Superior Spider-Man #22 Review (Chris’s Take)

ssm22I loved the Flash Thompson Venom series . . . until I didn’t. Can Slott, Gage, and Ramos recapture the magic by pitting our favorite symbiotic soldier against the Superior Spider-Man? Find out by reading this review!

“Darkest Hours”
WRITERS: Dan Slott & Christos Gage
PENCILS: Humberto Ramos
INKS: Victor Olazaba
COLOR: Edgar Delgado
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos


      • Betty investigates the Crime Master’s operation and Flash/Venom shows up for some expository dialogue about the Crime Master being Betty’s brother who knows Flash’s identity. Flash uses ostensively lethal means to infiltrate the gang.
      • Otto-Peter holds Parker Industries’s grand opening, with Aunt May and Jay in attendance. Pete-pus and Anna Maria do whatever it is people do after embracing each other in a dark, private room and easing themselves toward the floor next to a tank of glowing jellyfish.
      • Meanwhile, Captain Watanabe begins a private investigation of Carlie Cooper’s disappearance.
      • Ock-Spidey gets wind of Venom’s presence and storms into the Crime Master’s lair with an army of minions and robots. It turns out that the so-called “Crime Master” is just some schmuck who bought the Crime Master’s identity from Roderick Kingsley. However, Spidey’s real target is Venom, and Otto apparently has no idea who Flash is. Spidey takes Venom down with sonic and fire-based weapons.

When I last saw the Flash Thompson Venom, I was dropping his solo title because several missteps dragged the book into near-unreadability. Transplanting the character from New York to Philadelphia removed the character from his most interesting relationships, such as those with Betty, with Peter, and with his family. Furthermore, the baffling change of focus from espionage action mixed with introspective character moments to demon-possessed symbiote absurdity robbed the book of its former weight. According to Kevin’s Spider-Satellite reviews on our podcast, the book improved toward the end of its run. I’ll take his word for it.

But whatever I missed, it must not have mattered much, because Venom’s big return to the core Spider-Man series finds him pretty much exactly where he was before things went south. Agent Venom’s back in New York, he’s interacting with Betty, we’re revisiting the Crime Master storyline, and nary a demon’s in sight. Thank you!

With Flash back in the fold where he belongs (at least until he launches into space with the Guardians of the Galaxy next year), it seems Slott and Gage’s angle is that Otto has no idea who he is because the two never previously interacted and Otto never accessed Peter’s memories of Flash while he had them. That premise carries the potential for amusing scenes if Peterpus ever meets Flash in a civilian social situation and has to pretend to remember him. I hope the writers manage to squeeze in something like that. So far, we only have a super-fight that follows the Superior Spider-Man pattern, that is, Otto comes prepared and trounces his opponent. In this context, Otto refusing to go soft on Flash because he can’t remember him is just a variation on every other instance of Otto denying his adversaries the mercy they expect from Spider-Man.

This issue’s other part concerns the opening of Parker Industries. Man, that subplot’s moving quickly. Peter lost his job at Horizon in #19. He announced his intention to start this company in #20. This is #22 and he already has a fully-equipped site established, a full staff, and at least Anna Maria’s first genetic engineering experiment is well underway with full-grown glowing fish swimming around. Have months passed between issues? If so, then has Carlie been missing for all that time? Why is Captain Watanabe, who knew that Carlie was conducting an unsanctioned investigation of a dangerous, super-powered criminal, just getting concerned now? Why haven’t the Goblins, who have read Carlie’s journal and should therefore know Otto’s secret, made a move? The probable answer is that the Superior Saga’s end game storyline just isn’t substantial enough for the build up to fluidly extend across dozens of issues, so Slott has progressed everything involving Carlie and her Goblin captors, or really any story element that would naturally lead to Otto’s being discovered, at the pace of a cube rolling down a hill, but in the meantime he’s rushing to take his Otto-living-Peter’s-life ideas as far as he can in whatever finite amount of time he has left before Peter must return. That makes for awkward pacing. Come to think of it, many of my criticisms of Superior Spider-Man tie into this single point, that Slott is constantly fighting against his story’s natural inclination toward resolving itself.

There’s also the art of Humberto Ramos, which is a separate problem.

Can someone remind me which of these characters is SUPPOSED to look like an amorphous alien freak?

Can someone remind me which of these characters is SUPPOSED to look like an amorphous alien freak?

