Superior Spider-Man #23 Review (Chris’s take)

ssm23Venom vs. Superior Spider-Man round two!

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


The following named characters appear and have speaking roles in Superior Spider-Man #23: Detective Pratchett, the Crime Master, Otto Octavius, Flash Thompson, Anna Maria Marconi, the Green Goblin, Lily Hollister, Phil Urich, Carlie Cooper, Mary Jane Watson, Pedro Olivera, Yuri Watanabe, May Parker, J. Jonah Jameson Sr., Elias Wirtham, Liz Allan, J. Jonah Jameson Jr., Tiberius Stone, and Miguel O’Hara. Mason Banks and the symbiote appear but do not talk. This comic has more characters than it has pages, and this isn’t a book with massive group shots of super hero teams or anything like that. There are ten scene breaks in the comic, meaning that the average scene lasts two pages. Slott and Gage tie all this together with a loose three-act central story: Venom escapes Spider-Man, the two meet again in their civilian identities, and “Peter” tricks Flash into losing the symbiote. Is this book sacrificing substance for quantity? The only way to find out is to give an individual grade to each scene!

Scene 1: In the issue’s only real action scene, Venom escapes from Spider-Man’s clutches by tricking Spidey into blowing up a crate of weapons. Anna Maria then calls “Peter” to demand an apology for walking out on her in the middle of (probably) sex. Somehow, this conversation ends with Anna Maria promising to cook Peter’s family brunch and saying “kissy kissy.”

The Venom-Spidey sequence has on-point characterization of Otto, who initially offers Flash a chance to prove he can control the symbiote but is secretly trying to get Flash to do something that looks like a hostile gesture so that Otto has a plausible reason to kill him.

Visually, the ensuing battle suffers from being drawn by Humberto Ramos. Sometimes people say Ramos is a good comic book artist. They say this because they want to feel like they are open minded and trendy, not because they actually believe it.

His characters may be ugly, but at least his storytelling is bad!

His characters may be ugly, but at least his storytelling is bad!

Anna Maria’s conversation with Spider-Man rings falsely. No woman would insist on cooking a man a meal right after he left her lying half-nailed next to a jellyfish tank. I give this scene a C.

Scene 2: The goblins have read Carlie’s journal, which states that Otto has possessed Spider-Man but does not mention Peter’s name. Menace threatens to torture Spidey’s identity out of Carlie while the Green Goblin leaves to impersonate the Hobgoblin. This subplot gets progressed only in that it clarifies what information the journal contained. Also, the dialogue implies that the Green Goblin is someone who knew Spider-Man’s identity before the psychic blind spot, which would have been a significant clue to the Goblin’s identity if not for the fact that everyone in the world knew Spider-Man’s identity after Civil War. C-.

Scene 3: Anna Maria asks Peter to organize the spider-bots in his apartment. Um . . . C.

Scene 4: Flash steals drugs for the symbiote from a hospital. Flash talking to the symbiote like it was an injured friend is interesting. B.

Scene 5: Mary Jane reopens her nightclub, and all police, firefighters, and first responders can come in for free. Watanabe tells MJ about Carlie’s disappearance. MJ listens to Carlie’s voicemail regarding staying away from Peter for the first time. Watanabe tells MJ not to call Peter.

Watanabe, like Carlie Cooper before her, at least knows that Peter Parker, Otto Octavius, and Spider-Man are all connected to each other, and she is not doing anything to warn the people in danger other than to speak in vague generalities. C-.

Scene 6: Flash shows up at Peter’s door. Otto only knows Flash as Venom, but catches on that he and Peter are friends in three panels. Slott and Gage missed an opportunity for a tense or amusing scene of Otto trying to piece together Flash and Peter’s history. C-.

Scene 7: Dr. Wirtham replaces the damaged portion of May’s nervous system with Otto’s nanotechnology so that she can walk without a cane. Nothing’s particularly gripping or angering about this scene. C+.

Scene 8: Jonah hires Alchemax to create Spider Slayers. While Jonah hiring people to send robots and/or super villains to go after Spider-Man was already boring forty years ago, I do like that the Alchemax characters, particularly Liz and Miguel, are in the regular supporting cast rotation. This will get a B-.

By the way, check out Liz’s number two, Mr. Banks, and how similar his suit looks to the one the Green Goblin wore in #15. The scripts always single out this guy by name, the art strongly hints that he is the Green Goblin, and yet he practically never speaks or does anything notable. “Mason Banks” is probably an alias and he is probably somebody else that we already know.

Mr. Banks in #23.

Mr. Banks in #23.

Green Goblin in #15.

Green Goblin in #15.

It’s also fascinating how the guy in the white tank top the Goblin is talking to in the panel from #15 also has his face hidden and is wearing some kind of weird hat. That means he’s also someone we know and his hair would give away his identity. Maybe these are Norman and Harry.

