“Blurred Lines” is the name of the game when Felicia comes across Otto and gets the full “Superior Spider-Man” experience! PLUS! Watanabe grows bored of Carlie’s stalling and leaves, Mario comments on Mary Jane’s looks, and Professor Lamaze has his final revenge! All this and the return of the Clone Saga! Er…villain from the Clone Saga! Written by Slott
Illustrated by Camuncoli
Inked by Dell
Colored by Fabela
Lettered by Eliopoulos
THE PLOT: There’s not much in the way of a plot, really. Otto runs into the Black Cat and instead of kissing her he kicks her down and ties her up for the police. Felicia acts like this is a bad thing which, admittedly for her, it is. Otto then goes on a dinner date with Anna Maria and reveals his intentions to start up Parker Industries.
LONG STORY SHORT: While presenting his thesis, Peterpus gets called out by Doctor Nose that his presentation is ripped off from Otto Octavius’ work. SpOck swears revenge. Meanwhile Angelina Brancale a.k.a. the Stunner has awoken from her coma (brought upon when she helped the Hand in resurrecting Otto from his death by Kaine back in the Clone Saga) and after learning that Otto ruined all of her hard work by getting himself killed again swears vengeance on the Spider-Man. Specifically the Superior version.
MY THOUGHTS: When I first read this issue I was ready and willing to give it an “A”. Compared to most other Superior scripts, I felt that Slott had juggled the balls of plot in a way that was both intriguing and upped the ante which made for a really engaging comic. Developments were made in which I wasn’t expecting, characters were moving forward in their respective plots, and a new wrinkle has been added in the aftermath to Amazing #700. I thought this was a very strong issue and, despite a few niggles here and there, didn’t think anything glaring was keeping it from earning its full grade.
Of course Chris and Ryan had to ruin my fun by being so good at what they do, that they really forced me to take a second look. In doing so I’d discovered some stronger negative qualities that hurt Superior issue #20 more so than I had realized. This is still in my opinion one of Slott’s better issues in terms of pacing and progression. The “Slott-isms” are still there but by this point I have been beaten over the head with them so often that I’ve practically given up caring. However certain logical fallacies weigh this issue down just enough to keep the string of “B” grades consistent (Spoilers).
This issue was apparently hyped up to the nth degree, as with most Superior issues. I use the term “apparently” because in all honesty I wasn’t paying much attention to the buzz, so when the cloud of disappointment began to circulate, I couldn’t go along with it as I didn’t feel the same. The one thing everyone can agree on is that Felicia/Black Cat was hyped with a seductive cover and all, only for her to be dropped by Ock in two pages. I can see people’s consternation with that, but in the business of reading comics there has been an unfortunate trend of misleading covers that draw the reader in before pulling a bait a switch. Admittedly I was expecting this issue to be Felicia-heavy, but the fact that it wasn’t didn’t bother me. I am interested in what Brad thinks of it though…
Felicia’s one scene in question is certainly worth discussion. The crux of it is meant to say “THIS ISN’T YOUR DADDY’S SPIDER-MAN!” He actually hits BC as opposed to “hitting it”, proverbially speaking. This all goes on the basis of Spider-Man and Black Cat’s recent habit of having Felicia get away with committing crimes as long as she sexes her way out of Spidey arresting her. It’s a status quo unnaturally jammed into the comics in such a way that always bothers me, as it reneges on Felicia’s development as a character for the sole reason to have a “bad girl” type character in Spider-Man. It echoes the romance that the two shared in the 70s and 80s, but lacks total sense. In the Roger Stern run, Spidey was head over heels in love with Felicia yet would not hesitate for an instant to have her arrested when she tried sneaking crimes behind his back. Here, they’re actively in a situation where he agrees to let her get away if she sleeps with him. It’s incredibly sleazy, disingenuous, and speaks of a certain mindset when it comes to the ideas of characters like Felicia Hardy.
But this isn’t exactly Dan Slott’s fault. This is how things have stood for the past few years ever since she’s been reintroduced without the knowledge of Spider-Man’s identity. So Slott is using that condition to fuel the tension when Ock, who brings up his own violent past with Felicia, violently beats her down and leaves her for the cops. The thing is that if Felicia still knew Peter’s identity, there’s no way she’d buy that there wasn’t anything wrong with him. Because that’s been stripped from her, I don’t find it hard to believe that she would be thinking about “getting her own back” more than she might think about Spidey’s change in personality. I still think it’s more convenient for Slott’s story than it is completely natural, but in this instance, I’ll roll with it.