But I will say this: I’ve never read a Spider-Man story about a villain taking over Peter’s body and starting a company in Peter’s name while his loved ones look on adoringly. Although body swaps are a familiar trope in science fiction, Superior Spider-Man is unique in how long it has been sustained, so it has the opportunity to cover aspects and consequences of its well-worn premise that previous iterations have not touched on.

For instance, while I have seen stories in which bad guys have used stolen bodies to get laid (the Buffy-Faith body swap is the example I can think of right now), I don’t think I’ve ever seen a romantic relationship in such a scenario unfold naturally over the long term quite like the relationship between “Peter” and Anna Maria. After months of development, that relationship reaches a new stage in this issue, as the art and dialogue strongly imply that the two began to have sex until they were interrupted by “Peter” being called to action as Spider-Man. Obviously, obtaining consent through deception makes Otto despicable. Earlier in this run, it seemed like practically every online discussion regarding Superior Spider-Man I came across was dominated by anxiety over whether Otto, impersonating Peter, would sleep with Mary Jane, and whether such an event would constitute rape. Curiously, I have not seen the same online fervor now that Otto has actually done this to someone. People in the comments section, can you help me figure out why that is?

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 10.58.07 PM

My perspective is that Otto is a villain at heart and the series can portray him doing evil things as long as the series also portrays the consequences of those actions. There could be an interesting narrative in the concept that Otto delusionally believes he is achieving intimacy with someone he thinks he cares about, but is in actuality severely victimizing that person. If she finds out, one would expect her to feel disgusted, degraded, and even traumatized. It’s a story that a writer of profound Earthly wisdom and sensitivity could pull off without it coming across as an offensively shallow treatment of serious subject matter. In other words, I am somewhat concerned.

I keep referring to Slott as the writer of this story, even though I know Christos Gage probably did most of the legwork in putting this particular script together. That is because I assume Slott controls the major story beats in these collaborations, whereas Gage handles the particulars of dialogue and how the scenes fit together. Any difference in the tone or style of the book occasioned by Gage’s contributions are imperceptible. I enjoyed “Peter’s” dictator like opening speech for Parker Industries (“we will RULE THE WORLD of science”) and Betty calling Flash out on his expository dialogue in the opening scene.



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(19) Comments

  1. Big Al

    I know I am late to the party but I am only now catching up so sorry. Well in regards to why people aren't as anxious it's probably because MJ is more well established than Anna Maria but I absolutly think that the same anxieties people had about Otto sleeping with MJ apply here to all intents and purposes. It is different since he isn't trading off of the relationship MJ had with someone else but it's still a form of deception and rape. She isn't seeing Otto with his real face, she doesn't know the real him. Arguably you could even say this is Otto violating Peter since it's his body he's using for this without his permission

  2. BD

    @#14- giving a grade to a book before you read it is dumb and it's that negative attitude that people like to attribute to this site..... Including MR. Slott. This review is Chris's. That's why I like multiple reviewers on the main title. We've yet to hear from Ryan, but Don and Chris both gave the issue a C. I'd give it a B. Yet, I'm sure in Mr.Slott will continue to cite us as a negative site. The site is made up of several people, not one voice.

  3. crazychris

    I mean, for Pete's sake, Slott has used "way to Crawlspace it up" as an insult against someone on another board, completely out of the blue. If we are trying to pander to Marvel we are doing a bad job of it.

  4. crazychris

    13 - I really hope the story doesn't go there. Thankfully, I do not think it will. 14 - A C+ grade is evidence that we're trying not to alienate Marvel? Considering that Dan Slott has stated that he has permanently blocked this site from his browser and has permanently blocked some of us from his social media, that ship has sailed. If you had any idea about the things we've said about Marvel's books over the years, you'd know we're as unbiased as it gets.

  5. bossmanham

    I'll never understand this weird balancing act Crawlspace is trying to pull. You dump on the issue and what it does to our once beloved hero and how it pisses on his grave, and then give the issue even a passing grade. I'm glad this grade is lower than some of the past few, but seriously, as long as Marvel is willing to defame Peter Parker and puke on his memory, then the book deserves no better than a D, regardless of the quality of the story. Dan Slott has Pseudo Spider Man, a reprehensible and evil person doing morally abhorrent things, and getting praise, glory, and accolades for it. It's disgusting. Judge this character and the stories for their merit. I know you guys don't want to alienate yourselves from Marvel. But you know what? They don't deserve the concern. I've never been more disgusted by this book I once loved. Never missed Peter Parker more. I'm just glad I don't have to buy the tripe. Let's hope the adults take charge at Marvel again soon.

