Superior Spider-Man #20 Review (Chris me deadly!)

ssm20Superior Spider-Man #20 is the latest mega-hyped issue by Dan Slott! Should you be compelled to purchase it? I’ll let you know!

Leave your comments, please!

WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKER: John Dell
COLOR ART: Antonio Fabela
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos



      • Julia Carpenter pops out of her coma just long enough to yell “ALL THE SPIDERS WILL DIE!” No one listens.
      • SpOck catches Black Cat mid-burglary, and he proceeds to punch a tooth out of her and leaves her webbed up for the police. This takes four pages and is all the Black Cat you get in the issue.
      • At a rooftop date with Anna Maria, Otto announces his intention to start “Parker Industries,” and offers Anna Maria a position.
      • Aunt May, Jonah Sr., and Sajani offer their personal savings as collateral for Otto’s business loan. Sajani will be vice president.
      • Now able to prove Otto’s secret identity, Carlie acts decisively to warn those in danger! She sends Mary Jane a nondescript voicemail vaguely telling her to stay away from Peter.
      • Mary Jane goes to the fire station to flirt with Pedro “Ollie” Olivera, the firefighter. Ollie has a dog.
      • ”Peter” presents his doctoral thesis. Doctor “Schnoz” Lamaze accuses “Peter” of plagiarizing the unpublished work of Otto Octavius. Otto vows to destroy the Schnoz.
      • Stunner returns, swearing vengeance on Spider-Man for killing Otto.

The buzz Slott generated on Twitter and in interviews would have you believe that he packed issue #20 with SHOCKING EVENTS, and the cover would have you believe that Black Cat plays a substantial role. Don’t buy any of that. Superior Spider-Man #20 is just a decent, light-on-action, set-up issue that moves many of Dan Slott’s subplots a full step forward.

Otto’s efforts to earn his doctorate and start his company constitute the issue’s most substantial, and best, subplot. Although a lot of folks foresaw Otto losing out on his doctor’s thesis on account of his work being derived from what he himself created in his past life, I put this in the category of developments that one can predict because it is a sensible direction to take the story based on the elements thus far set in place. Also, Slott amped up the drama by having Otto gamble the resources of Peter’s family and friends his starting a company with the right academic credentials. What does surprise me is that I find myself rooting for Ock’s being able to discredit Schnoz and walk away with his doctorate, mainly because that would make for a more interesting story than one in which Ock simply hits a “Parker luck” dead end.

The rest of the comic comprises a series of fairly disconnected scenes dealing with the many women in Peterpus’s world. I’ll evaluate each in no particular order:

THE FELICIA SCENE: I like that Ock treats her like any other criminal, and deals with her swiftly and without fanfare. It fits Ock’s historic characterization (this is not the first time he has brutalized this particular character) and his current self-image as an efficient crime-fighter. The lack of a double standard when it comes to Felicia helps differentiate Ock from Peter. So it was a good scene w/r/t Ock.

On the other hand, this scene does nothing to turn around the mishandling of Felicia’s character from recent years. The issue depicts her as a common cat burglar who does sexy poses even though she doesn’t think anyone but the reader is looking, which is something she had grown past over the decades. After consulting with my continuity correspondent Josh Bertone, I’ve been informed that the writers have been moving Felicia on a backwards path that casually dismisses her long history for years, so I cannot lay all of the blame at Slott’s feet. But he is in a position to do better, and he isn’t doing so.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 6.20.10 PM

Dan Slott has Black Cat (created by writer Marv Wolfman) get punched in the face and not much else.

THE MARY JANE SCENE: I surmise that Mary Jane is trying to “prove” to herself that she’s over Peter by throwing herself at the closest eligible dude. I’m more or less okay with that because it is slightly less pathetic than her pining over a condescending jackass like SpOck, like she did earlier in the Superior saga. I’d rather she took a more proactive role in exposing and apprehending SpOck, though.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 6.38.21 PM

Dan Slott has Mary Jane (created by writer Stan Lee) get accosted by a dog and not much else.

THE CARLIE SCENE: I’ve wasted enough words in these reviews explaining why every Carlie Cooper scene in Superior Spider-Man sucks.