Scene 9: May, Jay, Anna Maria, Flash, and “Peter” have brunch. Aunt May asks Anna Maria if her physical condition is hereditary because she is worried about her grandchildren. Obviously, Aunt May smoked crack on the way from Dr. Wirtham’s lab to Peter’s place because that is the only explanation for this. At first, this scene amused me as an embarrassing parent moment, but as it sinks in I can’t get over the outrageousness of May’s behavior. Old people say stupid, socially tone deaf things, sure. But Aunt May interrogating someone she just met about that person’s physical handicap and the implications of that person procreating with her nephew is just crazy. And it draws attention away from what was really potentially compelling about the scene, which is that Venom and Doctor Octopus are sharing a meal with three innocent people who are none the wiser. That should be a TENSE scene, like the Thanksgiving scene in the first Spider-Man movie, or like Peter’s dinner with the Osborns in Spectacular Spider-Man #189. Ugh. D.

Scene 10: At Parker Industries, “Peter” and Wirtham give Flash a new set of robot legs. Peter walks out of the room and Spider-Man walks in. Flash and Wirtham must be pretty stupid not to put two and two together. Anyway, Spider-Man activates a sonic scanner that rips the symbiote from Flash. The symbiote breaks free and merges with Spider-Man, turning him into the final boss from the Spider-Man Playstation 1 game, only more stupid looking. D-.

Nothing says alien + spider + octopus like dog hindquarters!

Nothing says alien + spider + octopus like dog hindquarters!

According to some online GPA calculator I found through Google, this comic gets a 1.9 average. By the way, this is a terrible method for evaluating a work as a whole and I will never do it again. But my brain had no other way to put this jumble together.



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(28) Comments

  1. Her Response

    I do consider all the ideazs you've offerred on your post. They are really convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are too quick for beginners. Coulod you please extend them a little from nrxt time? Thank you for the post.

  2. astuce

    Hello everyone, it's my first pay a visit at this web page, and paragraph is actually fruitful in support of me, keep up posting these types of articles or reviews.

  3. hornacek

    @24 - The fate of Slott's villains should be discussed in the next installment of the regular podcast segment, Spider-Man Shot A Guy In The Face.

  4. Jack

    I am wishing for a *stupendous* loss/failure/calamity for Octavius, not just the same-old villain disappearance in an explosion/crashing plane/dimensional vortex. If this story-line is his greatest villainy, then he ought to get a massive send-off.

  5. CrazyChris

    19 - Thank you!20 - It's not a question of the amount of content. It is about the division of a finite amount of content into several topics that do not get their due.21 - Yeah, thanks for noticing how incredible the theory is!22 - As hornacek alludes to, villains die in Slott's stories. Otherwise, they go into revolving door prisons just like comic villains always have.

  6. Jack

    I very much want Octavius to pay, in spades. But I'm afraid Slott will just let him glide away somehow, leaving wreckage in his wake. Do the villains in Slott stories ever pay much of a price?

  7. Jesse Brown

    I see your point but, in my opinion having too much content is always better than not having enough content.

  8. Spider-Dad

    CC, I consistently enjoy your reviews and how you take different angles to break them down. Now if only Marvel could craft their stories as nicely as you analyze them, I would be a pretty happy reader.As for your comment on on. "Stylized" is an adjective for "out of proportion", "unbelievable body contortions" and "inconsistent facial layouts".

  9. CrazyChris

    2 - ?3 - If it's a Spider-Man thing in 2013, it must be "superior."4 - You're welcome.5 - Yes, Ramos's art is bad.6 - I think Slott and this title have been good since issue 14, up until this arc. It might be because Christos Gage is cowriting. I wasn't a huge fan of 11-13 that he cowrote, or 6AU and the annual that he wrote himself.7 - "Piece of shit" is stronger than I feel about it. It is mediocre.8 - That's a good point. I don't like Ramos's style, but the more serious problem is that his art is difficult to follow. If the Venom on the last page did not have tentacles and called himself the "the superior Venom," it would not be easy to tell with whom the symbiote bonded. Ramos is, simply, a bad storyteller and the ugly style is just icing. His work is terrible.9 - Aunt May is critical of Peter's girlfriends, but I am still leaning toward this particular scene being too extreme. My initial instinct was that this scene was fine, though. Old people do lose their senses of social boundaries, in my experience. But this one might take it too far.10 - I agree with that, except to the extent that you're implying that the art in 14-16 was good. Better than the standard for a particular artist is not the same thing as good, or tolerable. Spider-Man in the big spread in #14 was one of stupidest-looking, awkwardly contorting Spider-Mans I have ever seen, for example. Ramos at his best is still worse than the usual work of any other artist who has had a significant run on Spider-Man.11 - The problem isn't that Ramos's art is cartoony. Stegman's art is cartoony and I still like it. The problem is that his style is UGLY and his scenes are hard to follow.12 - I'd predict that there will be some reason that Flash does not learn that Otto, Peter, and Spider-Man are all the same person.13 - Thank you!14 - Otto can't ACCESS MEMORIES that he didn't access before #9, so he has no way to remember Flash.15 - It feels like "I normally like Ramos but this one isn't his best" is a common comment. I remember Kevin on the podcast saying at least once that Ramos had improved but whatever we were reviewing at the time was a backslide. After a certain number of these kinds of comments, we are going to have to acknowledge that whatever past Ramos issue(s) people thought were good were the exception, not the rule. Or maybe you're just imagining them.16 - I wrote three sentences about the art and multiple paragraphs about the story, so I'm not sure where you're comment is coming from.17 - Fair enough. Saying that people who express liking Ramos's art don't really believe it crossed a line. In all fairness, they might have an eyesight problem. Okay, okay, I'm just kidding. People are entitled to incorrectly believe that Ramos's art is an improvement over a blank page. I respect that.

