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THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #20
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 Doctor “Schnoz” Lamaze accuses “Peter” of plagiarizing the unpublished work of Otto Octavius.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.
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.
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.
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.