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THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #21
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKER: John Dell
COLOR ART: Antonio Fabela
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
- Stunner attacks SpOck, thinking him responsible for Otto’s death. SpOck sends his spider-bots to deactivate the machine that generates Stunner’s holographic avatar.
- SpOck commandeers the hologram machine to create a very 90s-looking Doctor Octopus avatar. The holo-Ock informs Stunner that he has found another love. The holo-Ock also visits Dr. Schnoz and tells him that Otto Octavius’s greatest ideas were inspired by Peter Parker, boy prodigy. Schnoz recants his accusation that Peter plagiarized Otto’s work, resulting in the acceptance of Peterpus’s doctoral thesis.
- Carlie visits Otto’s grave, only to find no body present in the ground. The Goblins capture Carlie, and the Green Goblin begins reading her journal.
Don’s review pretty much says it, and I almost wish I could just cosign it and call it a day. I would, however, supplement with the point that it is not necessarily a “big coincidence” that Stunner awoke from her coma at this point in the story. The original Stunner stories came out somewhat before I started reading Spidey comics, but I gather from internet osmosis that she fell into a coma because she offered up her essence as a means to resurrect Otto after Kaine killed him. When Otto’s body died again in Amazing Spider-Man #700, it broke the spell and awakened Stunner. This is consistent with how Superior Spider-Man #20 depicts Stunner waking up at the exact moment Otto’s body dies, and with Stunner’s dialog in #21 explaining why she awoke. I possess an admittedly limited knowledge of the older stories, but it seems like there is a nice continuity at play here.
The fight with Stunner is my favorite Superior Spider-Man action sequence so far. Stunner really comes across as a power house who could smear SpOck into the pavement if she got a clean shot in. Between the direct threat Stunner poses to SpOck himself and her wanton endangerment of innocent bystanders, the encounter tests SpOck’s resolve in a way his other battles have not. The best moment comes when Spider-Man has to hold a packed bus suspended in webbing to keep it from crushing Anna Maria, while Stunner beats him from behind. Don’t get me wrong, Stunner by no means pushes SpOck to his limit, but she poses a serious enough challenge to make the confrontation thrilling.
I found that the character motivations driving the conflict were believable. Normally, I dislike comic book fights premised on misunderstandings, but the misunderstanding here (Stunner’s belief that Spider-Man killed Otto) is natural rather than contrived, and Otto’s reason for not clearing up the misunderstanding is obvious (it would mean revealing the secret of the mind swap). A commenter on Don’s review, Stuart Green, mentioned that Otto’s dumping Stunner is unbelievable in light of how dedicated he was to her in the 90s stories, but I find that the amount of time that has passed and the incredible job Slott has done at developing Otto’s relationship with Anna Maria makes that point understandable.
Like Don, I also appreciate that the Goblins’ capturing Carlie helps move forward the story lines of both sets of characters. At the very least, now that these threads have merged we’ll have one tedious, lagging subplot instead of two. I also had the thought that Carlie should not be lollygagging at the cemetery before bringing her proof of the mind swap to the Avengers. My fellow Crawlspace contributor Josh Bertone suggests that Carlie hopes to get ahold of Mary Jane before going to the Avengers so that Mary Jane can accompany her as someone whom the Avengers know and would believe. Carlie could fear that the Avengers would disbelieve her, that they would tell Otto about her accusation, and that Otto would then kill her. I think that theory makes about as much sense as any explanation could reasonably make, given the plot. But I don’t think her conspicuously visiting Otto’s grave in the middle of the day shows an abundance of caution, or the appropriate “sense of urgency,” as Don put it.
The Carlie scenes do leave us with some intriguing questions, like why is Otto’s grave empty? What secrets did Carlie write in her journal, and what will the Goblins do with that information?
Switching gears to another subplot, it surprised me that the plagiarism allegation problem was resolved so quickly–I had that pegged as the ironic plot twist that would end up ruining Otto’s fledgling business empire. The concept that Otto can solve his problems with a tangible, holographic version of himself strikes me as mildly silly, but I guess it’s fair game in the Marvel universe. As an aside, it is a nice touch that Otto’s holographic avatar embodies the white-suited 1990s version of Otto that Stunner would know.
I’ll give #21 the highest grade I can give it without putting it on the same level as truly exceptional issues like #9 and #19.