One last comment about Black Cat’s scene. The fact that SpOck punches her so hard that a tooth falls out isn’t something I find potentially misogynist because A) He’s done something similar before to Screwball, and B) he sees all villains as equal more or less. The tooth loss was for Felicia to realize how different Spider-Man is acting, and because the plot needs her to not notice that, she doesn’t. However I like the fact that Slott put as minimum attention on Felicia getting beaten up as he could, given that she’s getting worked on by a super powered being. I have more unease at the gleeful comments towards the punch since the issue’s come out than I have with the punch itself, but admittedly I’m sensitive towards those kinds of attitudes.
Staying with the FEMALES of this issue, I initially had nothing bad to comment on the one Carlie scene. After all of her procrastinating, she’s finally resolved to telling people about what she’s learned about Peter. But looking at that scene again, the way in which Carlie’s story is being told is still bothersome. For starters, Yuri Watanabe is fidgeting anxiously as though she has something better to do. She’s helped the only other person in the world find conclusive evidence that Spider-Man is really a master criminal in disguise, and she basically says “Can I GO ALREADY?” Doesn’t she have any interest to see how this plays out? She knew Spidey, wouldn’t she want to see his killer brought to justice? I don’t get why Slott wrote her that way. Her being out of the spotlight doesn’t amount to anything when the stakes are this high. That was grating to read. Further still, Carlie’s message she leaves on MJ’s phone reads thus:
“MJ? You there? Pick up. It’s Carlie. This is important! When you get this, call me okay? Until then, whatever you do, for your own sake…STAY AWAY from Peter Parker. And keep May and the others away too. I’ll explain later. Gotta go. Just promise me, wherever you are, you’ll play it safe.”
What the hell was that?
“I’ll explain later” should only be in reference to how Ock switch brains with Peter, not why she should stay away from Peter. This was about as descriptive as when in the 90s show Peter telling MJ “Brock’s a weirdo, okay?” It’s nowhere near exuding the level of danger they’re all in when they’re near him. Slott’s holding Carlie back, and I understand why. But it’s not understandable when we see her not doing everything she can to get across how messed up their predicament is.
On the other hand, Mary Jane’s scene is one that I enjoyed without feeling that Slott betrayed the nature of the character or their intended goals. Now that she thinks she’s freed herself from Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man, she goes after the next best thing: Pedro Olivera a.k.a. Firefighter-Man. Their names both start with “P” and they save people. It’ll be just like Peter!
Bertone and I discussed the merits of having MJ’s one scene in the book be her going after a man, and I think it fits the character well. MJ has always gone after who and what she wants, and she aims to do it in style. Even the use of the famous “Jackpot” phrase shouldn’t really be exclusive to just Peter when you think about it. This woman was the player of the 60s, she’s had to gone out on dozens if not hundreds of dates in an attempt to fashion herself to be the confident, carefree party girl that she became in order to forget her crappy home life. There may be a contingent on fans who loathe the idea of MJ with any guy other than Peter Parker, but like the Black Cat scene, I buy her actions based on her personal circumstances.
Conversely, the thesis scene with Lamaze I found hard to buy one the first read. I still don’t fully buy it now. It’s a good scene, but two things occur to me. The first is that Lamaze labels Otto as his “good friend” and “dear colleague”. This is the same guy who tried to fry the entire planet in the recent past. Is that really someone who anyone may’ve known would label as a “dear friend”? Secondly and more to the point, wouldn’t this little snag in creator credit be something that Ock would have thought about beforehand? It’s hard for me to buy that Ock thought he could pose as Peter Parker and present the exact same metal appendage applications that he used during his original lifetime. He tried to go legit with them during the JMS run. Heck, in his very first appearance it’s mentioned that he created the tentacles and is the only one permitted to use them. This comes off as a severe lack in foresight that seems incredibly obvious to me.
On the other hand I can almost buy it, as Slott’s been laying the seeds for Ock’s hubris and ego to do him in as of late. Even still, he really didn’t think the scientific community would have read about his theories before now?
Despite its nonsense, this is still a good issue. The art by Camuncoli is blessed with John Dell’s inks as opposed to Klaus Janson’s, and especially Antonio Fabela’s wonderful colors as opposed to Edgar Delgado’s. Edgar Delgado is someone who I think works well with Humberto Ramos but few other Spidey pencillers. His warm, earth-tone colors all but killed JRJR’s post-JMS Spidey artwork for me, and deadens a lot of Camuncoli’s work as well. Fabela made the night scenes with Black Cat and Anna Maria look gorgeous. He needs to stay on this title forever. Overall I’m engaged as ever on where this story is going. Stunner’s not a character I’m necessarily invested in, but most of the subplots are all given proper due, and the future of Ock is more and more in question. Speaking of future, I didn’t mention Madame Web’s proclamation that “ALL THE SPIDERS WILL DIE!” because she pretty much always says that.