Superior Spider-Man #11 – Chris’s Take

ssm11The writing team of Slott and Gage returns to bring us a story centered on Alistair Smythe’s scheduled execution. Read the full review and leave a comment!

 “No Escape Part One: A Lock for Every Key”
PLOT: Dan Slott
SCRIPT: Christos Gage
PENCILER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKER: John Dell
COLOR ART: Edgar Delgado
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos



    • Otto Octavius feels “trapped” in Peter’s life after possessing Peter’s body. He hates going to Professor Don “Schnoz” Lamaze’s physics class, and he hates having Max Modell as a boss.
    • Mayor Jameson enlists Spider-Man to oversee security at the Raft super-prison to ensure that the Spider-Slayer, Alistair Smythe, does not escape his execution. Smythe previously killed Jameson’s wife.
    • Meanwhile, the Raft is in the process of being decommissioned; Jameson shut it down because he did not want an escape prone super prison so close to New York City. Most of the prisoners have been transported off-site, with only a few villains remaining.
    • Spider-Man fortifies the raft with technology from Horizon labs, making escape impossible.
    • Just before his lethal injection, Smythe breaks loose, but Spider-Man’s traps prevent him from breaching the prison walls. Smythe resolves to kill his jailers, including Spider-Man, to buy time to disable Spider-Man’s defenses.
    • Smythe’s “mini-slayer” robots heal and upgrade Boomerang, Scorpion, and Vulture, all of whom Octo-Spidey had maimed and are still inside the Raft.
When Smythe claims to have found God in prison, Octo-Spidey gives this reaction. This is some of the issue's more memorable writing.

When Smythe claims to have found God in prison, Octo-Spidey gives this reaction. This is some of the issue’s more memorable writing.


This will be a brief review because this issue didn’t have a lot to it. The more I think about it, the less I have to say. It’s just a set-up issue, and so far the story it’s setting up hasn’t offered any surprises. The concept of a super hero trapped in a prison with his villains on the loose is a Saturday morning cartoon staple, and thus far “No Escape” has not deviated far from the predictable formula. It’s not a bad comic; it’s colorful and action-y and nothing jumps out as particularly irritating. I don’t have many complaints, and I was entertained. The Slott/Gage/Camuncoli creative team makes solid comics. I thought so during last year’s Hobgoblin story, and I still think so now. But this comic is not one that has given me a lot to talk about or think about, and for the first time since before ASM #698 I am not going crazy waiting for the next issue.

Folks on the message board and around the web have noticed that what occurs in this story does not conform to real-world law. Indeed, this comic gets the law very wrong, and as a lawyer I guess people would expect me to focus on that. Honestly, I’ve decided that I’m not that bothered by it, but I’ll highlight a few points that have popped up here and there in the online conversation. First, I want to clarify to everyone that New York’s abolition of the death penalty would not affect an execution conducted by the federal government, and I believe the Raft was previously established to be a federal prison. So that isn’t necessarily an error, as some have asserted. On the other hand, the mayor of New York would have no authority to shut down a federal prison. Heck, a mayor wouldn’t be able to shut down a state prison. Furthermore, Smythe’s execution is happening very soon after his crime. Smythe’s lawyer accuses Jameson of using his political connections to rush the execution, and seeing as how that’s the only potential explanation the comic gives I have to assume that’s the truth. Of course, death sentences are reviewed by a chain of courts including the Supreme Court, and the President has the opportunity to grant clemency, so if Jameson’s pulling strings is what we’re going with then he must be one of the most powerful and corrupt men on Earth.

To whom is the lawyer talking with this "objection"? They aren't in court and there's no judge present. He's pointing at Jameson but that can't be who he's addressing, unless he normally addresses people in the third person.

To whom is the lawyer talking with this “objection”? They aren’t in court and there’s no judge present. He’s pointing at Jameson but that can’t be to whom he’s addressing, unless he normally addresses people in the third person.

But, frankly, I’m not in the mood to be hung up on that stuff. Smythe needed to be on the eve of his execution to enhance the story’s drama, and Jameson needed to have authority over the raft so that he could bring Spider-Man in to take over security. Sure, with a little more thought and explanation the writers could probably have achieved the same results without it feeling like they were casually brushing realism aside. For example, on the podcast Josh made the point that in the Marvel Universe it would make sense if the laws were revised to put super villains on the fast track to execution considering how dangerous and uncontainable they are. Slott and Gage could have smoothed out every angle with reasoning along those lines, and they didn’t, but I’m cutting them some slack because I think this is going to be a pretty fun action story about Spider-Man fighting improved versions of his enemies in a prison full of death traps. Whether it captures the intricacies of dual federalism is of low priority.

His one weakness!

His one weakness!

The one thing that did bother me is all of Otto’s talk about feeling like Peter’s life is something he’s “trapped” in, a “nightmare” from which he “cannot wake.” Just last issue, his inner monologue kept waxing about how he was happy with Peter’s support system, with his girlfriend, and with his newfound sense of freedom. His attitude in this issue almost contradicts that, and it is first triggered by his having to sit through one of Doctor Schnoz’s lectures–a routine event at this stage in the series. Either the writers are consciously trying to convey instability in Otto’s moods and it is unintentionally coming off as confusing, or Slott didn’t communicate Otto’s current mindset very well when passing the scripting duties to Gage.

I gave this a B- on the podcast. That was too high. The best thing I can say about this comic is that nothing was egregiously wrong with it. Hence, a small adjustment:



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(3) Comments

  1. CrazyChris

    CA - For a "natural evolution," I'm looking for either a gradual character change or an abrupt change that is explained by a significantly drastic event. Here, neither happened. It was an abrupt change that's not triggered by anything between #10 and #11. I don't see anything in #10 that telegraphed this. In #10, he was going on about how he loved his life both as Spider-Man and as Peter Parker.

  2. Chasing Amazing

    Chris, nice review. I honestly took the change in Ock's characterization as a natural evolution that was first telegraphed in Superior #10. Otto is so happy to be victorious over Peter and to have his "great reward" he's losing sight of "power and responsibility" (which would also make sense after Peter was wiped out from his brain patterns). Now that the afterglow is starting to wear off, Otto is realizing that being the Superior Spider-Man is great but being Peter Parker sucks. I guess the only reason I wanted to argue that point with you is that I've generally been non-plussed with Gage's work subbing in on ASM and I think this is the first time that I haven't noticed the tonal shift from Slott to Gage so severely. But I think overall, something in the B/C+ range is a fair review. Nothing terrible, but not exactly a barn-burner story.

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