Bonded with the Venom symbiote, SpOctopus becomes the Superior Venom-Pus! But his exploits as New York’s new Lethal Protector aren’t nearly as interesting as the effect the new, darker Peterpus has on Aunt May and Mary Jane!
Written by the Superior Slott and Christos Gage
Penciled by the much maligned Humberto Ramos
Inked by Victor Olazaba
Colors by the Superior Team-Up of Edgar Delgado, Antonia Fabela and Veronica Gandini
THE SUPERIOR PLOT: With Ock now the Superior Dr. Venom, he runs on a crime-fighting rampage after attacking both Cardiac and Flash. Sajani rushes in to assist and reveals that due to Flash’s dependence on the symbiote, he won’t survive the day without it. Meanwhile Carlie Cooper has proven to be too tough to crack under Menace’s torture (which we never see), so the Green Goblin says “Eff it” and douses her with Goblin formula!
THE LONG, SUPERIOR STORY SHORT: After Anna Maria weeps to Dark Peterpus about what went down at dinner in the last issue, Black Suit SpOck goes directly to May and Jay’s and RIPS into her (figuratively speaking). Mary Jane arrives and keeps me from dropping the book by finally confronting “Peter” on his weird behavior. Evil Superior Peter LOLs and transforms into Dark Black Costume Ock, threatening Mary jane to stay out of his way for she’ll be sorry. Captain Watanabe comes out of nowhere and after MJ fumbles an excuse that Spider-Man came and took Peter away, arrests her for having such a lame story. MJ uses her one phone call to ring up the Avengers to bring Symbiote Spider-Pus down, and the story ends with a blurb that it will continue in the double sized issue #25.
MY THOUGHTS: I loved this.
It’s not perfect. In fact the first half annoyed me quite a bit. But the second half of this book entertained me in such a way that I’ve never felt when reading a Superior Spider-Man issue before. The scenes with Dark Peterpus yelling at everybody and threatening Mary Jane are some of the most cathartic moments in this entire run. Slott pushes aside pretense and just has Ock go buck WILD with reckless abandon as Superior Venom. He’s on top of his game in the back half of this issue, and the artwork by Ramos, Olazaba and Fabela make the scenes pop off the page. Again, this isn’t an all-time best or flawless issue. But Sweet Merciful Crap did I enjoy this!
Let’s get the negatives out of the way. Part of the reason why I groaned and rolled my eyes when Superior Venom first popped up is that there didn’t seem to be much Slott could do with that plot twist that he hadn’t already pulled with Spock before. A Dark version of our hero is the comic’s entire premise, and that this was just a gloopy sloppier version of Dark Spider-Man left little to the imagination as to what would come down the pike. This is proven with the scenes of Ock claiming he’s a “Lethal Protector” (Gawd) and beating up non-threatening, ordinary people. He wasn’t proving his might, and it wasn’t interesting to read about at all.
Even worse was the scene where Sajani tells Flash he’s got hours to live away from the Symbiote. I know Sajani’s been portrayed as nothing more than a horrible person who has contempt for everybody she works with, but the way in which she informs Flash about his dire situation is so matter-of-factly, so nonplussed that has her come off even worse. From a writing standpoint, I wonder if Slott is trying to write a supporting character that isn’t exactly evil but at the same time is legitimately an awful person. I understand that not every female character who’s a minority has to be a paragon of their ethnic and gender background, so I don’t totally loathe the character. But if someone’s going to be written this way, it’d be nice to have other characters call them on it. Flash had every right to say “What the HELL! Why didn’t you tell me this sooner? How long have you known?” Characters can be as mean as nasty as the writers want, but as long as the story acknowledges that they are that way, we don’t have to hate them more than we should.
