THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1
WRITER: Christos Gage
PENCILS & COLOR: Javier Rodriguez
INKS: Alvaro Lopez
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
- Blackout hopes to boost his reputation by killing Spider-Man. Believing that Peter Parker supplies Spider-Man’s equipment, Blackout kidnaps Aunt May to extort Peter into sabotaging Spidey’s gear.
- But “Peter” is actually Doctor Octopus, who uses his resources to hunt Blackout down. Blackout bites SpOck’s neck, but SpOck anticipated that and had armored that part of his body with an electrified plate that incapacitates Blackout. Spidey-Ock tortures Blackout and (unbeknownst to Ock) Aunt May witnesses this.
- Ock releases Blackout on the condition that Blackout spread the word that Peter Parker’s loved ones are not to be targets. Blackout apparently does this, as criminals on the street now avoid Peter Parker.
- The Goblins do nothing.
If you look past the stylish art and the darker tone, Superior Spider-Man Annual #1 follows a familiar pattern. The Superior Spider-Man faces a villain–it in no way matters which villain, but this time it happens to be Blackout–and for a moment it looks like Spidey’s opponent has the upper hand. However, it turns out Otto prepared for every contingency, and the villain was doomed all along. The villain becomes cornered, but *surely* he can take comfort in the fact that he’s dealing with Spider-Man and not someone who would seriously harm him, right? WRONG! Because the villain has run afoul of the SUPERIOR Spider-Man (as our anti-hero must call himself out loud at least once in the issue)! The Superior Spider-Man performs acts of brutality on the villain, and the Goblins do nothing for a page. End scene.
Basically, this is a different creative team’s take on the same type of Superior Spider-Man story Dan Slott was writing six months ago. Since around issue #14, Slott has moved on from the above-referenced tropes and has put out one engaging, unique story after another. This annual takes a step backwards. The script by Gage contains far less over-the-top hamminess than the typical Slott affair, but a tired-out story is a tired-out story no matter what coat of paint gets splashed over it.
Sure, a few things do set this issue apart. Rather than brutalizing his enemy in a state of blind rage (as he did to Boomerang, Vulture, Screwball, and Jester), SpOck tortures Blackout with a colder, more calculated attitude. I don’t know if that point amounts to anything interesting, but it is a marginally different emotional note. Also, Aunt May has now seen SpOck’s darkest side in person, which may or may not become a significant plot development. And I guess criminals are going to be scared of Peter Parker now. They weren’t harassing him all that much as it was, though.
In terms of character interaction, the only significant scene is a moment between Peterpus, Aunt May, and Jay that homages some imagery and dialogue from Amazing Fantasy #15. The only interesting part of this sequence is Otto’s internal reflection regarding his past relationship with May. Otto recalls that he at first saw May as a person to exploit for something she inherited, but he later came to realize she was a good person that he cared about. That is fairly consistent with the way Otto was written during the oh-so-stupid Ock-May wedding storyline from Gerry Conway’s run and the how-can-something-this-idiotic-be-real follow-up in Len Wein’s ghost of Hammerhead tale.
Again, I find Rodriguez’s art quite cool. Notice that he is credited as both the penciler and the colorist. Having that kind of singular vision when it comes to visuals pays off, particularly with regard to the silhouette effect Rodriguez uses to illustrate Blackout’s power to envelope an area in darkness.
As you can see, I do have some nice things to say about this Annual. But I really think Slott’s recent stories involving the Hobgoblin, Spider-Man 2099, and Stunner have raised the bar. Those stories convinced me that Spider-Ock has some mileage left in him, that this concept has a ways to go before it’s getting old. This story did not convince of that at all.
Special thanks to George Berryman for helping me find a fabulous adjective I was looking for.