Find out what happens next in the saga of the Superior Spider-Man, the world’s zaniest super hero! Now with 100% more masturbation than last issue! 90% less super villains than last issue! And the most frustrating portrayal of Mary Jane Watson since… well, since last issue. There’s only one way to describe this wacky new adventure: It’s crazy-town banana-pants. Long-time Spidey fans will remember THAT classic phrase. Right?
The Superior Spider-Man #2
Words by Dan Slott
Art by Ryan Stegman
Colors by Edgar Delgado
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
So when did everything get so weird?
It would be possible to write a very interesting Spider-Man comic about a villain’s attempt to pose as Peter and woo Mary Jane. And there is a spark of that interesting comic present here. As Otto makes his repeat attempts and is left with only a peck on the cheek every night, much to the relief of Peter’s ever-present ghost, I was reminded of a certain sequence in the movie Groundhog Day. Living the same day over and over again, Bill Murray’s character endlessly revises his attempts at wooing Andie MacDowell, trying to get the “equation” just right so that the night will end as he plans. In that movie it was a really creative way to demonstrate that the chemistry involved in love is too complicated to control with a formula, but Superior seems to flounder around that message, touching it only briefly and then essentially flying in its face.
Along the way, it’s a horribly bumpy ride that is about as insulting to MJ fans as anything we’ve seen since the mind swap happened. But before we get there, there’s something that really must be addressed about this issue…
These are the words uttered by Peter Parker as Otto shakes hands with Mayor Jameson in his body. He’s marveling over the irony that Jonah has begun to approve of Spider-Man “over [his] dead body! Or [his] live body with Doc Ock’s brain!” It’s a clever twist indeed, but what’s with this phrase all of a sudden?
Well, turn the page, and there’s Mary Jane uttering the same thing to Carlie. It’s “just something Peter used to say,” she explains, which Carlie acknowledges having picked up as well when she was dating him. Anyone who’s been reading Spider-Man for a while should be scratching their heads at this scene, wondering when Peter has ever said “crazy-town banana-pants.” For that matter, if MJ and Carlie picked it up, when have they ever said it?
The answer, of course, is never. So why am I harping on this one phrase out of a 20-page comic? If you guessed that it’s because of how it sounds like something a thirteen-year-old would have tried to coin over Livejournal, you’re partially right. If it’s because it further degrades Peter’s character as an emotionally adolescent manchild, you’re on the right track. But there’s more.
It’s already been a widely made complaint about the whole saga of Peter and Otto’s mind swap that everyone, most of all Mary Jane, is being far too stupid about it. But this problem has reached a critical stage in Superior #2. No matter how many times MJ hesitates, no matter how many out-of-character things “Peter” says and does, she never starts to act suspicious. She never gets upset with him for his change in behavior. She never questions why he’s being so forward all of a sudden. Peter himself, watching in faded blue ghost form as Otto sits down with MJ, laments that “he’s saying super villain stuff! How can no one see through this?”
But the issue hits rock bottom when Otto comes up with a solution so dumb and juvenile that I was genuinely surprised, even after the whole Aunt May wedding night fiasco: he discovers masturbation. “Wait. Of course!” he exclaims. “I’m a fool for not thinking of this sooner. I can be with that Watson girl any time I want! Because she was with Parker. And now that his memories are mine… I can relive them. Over and over again!”
Readers are then treated to a positively delightful montage of Peter’s intimate memories with his wife, and a display of his pleased-looking visage atop it all making it perfectly clear what Otto’s doing while all this goes on. But just in case anybody might be innocent enough to miss out on this — like perhaps one of the young kids that Marvel would like to attract to their comics-reading crowd — Peter’s ghost groans, “Ugh. Does he have to keep touching my body?”
Everyone was so worried that a rape-by-deception would occur between Otto and MJ, this other possibility never even occurred to them: if you take over someone else’s body and then masturbate it in, is that rape?
Here is an even better question, though: why is that being raised in a Spider-Man comic?
So this is it then? Me floating around while you mess things up, hit on girls, and play around with a robot butler?
There’s finally a little action (I mean, of the typical super hero variety!) towards the end of the issue when some little Vulture stooges we haven’t seen before invade MJ’s nightclub, apparently looking for something their master stashed away there back when it was a super villain hangout. In another of his inexplicable changes of heart, Otto realizes after saving her that the two them together is “insane,” and that their relationship is “the greatest trap of all.” The only way to free her, he says, is to move on, which Peter’s ghost suddenly lauds him for. Nevermind the past twenty pages of utterly revolting content we had to slog through. Peter switches to “I was wrong about you, Otto!” Seriously.
And so Slott has unwittingly coined a phrase that captures every major flaw of his run. It’s juvenile, it’s all wrong in tone for the subject matter, it brings Peter’s maturity down, and it’s inserted out of nowhere upon a readership who is simply told that they are to believe it has always been that way. It’s crazy-town banana-pants.
Pros: Well, Stegman’s art is still really terrific. I especially love the way he draws MJ in this issue. Jonah’s dialogue is very Jonah and quite funny, as well.
Cons: It’s more frustrating than ever that nobody is accusing Peter of being an impostor, especially Mary Jane. The masturbation scene is utterly unnecessary and unpleasant. The conclusion is highly unsatisfactory, with Otto’s “lesson” coming out of nowhere and erasing all the vile behavior he’s exhibited over the issue. “Crazy-town banana-pants.”