THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #12
“No Escape Part Two: Lockdown”
PLOT: Dan Slott
SCRIPT: Christos Gage
PENCILER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKERS: John Dell & Terry Pallot
COLOR ART: Antonio Fabela
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
- Spider-Man (currently possessed by Doctor Octopus’s mind, in case you didn’t know) encloses the civilians trapped in the Raft prison in a force field to protect them from the loosed villains. J. Jonah Jameson leaps from the shield perimeter before it shuts.
- Spider-Man tells Alistair Smythe (NKA “the Spider-Slayer”) that the Raft’s main generator powers the traps with which Spidey secured the prison, sending Smythe on a “fool’s errand” to destroy the generator. Actually, Spidey’s defenses draw power from the prison’s inaccessible backup generators.
- Jameson dons a fallen guard’s body armor and weapon, and he fires at Smythe in passing. Jameson instructs Spider-Man to see that Smythe dies that day by any means necessary.
- The Lizard escapes his prison cell.
- Scorpion, Vulture, and Boomerang, all enhanced by Smythe’s technology, attack Spider-Man. Spider-Man beats Boomerang by webbing Boomerang’s exploding boomerangs to Boomerang’s hands as they explode. Vulture and Scorpion split up to hunt the civilians. Rather than protecting the civilians, Spider-Man advances on Smythe with the intent to kill.
Honestly, my intro suggesting that Don was wrong about this issue was just to rope you in with the tantalizing prospect of controversy. In reality, “No Escape” is the least interesting Superior Spider-Man story yet. But don’t conflate “least interesting” with “worst” or even “bad.” Other stories, such as #2, are bad, but they are bad in ways that I find interesting to write about. SSM #12 is blandly competent. This book checks the requisite boxes: the art’s good, the action is good, the characterization is at least reasonable, and nothing specifically annoyed me. Only one line of dialogue struck me as ludicrously bad (“YOUR DEATH IS THE REASON I EXIST!”), but mostly Christos Gage’s work avoids being obnoxious. On a pass/fail grading system, this would pass.
What’s missing, though, is any satisfaction on a visceral level. This is an action-oriented issue, and when I recall the truly great Spidey issues in that vein they all share a sense of our hero being pushed to his limit mentally, physically, and spiritually. Great battles–like Spider-Man’s original battles against Juggernaut, Venom, and Morlun–convey that the protagonist is pulling every last bit of his resourcefulness and willpower together to overcome an extraordinary challenge. But as neat as the redesigned villains in Superior Spider-Man #12 look, Slott, Gage, and Camuncoli never convey that they are truly pushing Octo-Spidey to the edge. They get in a few cheap shots at the beginning but after a few pages Spider-Man starts trouncing them until Smythe calls them to other tasks. You could say the struggle I want to see isn’t the point of this issue, that the point is to show Otto’s skill in handling a situation through preparation and his willingness to fight an enemy to the death. But those themes are old now. Unless Superior Spider-Man can show us a new angle on the Octo-Spidey concept in every single issue, the concept does not merit a series.
I don’t particularly care whether Spider-Man kills Smythe or not. It wouldn’t say anything about Octo-Spidey that his murdering Massacre didn’t already say. Nor do I care what happens to the supporting characters. Mainstays like Jonah are obviously safe, and side characters like the priest, the lawyer, and the head guard are deliberately expendable and not remotely likable.
The one element I do find interesting is this issue’s use of Jonah. He proves quite the man of action, here. The imagery of Jameson in futuristic armor, toting his gun, can look rather comical, but I enjoy seeing him in the fray, and the narrative establishes his motives well. The issue starts with Jonah remembering that his wife’s dying wish was that Jonah not waste his life on hate, but Jonah claims he cannot honor that wish until after “Smythe pays.” There’s an interesting, believable, and tragic tension there, about how Jonah’s revenge ferver dishonors the very person he seeks to avenge. When Jonah later obliquely orders Spider-Man to execute Smythe, I bought it. Some have criticized this run for painting Jonah as a bloodthirsty fascist, but in this context it makes sense.
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