserves their own reading of the material, I cannot blame a critic for just not "getting" the issue, and everyone deserves to "like" and "dislike" material for their own reasons. I am however, discouraged whenever I return to these sites and read all of this name-blaming and finger-pointing about who is "fair" and who "knows the character" better than another site. I'm sorry that Slott's interpretation of Peter isn't what many of you want, although I'm not sure what that Peter would look like as I think Slott's Peter has been one of the most faithful to his presentation over the years, but let's not get into a dick-measuring contest over who knows the character best.

  10. Jack Brooks

    CS is the only website I know that issues to ASM/SSM the full array of grades, A-F, sometimes from the same panel (e.g., Brad Douglas loved issue #700, Donovan hated it). It refutes the slander that CS is a Spider-Man-hater site. It's more of a "really mixed feelings about the quality of Dan Slott's work" site. In comparison, the grades to Christopher Yost are consistently high, the site likes Scarlet Spider, and there's been disappointment over Morbius. I never find this kind of variety of review at other sites. The SSM reviews at CBR are more like ads, IGN injects a little more balance, but I haven't read any site that expresses anything more than mild discontent with occasional elements of SSM. This is why I like CS -- it isn't constant cheer-leading, /and/ they enforce ther own rules about not disparaging people personally. As for me, I feel Slott writes Peter Parker as an ADD-afflicted man-child, which is not the Peter Parker with whom I grew up.

  11. Sbee613

    I understand this issue is reinforcing the idea that Ock is superior. After 9 issues I think we get it its practically been sledgehammered into our heads. It's rather obvious slott is going to eventually have his own Otto spin off series after Peter is back to where he belongs. I can only hope one of the long list of accomplished amazing writers take his place with amazing or superior or superfantastic expialidoucous whatever it's called.

  12. hornacek

    There's no way Peter would ever consider sacrificing a little girl’s life to save his own. In the Death of Jean DeWolf story, when the Sin-Eater tried to shoot him, he dodged it but the shots went into the crowd and hit them. He blamed himself for that, and eventually beat SE into unconsciousness when he captured him. Then later when Stan Carter got out of jail Spidey saw how his beating had permanently wounded him and he felt guilty about that. So not only did he feel guilty about collateral damage from a villain shooting at him, he felt guilty later for assaulting that same villain. He felt responsible for the safety of strangers and the health of a villain who put those strangers' lives in danger. There's no way this person would sacrifice a little girl, or anyone, to save his own life. Any writer that says so does not understand the character.

  13. stillanerd

    @20 Chasing Amazing--The problem with the notion that it was "only a moment" for Peter is that Superior Spider-Man #8 appears to contradict Peter's own defense. In that issue (the page of which you have on your very excellent blog, BTW) we see that right as Doc Ock is about to perform the operation on the little girl, Ghost Peter once again attempts to assume control causing Doc Ock's hand to tremble, with Ghost Peter saying he can't allow Doc Ock to do this because he doesn't trust him to be capable of doing so (which, thanks to issue #9 we now know was a lie). And it's DOC OCK who, through sheer force of will, makes the trembling in his hand stop and reassert control. So this was not some mere "moment" for Ghost Peter but him actually committing thought into action.

  14. Chasing Amazing

    What #19 said. It's also firmly established in the text itself that Peter's guilt over the sick girl was a "moment." "Only a moment." But since Peter has continually been haunted by his a huge lapse a judgement his entire life, Otto was able to exploit even a "moment" of regression from Peter, in large part because Otto has become Peter and can understand his weaknesses. Peter didn't give up his body to Otto (or was a "wuss") he was beaten by him. Again, this is all in the text. You can interpret things any way you want, but this review and the bulk of these comments read like a judgement of the writer's personality, not the text itself. It would be great if one of the most fertile and active Spider-Man web sites out there could find reviewers who make this distinction.

  15. Calvarok

    The point of this issue is NOT that Ock is morally superior, it's that he found a way to manipulate Peter Parker's HUGE sense of guilt. Cmon guys, are you seriously saying that it's not like Peter to beat himself up about something like this? These first 9 issues were about having Peter Parker there to see how Ock changed his way of doing things and try to keep him in line, and now this is where we realize that this is going to get real. The training wheels are off, and we're going to be focusing mainly on Ock. I think that's a really good way to introduce this series. The ghost of Peter's legacy has been haunting Ock, but now he's going to find his own path his own way. It's playing with our natural cynical expectations of a quick return to the status quo, and it's reinforcing that this is not the same series as Amazing. Superior is a story about what Peter Parker could have done with his life, but it's not about Peter Parker. It's about Otto. And this is the issue that drives that home.

  16. Chasing Amazing

    @#17, I quite enjoyed it, thought it was the best story of Superior and there's certainly no reason to question my objectivity unless you think Marvel gives a crap about greasing the wheels of a solitary fan of 25+ years who blogs about Spider-Man in his spare time (spoiler alert, they don't). Obviously, I think the issue, as portrayed by this reviewer, has been horribly misinterpreted, but that's your opinion and you're entitled to it. I think if more people actually looked at the text and stopped letting Slott freak you out in his interviews, you'd realize this whole run has one of the "truer Spider-Man" feels to it than I've seen in years.

  17. Jack Brooks

    Q: Are there /any/ sites that cast a legitimately appraising eye on SSM, or is CS now the sole site that gives out the full array of grades?

