THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #23
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.
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.
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-.
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.