  10. Chasing Amazing

    "Sometimes people say Ramos is a good comic book artist. They say this because they want to feel like they are open minded and trendy, not because they actually believe it."Ah yes, that's one surefire way to foster discussion and community ... telling people who think differently than you are that their opinions are either wrong or they don't actually believe it. Though at least this review doesn't open with the writer admitting his inherent bias for the comic book writer, but "reviewing" the comic book anyway.

  11. Sbee

    You can tell no one gives a damn about a storyline when the number 1 problem is the art and not where the story goes next or what it ends with

  12. Donovan Grant

    "Visually, the ensuing battle suffers from being drawn by Humberto Ramos. Sometimes people say Ramos is a good comic book artist. They say this because they want to feel like they are open minded and trendy, not because they actually believe it."OH DAMN!That's the coldest thing I've ever heard from you. I enjoy Ramos generally, but I'll throw my hands up and admit that this current story isn't showcasing his best.

  13. hornacek

    Chris explains Ramos' appeal in a nutshell.There's no ACCESSING MEMORIES scene when SpOck meets Flash? Missed opportunity.Could the name "Mason Banks" be a clue to the character's real identity? To the Anagram Machine! ... Nabs Mask On ... Ban Masks On ... Ban Ass Monk ... Man As Knobs ... it's right there, people.

  14. Kevin Cushing

    "No woman would insist on cooking a man a meal right after he left her lying half-nailed next to a jellyfish tank."I got to "half-nailed" and laughed so hard I went into a coughing fit, then checked to make sure I'd read that right and laughed some more.This whole thing was freaking awesome. I enjoyed the issue more than you, but I enjoyed your review every bit as much!

  15. Cardtrick

    Now that the symbiote is on SpOck, when (I'm assuming he will) Flash gets it back, will he know 1) that Spider-Man is really Peter and 2) that Peter is now Ock?

  16. Gary

    I actually like Ramos' artwork. Sure, it's good to have realistic artwork, but sometimes a cartoony look for a comic just feels right to me. And frankly, if Stegman isn't doing the art, I'd rather it be Ramos than giuseppe camuncoli. Camuncoli's Spider-man looks awesome, but ugh, I cannot stand to see the faces that guy draws.

  17. Nick MB

    This storyline does feel a tad average after #14-21, which were excellent. Still interested in the Parker Industries/Anna Maria stuff, but the Venom storyline so far seems to mostly be a dutiful touch-in with the symbiote end of the universe (because Superior should have one meet-up with them in the main book) while the real plotlines spin their wheels. And although I still don't hate Ramos's art as much as some, again, his work on #14-16 was some of his best and this seems like a slight step down. More storytelling missteps than usual.

  18. Cardtrick

    Aunt May has a history of being critical of Peter's lady friends as she's always pushed for MJ since way back when Betty and Liz were the interests. Josh and Don have some great insight on this matter on ASM Classics.

  19. RandomJC

    Obviously I missed something, cause I couldn't, and still can't, see the logical progression in the art to Spider-Man being taken over by Venom. I assume it is so, because he kinda looks like that that, but I thought it was just the Symboite taking some weird form, and for some reason spouting off "Superior Venom" cause, you know.Also, I liked Doc Carnage.

  20. Tyson

    It took me at least half an hour over two sittings to read this issue, because I kept having to stop and do things like roll my eyes or say, "Oh, come on!" I don't care about Slott's track record. I don't deny he's done actual decent work in the past, but this crap is getting worse and worse. And it has nothing to do with a dislike of Ock as Spidey, because I find the Team-Up book and others featuring SpOck to be enjoyable. It almost seems like, from a quality standpoint, the main title is a second rate satellite title. And as for Ramos' art, I've never been a huge fan, but it's hard to deny it seems to be getting worse.

  21. PunyParker

    Ramos's art is horrible. In the page where Mj opens her club,each panel has a different Mary Jane......Ugly,young,old and the full body one is normal.

  22. Zap327

    "Obviously, Aunt May smoked crack on the way from Dr. Wirtham’s lab to Peter’s place because that is the only explanation for this.' Whaaahahahahahaha .........thank you there goes my coffee

  23. CrazyChris - Post author

    I would add that in #17, SpOck and Banks are near each other in two scenes, and both times SpOck's Spider-Sense goes off. The first time SpOck is thinking that is his spider-sense has "never buzzed like this before." The only other characters nearby are Normie, Liz, and Tiberius Stone. Of those, only Tiberius Stone is actually dangerous, but he isn't a big enough threat to give SpOck the biggest Spider-Sense he's ever had. It's Banks that's doing it. Banks wears glasses and a mustache: classic disguise elements. He's freaking Norman.

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