THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #13
“No Escape Part Three: The Slayers and the Slain”
PLOT: Dan Slott
SCRIPT: Christos Gage
PENCILER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKERS: John Dell & Terry Pallot
COLOR ART: Antonio Fabela
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
- Vulture starts disabling the forcefield protecting the civilians in the Raft prison. Scorpion attacks Jonah, but the Lizard saves Jonah.
- Octo-Spidey impales Smythe with Smythe’s own blade. Downing Smythe disables the implants empowering Vulture, Scorpion, and Boomerang, incapacitating them.
- As everyone strolls out of the Raft, Smythe attacks again. His body has died, but his robotic components and his mind remain active. Zombie Cyborg Meat Puppet Smythe kills the head guard. Smythe attempts tries to swap minds with Spider-Man, but our protagonist anticipated that and shielded his cranium. As Smythe seems to die for real, Otto tells him his true identity.
- Spider-Man uses a recording of Jonah ordering him to kill Smythe to blackmail Jonah into granting Spider-Man the Raft as his personal headquarters (I won’t even begin to explain how legally absurd that is). In his new digs (renamed “Spider-Island Two”), Spider-Man orders an army of minions and a new costume by telephone, and he builds a giant machine.
Parts one and two of “No Escape” were so nondescript that part three improves on them just by virtue of something happening in it. I don’t even know whether I like what’s happening–I won’t know until I see how Slott executes it–for now, I’ll just comment that, indeed, stuff’s happening. When I wrote my last review, I couldn’t perceive how Octo-Spidey’s killing Smythe would “say anything about Octo-Spidey that his murdering Massacre didn’t already say.” To some extent, the current issue proved me wrong because Spider-Man carrying out Jonah’s kill order put our protagonist in a better position to blackmail the mayor of New York–instead of simply having solicited murder, Jonah is now complicit in what is arguably actual murder. Otto’s putting the mayor in his pocket, establishing a fortress, assembling an army, and building a giant robot does convey that the story has substantially escalated, with Octo-Spidey falling further and further into a supervillain’s mold.
But I rarely grade a comic based on future potential rather than the present issue’s content. In terms of actual content, roughly the first half of the comic sports more of what I found boring in chapters one and two. Spider-Man and Smythe throw hammy lines at each other while the “upgraded” villains do nothing interesting. The Scorpion has a short, unimaginative fight with the Lizard, and the Vulture menaces some bland, unsympathetic civilians.
All this ends when Spider-Man kills Smythe, which causes the other villains’ tech to fail. Now, I actually think Spidey’s method of dispatching Smythe and the dialogue that accompanies it was pretty awesome. That goes a long way toward adding the + to the C I’m giving this issue. My problem with this scene is that it’s a lousy pay-off for last issue’s cliffhanger. Last issue seemed like it turned the old “sadistic choice” (to quote movie-Goblin) trope on its head–Smythe thrust Octo-Spidey into a position where he could only rescue one of two groups of civilians, but instead of agonizing over that choice Otto goes straight in to kill his foe, innocents be damned. That disregard for the lives in the balance would have made for an effective way to show the scary edge to Otto’s character, to show that erasing the lingering bits of Peter Parker made the Superior Spider-Man dangerous. Instead, Slott and Gage whitewashed the gray out of the scenario by having Smythe’s death solve all the problems at once, and having that be what Otto was expecting. (Otto says to Smythe, “Permanently shutting you down was the only solution. The only way to save them all.”) That takes all the weight out of Otto’s choice–he wasn’t actually prioritizing killing Smythe over saving everyone.
By the way, I don’t give a rat’s behind that Alistair Smythe died. He was always a lame villain. As a kid, I had the toy of Smythe’s hover chair from the 90s cartoon. I didn’t get the Smythe toy because I thought he sucked. In my bedroom, it was the Hobgoblin’s hover chair.
Smythe’s brief return as a zombie meat puppet cyborg added some unexpected horror flavor to the issue, somewhat mitigating the pervading genericness. But honestly, the writers did little interesting with the concept. Zombie Smythe kills bland, sympathetic civilian #4 and . . . yawn . . . sorry, I almost fell asleep at my keyboard. Smythe’s attempting to pull a mind swap and Otto foreseeing it was a cute touch, but not cute enough to influence my overall impression of the comic.
In summation, “No Escape” was a mediocre three-parter, yet it did guide the series to an interesting new status quo. I stand cautiously intrigued.