  6. AmazingOSUman

    #5 and #7. About the only interesting thing I can see coming out of this relationship is a pregnancy. Will Ock try to get Anna to abort? Will he be gone before the reveal, so that Pete is the one left to deal with this? Would Pete raise this child as his own? Will Ock (post Pete's return) show up to claim this child as belonging to him? (Wow. If Ock owned up to what he has done to Peter in order to wrest parental rights from Pete Ock would have to reveal that Pete is Spidey, no? Would the courts in a world where the mayor of NY can rush executions allow such craziness as granting Otto parental rights?) I quit buying back around issue 15, I think. I have kept up via reviews and the podcast, but I really wish they would get on with it, and we could have Spider-Man back. Spider-Man is Peter Parker. Accept no substitutes.

  7. CrazyChris - Post author

    1 - You are the expert on that topic. 2 - Well, remember that C+ is technically a positive grade, a flat C being mediocre, so I would say that I mildly liked this issue. The Parker Industries stuff was fun and I do like seeing Flash Venom again. It just wasn't as entertaining as the previous several issues. And I flat out hate Ramos's art style. 3 - That's true, but I agree with Xan's entire comment in response to that point. It still is deceiving her into sleeping with someone who murdered the person she thinks she's sleeping with. 4 - The number of subplots and characters gets REALLY ridiculous in the next issue. 5 - You're exactly right. 6 - Tell us what you really think! 7 - Yeah, I think the people who really hated Superior Spider-Man and had a vendetta to paint it as morally reprehensible have lost their fire over time. 8 - I must have missed something because I really do not think this issue sucked. I thought it was ok. 9 - Otto has always had an open-minded taste in women. Be they octogenarians, little people, or holograms, it doesn't matter to him.

  8. Doc Wyoming

    There is one strangely positive change in Spock - he's more open minded than Peter when it comes to love interests... Peter would never have considered a relationship with Anna Maria, and if you look at his dating history he pretty much mirrors Shallow Hal - pre epiphany.

  9. Enigma_2099

    "Curiously, I have not seen the same online fervor now that Otto has actually done this to someone. People in the comments section, can you help me figure out why that is?" Uhh... cause no one that cares is reading the book now? Because MJ means more to people than Anna? Not that I care for any of Slott's plots, but I'm gonna feel kinda bad for Anna wen Peter does come back.

  10. Xan

    Yeah, I agree with you, Chris -- as far as I can tell, there's less concern about the Ock!Peter and Anna Maria scene because people have been saying that Anna Maria never knew Peter, so she can't be deceived into think Ock!Peter is actually the old Peter Parker, but I disagree with that. Yeah, Anna Maria thinks Ock!Peter is just plain old Peter Parker when she doesn't know any better, but would she still consent to be in a relationship and sleep with him if she knew she was actually in a relationship with Doc Ock, a supervillain who tried to commit genocide not long ago and killed the person she thinks he is? I'd imagine not when she has a good head on her shoulders. And there's also something I don't see mentioned much, which is the fact that Otto is using Peter's body for things that Peter may not want done with it -- and considering that whole 'Otto gets off on Peter's memories and body' scene from SSM #2, I think you're right to be concerned that proper consequences for what Otto is doing probably won't be taken seriously.

  11. PunyParker

    If Slott will keep adding more subplots,from characters,they will run out of colours for the contour of the thought boxes.....

  12. hairychap

    Sleeping with Anna isn't taking advantage of a pre existing relationship established by Peter, heck she never even meet Peter before he was Ock.

  13. Donovan Grant

    I'm glad to see your grade on this being a "C+". That'll be the best it can get from me, as I really did not like this. " If she finds out, one would expect her to feel disgusted, degraded, and even traumatized. It’s a story that a writer of profound Earthly wisdom and sensitivity could pull off without it coming across as an offensively shallow treatment of serious subject matter. In other words, I am somewhat concerned." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

  14. Bertone

    Betty is true to form. She summons Flash (from another state), then is annoyed at him for showing up. She asks him to infiltrate the gang, then asks how he will, then is annoyed for him telling her. And Flash thinks to himself how it's all his fault. FWIW, Agent Venom has met Spidey before in Carnage USA despite the many protests from Marvel.

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