THE ANNA MARIA SCENE: Anna Maria is clearly Dan Slott’s favorite supporting character, or at least he writes her like she is. Whenever Anna Maria steps onto the page, Slott takes it upon himself to prove that he is not, in fact, out of tune with human feelings, and he can, in fact, instill his writing with emotional nuance and character chemistry. The relationship between Otto and Anna Maria is undeniably creepy: he’s using another man’s body as a puppet and she doesn’t know. But the scenario is not played for superficial comedy like the Otto/Mary Jane dating sequence from #2. Rather, Slott effectively conveys that Otto, in his own sick way, actually cares about Anna Maria. Otto is forging a genuine human connection, one that under different circumstances might have facilitated his redemption, but one which he is fated to lose because he is fundamentally and disgustingly lying to and taking advantage of the other person. Otto is an awful slime ball, but the scenario is dramatically compelling.

Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 9.42.11 AM

Dan Slott has Anna Maria (created by writer Dan Slott) get sincere and well-written character moments.

THE STUNNER SCENES: Stunner spends most of this issue with her face hidden, as if Slott intended her full appearance on the final page to be a surprise. Some scenes seem staged to deceive readers that Stunner is actually Peter in Otto’s body awakened from a coma. Other characters even refer to Stunner by the pronoun “they” in order to hide her gender. It’s too bad, then, that the solicitation for issue #21 spoiled the reveal. In principle, I am interested in how SpOck will interact with Stunner, given his history between her and Otto. I can’t say much more until the next issue comes out.

Final note: Antonio Fabela rocks. Whenever he colors an issue, you can tell. Compared to his peers, his work looks more vivid, vibrant, and probably some other v-words as well. Cumoncoli’s penciling serves its function. Among the artists on Superior Spider-Man, he has the most conservative style, so putting him on a dialogue-driven issue with scarcely any in-costume shenanigans proved a wise move.




Liked it? Take a second to support the Crawlspace on Patreon!

(31) Comments

  1. Jack

    I think the use of Stunner is interesting; and Ock's peculiar gentility with certain kinds of women (not the Black Cat type, obviously) makes him a more interesting villain than just being a raging OCD narcissist.

  2. Nick MB

    @28 - Surely the reason for bringing back Stunner is because she's a former Doc Ock love interest and it creates an interesting conflict for Ock-as-Peter? Not as if there are many more recent Ock love interests Slott could've used instead, so it doesn't seem to be excessive continuity porn. @29 - And again, I think the use of Stunner is more to do with her position as a character than her being based on VR?

  3. Big Al

    @28-But again...he'll diss the 90s and the Clone Saga, deride awesome characters like Jessica Carradine but...he'll bring back Stunner...even though virtual reality is a fad long since passed?

  4. hornacek

    @26 - I can think of one reason why they'd bring Stunner back now. Dan Slott: Hey, look at me! I remember continuity! Wheeeee!!!!!

  5. Big Al

    @26-Sitcom Shennanigens are why Stunner is back: "Argh! My nefarious scheme to rule the world-I mean rid the world of crime-is being complicated by the interference of these meddlesome females. I am plagued by the red headed bimbo, have been marked for death by that accursed feline, I must keep up my deception in front of Anna-Marie and to top it off my glorified internet girlfriend is trying to get revenge for me seemingly killing myself. It seems compared to Peter Parker the problems of MY love life are most...superior..."

  6. Enigma_2099

    @#19 I don't know anything, obviously, but I got a feeling in my gut that the VR apparatus will be used somehow. I personally can't think of any reason as to why they'd bring back Stunner NOW...

  7. Danbbqman

    Okay, I am new at this, but it looks like when Pete comes back he will be return to his own body and his life will be a mess. This to me is totally predictable. But what happens to Ock? He can't return to his body, he needs a new one. So maybe, just maybe -he takes over Stunners body!

  8. Big Al

    @22-Yes that's exactly what she was. What happened to her was that somehow she willing let herself be used in the ceremony to resurrect Doc Ock by the Hand. Since she was virtual reality she din't die but her mind went comatose or something and Ock hooked her up to some machines and vowed to help heal her. Then she was never seen again

  9. hornacek

    @21 - I thought she was some fat woman that was sick or bed-ridden so Doc hooked her up to some machines where she could project her consciousness into some virtual reality body? I can't remember whatever happened to her, either version of her.

  10. Big Al

    @19-Sooooooo...Peter will come back as a hologram? Like Mary Jane in that unmade Clone Saga ending? @20-Everyone forgot her after DeFalco wrote a Spider-Man Unlimited about how she and Doc Ock hooked up.

  11. hornacek

    I wonder if Stunner still the fat-woman hooked up to the VR machine. Whatever happened to that woman?

  12. Enigma_2099

    @#17 Not Stunner herself, but I'm thinking the method she uses to come into being will play a part.