Concerning the Goblin/Carlie scene, at first I questioned the plausibility of Carlie resisting torture by Goblin and Menace, but I understood how it had to lead into her getting drugged with the Goblin serum. That’s in interesting turn I didn’t expect. Will she mutate into another monster, or will she just gain super powers and a costume? Before that happened, I was wondering why Norman (if it is Norman, ho ho!) didn’t just use sodium pentothal. It’s what Roderick used on Ned Leeds. Honestly, I really don’t buy the lead up to Carlie getting the Goblin Formula. If they threw that at her from the start, it would make more sense. It’s in their nature to torture her, but having Carlie be so resistant to spilling her guts puts her over in a Carlie-Hammer kind of way. I’m not saying she’s weak willed, I’m saying she’s a normal person. I think Mary Jane would crack after a while as well.
What followed after that however is my favorite scene from this title thus far. First off, I loved the swerve of Aunt May and Jay expecting Mary Jane and having Dark Peterpus come through the door. Ramos gives him this intense look that’s underplayed but lets you know exactly what’s on his mind. I believe that if Mary Jane hadn’t intervened, Ock may have seriously hurt May or Jay in that moment. Slott also gives a poke at May’s worried grandmother role by having Ock completely galled at the notion that she could “forbid” him from doing anything. It’s something Peter’s tolerated for years because May’s supposed to be very delicate. Otherwise, no self-respecting man would put up with such condescending nonsense for so long. May acts completely in character here, but her character is such a caricature that Ock cannot stand it. Then my prayers are finally answered with Mary Jane confronting Peter on his behavior AT LAST! HALLELUJAH! Of course this is met with the most natural of reactions when Ock straight up implies that he’ll kill her if she doesn’t back off.
This is what I love to read in comics. The nature of these super hero plots forces conflict to arise in situations where lies are regularly doled out. Sooner or later the dam will break. Granted Mary Jane at this point probably assumes that Peter’s been using the symbiote all this time, and that’s annoying. At least it’s a plausible line of logic for her to follow, as opposed to her choosing not to think about it. Some may take issue with Slott’s overt use of the 90s show and Spider-Man 3 version of the symbiote in that it affects Ock personality. He should know better, but honestly…the symbiote affecting the user’s personality was always a better story. It’s why it’s been grafted onto the mythology for almost twenty years now, because that adds more conflict. So yeah, Slott’s thrown continuity with the symbiote out the window, but I’m not blaming him in this instance.
Moving onto the art, this issue had three colorists. I can recognize Delgado’s work in the beginning, especially with Ramos on pencils as they’ve been paired up for years now. I’m not as familiar with Veronica Gandini’s coloring, but Antonio Fabela is instantly recognizable in that it’s awesome. The deep, moody yet vibrant colors that appear once Dark Peterpus meets with Anna Maria serves as a great signifier for what’s to come. I particularly like the red outline on Dark Peterpus as he holds Anna Maria, vowing to make everything right.
Here’s the thing with Ramos. When he draws images of people talking or scenes of ordinary events happening, I really like him. I think there are some great shots of the Goblin, Carlie, Dark Peter and Mary Jane in this issue. Again, that panel of Dark Peter coming through the door was terrific. When the guy does action or scenes with high energy, he does tend to get a bit too loose in his renderings and the artwork can be hard to follow. The panel with Mary Jane yelling at Peter just before he transforms is not good. I understand that the guy’s inconsistent how his style is not for everyone. I don’t understand how people say he’s one of the worst Spidey artists ever, but at the same time I’ve no great love for Ross Andru, so to each his or her own. It’s a style thing more than an actual ability to draw. I think the pummeling of Ramos’ artwork in this arc has gotten over the top, but I do see where it comes from. That being said, he artwork helped make this issue shine for me.
This would get an A+ if the first half didn’t have that Sajani scene and Superior Venom weren’t so lame. The second half of this book was so good, and that last page was a great cliffhanger. Granted we’ve seen the Avengers before, but here SpOck is actively attacking people and Mary Jane is calling them in after he’s already fooled them. It carries a different weight in this instance, albeit not too much different. My opinion on this arc depends solely on the next issue and how everything is wrapped up, because there’s still a chance to fumble at the finish line. I did say in the last review that after parts 1 and 2, there wasn’t anything to look forward to for the rest of the story, so here’s hoping I’m surprised again.