  18. Enigma_2099

    If any... ANY of this crap sticks when they finally bring Peter Parker back, how different is he gonna look in your eyes? And how long before Marvel just pretends it never happened? THAT'S why they don't care about continuity.

  19. Xonathan

    I still want to know why Doc Ock wants to be Spider-man at the expense Peter Parker's life. If he wants redemption, there are better ways to go about it. The story just seems forced.

  20. Jack Brooks

    I agree with R. Habenicht. The current Marvel editorial mentality comes off as self-amusingly cynical.

  21. reader

    Pete has amnesia, He's probably still in Ock's head and I'm guessing we'll see him wake up in the rubble and wonder who and where he is and his journey to self discovery is how he'll eventually get his body back.

  22. J

    I have a theory about how Peter might end up surviving: Maybe his consciousness ends up trapped inside the Living Brain ("living brain," get it?). That seems like something Slott might do. The remnants of Peter's consciousness could have invaded LB when it tried to follow Ock's orders, from the start of this issue, to erase the memory remnants from the infamous golden octobot during the time that Peter was in Ock's body. . .

  23. Sbee613

    I can't imagine any scenario where Peter sincerely stops and thinks "man Otto was being a really great spider-man I should let him keep my body he stole from me right in front of my family and friends"

  24. Hairychap

    I think he considered it but only briefly, which would be enough for guilt ridden Peter. P.S. sorry to complain but calling someone spastic is pretty offensive.

  25. Enigma_2099

    @#7 You think Peter actually considering sacrificing a little girl's life to save his own is in character?

  26. Kyree

    I actually think the little girl thing was in character for peter. And not because he's a wuss or a bad person or anything. Moreso because peter is always blaming himself for things and doubting himself. I believe that someone like peter parker could try to stop Ock for the right reasons, then doubt himself and feel guilty when he realizes that ock WAS doing something good. I also think the removal of peter's persona can be good going forward, because ghost peter has been a crutch to Ock's development as a hero. He's helped Ock not do anything too bad while Ock starts to develop his own conscience. The incident with the little girl shows that Ock is moving forward from 'wanting to prove he's better than peter' to 'actually feeling good about doing a good deed'. Perhaps I'm giving slott too much credit, but after this, I kind of expect to see a scene coming where ock wants to kill another villian, but decides for himself that it's wrong.

  27. R. Habenicht

    It just makes me want to buy Dc comics more. Even with the goofy new manga inspired costumes they still treat their readers then the current bullpen at Marvel. These are the people who thought I was a good idea to make Tony Stark a Nazi in the whole Civil War storyline. Then acted as if he wasn't responsible for Captain America's death. They thought it would be a great idea to have Cyclops execute Professor X. Have Spider-man make a deal with Mephisto to remove his marriage to MJ, now they just want to make Peter completely unlikable. So Doc Ock can have a run. I'm just holding onto the article where one of the Marvel executives basically said "And one day we'll remember fondly the stories where Doc Ock was Spider-man and wish there were more of them.

  28. Noah

    Marvel and the Spider Man creative team are both coming across as gleefully trying to tick us off. By directly marketing your product as something bound to make us angry is a horrible way to market something and while yes it does work, it really reveals just how much they are enjoying laughing at our displeasure with the current run. Instead of trying to write good stories and hoping to find an audiance for them, they are trying tor FORCE us to like what they write not matter the quality of it.

  29. Nick MB

    @3 Slott's writing Otto as clearly unsympathetic - yes, he's trying to be a hero, but he's still being a prick about it. We might be being asked to consider whether he has a point, but I don't think anyone's expecting us to actually root for him or prefer him to Peter. And yes, still enjoying the book - this issue was a bit of a foregone conclusion, which made it a little less fun than previous more unpredictable issues, but still nice execution of the classic mindscape fight scenario. And re: the point about the role of #700 from the actual review: I think the point is that if the transfer in #700 hadn't happened, Otto wouldn't be trying to be a "Superior Spider-Man", he'd be an out-and-out villain still (I guess they'd call the book "The Sinister Spider-Man" or something). So in that way, the ending of #700 is directing the book, as he's a villain trying to be a hero, rather than masquerading as one for some masterplan.

  30. Sbee613

    After reading this review I am glad I stopped supporting this hack of a writer. I can't think of another book where the person behind gets to consistently ruin and drag one character through the mud as much in just 9 issues. If this goof slott actually thinks there are real spider-man fans out there supporting and rooting for this bizarro spidey to come out on top he needs to get out more.

  31. hornacek

    Since #700 I have debated whether or not I made the right decision to stop buying the book. It's issue descriptions like this that make me feel I made the right call. Here's hoping that when this is reversed and Peter comes 'back to life" there is a new team on the book. We need some new blood.

  32. Jesse

    I agree enthusiastically with your notion that sensationalism is wrongfully being focused on more than appropriate characterization. In other words Peter just isn't being portrayed accurately as the hero we have come to know and love over 50+ years. We have to analysis this from Slott's POV. What is his long running strategy? what is his agenda, is it some type of mislead / setup, for a Peter Parker return; Possibly something to the effect of, by bringing out the worst in Peter , he can ultimately improve the character? We can only hope so. Still to give Slott this benefit of the doubt seems a tad too generous.

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