  13. Lockdown

    The entire defense of dissertation for the story just angered me like no other. Same with how Black Cat reacted to everything should have been: "I don't know what that was but you are not Spider-Man." However, something I have always enjoy about Otto's character is how he treated the women in his life with Stunner, Carolyn and now Annie Marie.

  14. Hobo-Goblin

    You know things are messed up when I'm relieved that SpOck just violently beat Black Cat up instead of sleeping with her. I was like "Phew, Slott took the high road."

  15. Big Al

    @#12-I personally think Slott has written medicore scenes with MJ most of the time and his Paper Doll arc was some of the very worst With Stunner what I meant was that personally I felt that if you go by how he treated her and other women in his life it kind of goes against the idea of him being this slimeball with the ladies we've had up until now for the most part

  16. JT

    @5: Looking forward to your discussion of Slott's depiction of Mary Jane on the podcast, Don. I personally think Slott's version of MJ has been uneven at best. She had some moving scenes in the Paper Doll story, then was reduced to a Carlie Cooper cheerleader (albeit a classy one), but then went on to have very strong moments in arcs like Spider-Island, No Turning Back and Alpha(though people argued that she was now reduced to a "pep talk confidante/best friend"). Her current depiction in SSM is average at best and horrible at worst, and this is the most "Kirsten Dunst MJ" comics MJ has ever been, attitude and personality wise. @11: We will have to wait until next issue to see whether Otto reveals himself to Stunner. Otherwise, it won't make any difference to his dynamics with the other women in his life.

  17. Big Al

    Can I sincerely ask here, has anyone actually honestly enjoyed the relationship drama Slott has used MJ in during Superior. I’m not even being a smart ass I genuinely am curious Personally, I don’t give Slott props for using MJ in a different and arguably less pathetic way. Pathetic is pathetic So Slott will resurrect a crappy Clone Saga character who never made sense back in the day but he despises Jessica Carradine? Also if we are going to acknowledge Otto’s relationship with Stunner then doesn’t that throw a spanner into his depiction regarding the other ladies in his life?

  18. Enigma_2099

    @#8 Pete should respond, " I'll be sure to remind you every time I catch you stealing ****..."

  19. RDMacQ

    @5- What, we're really surprised that a character created by Dan Slott gets treated better and is given more depth and development than long standing members of the cast?

  20. PunyP

    And concider that Felicia's quote "I'll never forget it,Spider,EVER" is a "seed placed" for a Peter Parker comeback story,where he doesnt know what's with Felicia,and she seeks revenge....

  21. Donovan Grant

    This right here is why you're a much better reviewer than I Chris. The running gag/observation of the principal female characters and what their role is compounded with images that are both similarly staged and show the contrast was brilliant. I didn't even pick up on how Carlie's voicemail was totally vague and unspecific. I didn't mind the Mary Jane scene in that I found it obvious why she would pursue this Pedro the Fireman fellow. She thinks she's getting over Peter, yet her actions reveals she's anything but. Bertone and I had a discussion on if this was a sexist reading of the character which I look forward to bringing up on the podcast.

  22. CrazyChris - Post author

    1 - don't assume it wasn't intentional 2 - Holy crap. I made the Pedro connection but the rest of that escaped me. I might have to rethink my review of that scene for the podcast. This is why the comment section is key! Keep them coming!

  23. stillanerd

    Very good review, Chris. For me, this issue, even moreso than the last one, reaffirms that not only will Peter come back (as if there was any doubt) but that he's going to come back to a more "traditional" status quo in which he has no job, no money, and virtually everybody hating him, something which Graeme McMillan on his blog for Newsarama may have pegged right from the jump. As for Mary Jane, notice it's not just ANY eligible dude she's pursing. She's trying to get a date with a guy whose first name just so happens to also be "Peter," who also just so happens to rescue people for a living. And she attempts to do this by reenacting her "Face it, Tiger--you just hit the jackpot" routine that she did when she first met Peter for their very first date. This just further reinforces that, rather than actually moving on, MJ is trying to recapture what she once had with Peter with this other "Peter" and is in total denial mode.

  24. Kevin Cushing

    The line: "At a rooftop date with Anna Maria, Otto [...] offers Anna Maria a position." sounds funny to me because I hear innuendo pretty much everywhere possible. I'm reminded of Jameson's line from Spider-Man 3 (probably the best line from Spider-Man 3): "Ms. Brant, that is not the position I hired you for!"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *