THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #18
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Ryan Stegman
COLOR ART: Edgar Delgado
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
- Spider-Man 2099 battles SpOck for the physical wellbeing of 2099’s ancestor, Tiberius Stone. The fight ends when Tiberius activates his spider-sense jamming device, causing SpOck to collapse.
- A call from Anna Maria reminds SpOck that he’s stored the materials for his doctoral thesis in Horizon Labs, and he might lose them due to Liz Allan’s acquisition. SpOck makes saving his gear a priority, and he disregards a call from his minions regarding something Goblin-related, and he also hangs up on Mary Jane.
- Grady Scraps travels back in time to take photos of Tiberius Stone sabotaging the experiment that created Alpha.
- Spider-Man 2099 receives info from the future that a catastrophe at Horizon Labs will occur that day. The issue ends with time sparkles and shiny energy flying everywhere. Horizon’s about to blow! SpOck punches Spidey 2099!
The first time I read this issue, I honestly could not find fault with it. It had awesome Stegman art, it had great Miguel O’Hara scenes, and it culminated with an intense cliffhanger.
After reading the fantastic review by Donovan Morgan Grant (available HERE), though, I have to admit that Superior Spider-Man #18 isn’t perfect. Don has a great point about SpOck, and how “all he does in this story is run around hitting people for zero reasons.” Now, I do like my Octo-Spidey unhinged and excessively violent–for example, the more time passes, the more Otto’s beating of Jester and Screwball stands out in my memory as a highlight of Slott’s run. But another aspect of SpOtto’s characterization, one this series has emphasized and overemphasized, is that he always has a plan and that he is ever prepared for every contingency. Thus, I must ask, what is his plan in attacking Tiberius Stone? (In fact, the comic makes it look like SpOck intends to kill Tiberius.) Harming Stone does not stop Liz Allan from acquiring Horizon Labs and gaining the legal rights to SpOck’s inventions, which is apparently what has Otto so panicked. Actually, if Spider-Man publicly injured Stone, it would probably be counterproductive. Remember, the public knows that Horizon supplies Spider-Man with technology. It would provide more fodder for the prosecution of Max Modell (and would therefore further facilitate Liz’s takeover) if the old management’s most famous customer visibly attacked a member of the new management on the day of the takeover. Also, SpOck charging into Horizon and punching Spidey 2099 when there’s clearly a disaster happening doesn’t make much sense, particularly because Otto is supposed to be the story’s most scientifically intelligent character and should at least recognize that something’s amiss. So while SpOck can go crazy at times, this behavior strikes me as a little too crazy, without a good enough reason for it.
On the other side of that coin, however, this issue marks the first time I remember feeling like Otto is not in control of his situation. It has been a recurring criticism of Superior Spider-Man that victory always comes too easily to Otto, that his ability to think ahead of and counter every possible complication gets to be implausible and diminishes the story’s suspense. Well, you can’t make that complaint here. This issue shows everything Otto’s juggling, and his frantic efforts to prioritize some matters while pushing other problems aside. Don called this issue’s tendency to jump from one subplot to another unfocused storytelling, but I call it a great presentation of the chaos that Otto’s life is slipping into.
It feels like the whole artifice Otto has built will soon come crashing down, at the same time Horizon Labs is about to literally explode. The action and the thematic content reinforce each other.
And if that doesn’t make up for Otto acting too off-kilter, then surely it helps that this story gives readers a whole other Spider-Man to root for. I particularly like the internal conflict within Spidey 2099 this chapter sets up. Miguel considers that it might serve the greater good if he let Tiberius die. That would erase Miguel himself from existence, but it would also prevent the formation of Alchemax and the dark future of 2099 from becoming a reality. It’s a fascinating twist on an old trope of time travel fiction.
Over the past few months, Superior Spider-Man has delivered one quality issue after another. The series’ most fundamental problem–that the characters who are in a position to expose Otto are either too stupid or are working too slowly to do so–still exists, but the stories are now strong enough for me to willfully ignore that. I now look forward to each installment of Superior more so than the other titles in the Spider-Man line.