Anghus Houvouras reviews the first issue of The Superior Spider-Man…
“THEN!… Peter Parker spent a lifetime living up to the responsibilities his powers foisted upon him but his Amazing story finally ended dramatically in the historic Spider-Man #700. NOW!…The new Amazing Spider-Man has arrived and he is better in every single way. Smarter, stronger…Superior.“
Good stories often get lost in the drama of hyperbole. Dan Slott has been engaged in a crazy chess match with readers ever since it was discovered that he was mind wiping Peter Parker in favor of a Doctor Octopus-driven Spider-Man . Reactions to the storyline have ranged from intrigued to enraged. This kind of pot stirring is often a publicity stunt posing as a plot line. I have a hard time hanging that label around the neck of The Superior Spider-Man #1 which hit the stands on Wednesday. Though I have to admit Slott and Marvel seem to be engaged in an epic case of buyer’s remorse on the premise they’ve sold readers.
Now that Octavius is in control of Spider-Man , he plans on living the kind of life Parker never could. He will be ruthless where Peter showed resolve. He will employ his sizable intellect to toy with his villains. His plan to create a newer, more effective Spider-Man is the most interesting thing to happen to the character in ages.
I’m loving the Octavius inner monologue. The whole thing feels like an episode of the Venture Brothers, and that’s never the bad thing. Watching Doctor Octopus abandon the inhibitions that held back both Parker and Spider-Man is comedy gold. He ogles Mary Jane and revels in the brutal beat down of his former allies. There a ridiculous amount of ego on display from Octavius as he takes on a second string version of the Sinister Six. He scoffs at the flimsy excuses of villainy (bench warmers like Beetle and Speed Demon) and employs a number of tactics and techniques in his effort to create a superior Spider-Man.
The only problem I had came with the last page. It’s a potential deal breaker for the whole enterprise. The final page reveals a Star Wars inspired Blue Ghost / Dead Jedi version of Parker who is somehow still hanging around in spite of his recent demise. The reset button is basically laid out in the final panels, giving us a crystal clear path to everyone’s favorite web slinger coming back from the dead. This move should surprise no one. Everybody knew the status quo would be restored, but so soon?
This is where comic books fail as a medium. Couldn’t Marvel have waited a few issues before invalidating the concept? Unlike a lot of people, I was pretty happy to see Slott and company tinkering with the formula. Superior Spider-Man is ripe with potential and has made the character interesting again. Rather than gives us a year or two of stories with Octavius dealing with the fallout of stealing Parker’s life, instead we get a hackneyed Jekyll and Hyde style set up that will no doubt see Parker fighting for control. It shows a lack of commitment to the premise and opens the back door way too soon. Marvel is hedging their bets instead of going all in. The nicest way to put it would be ‘disappointing’. The more honest description would be ‘insulting’. It’s typical of Marvel editorial and the entire Marvel NOW! initiative. I’ve been a fan of many Marvel NOW! books, but they lack the fearlessness of their arch rival DC who basically shuttered their entire comic universe to start from scratch in an effort to find relevancy. Marvel NOW! is a more half hearted approach to reinvention, and The Superior Spider-Man may be the most salient example of an editorial team afraid of taking a real risk.
There’s a reason the mainstream comic book industry has turned into an endless series of reboots and relaunches: creators aren’t allowed to take the characters anywhere unexpected for more than a handful of issues. Marvel got me reinvested in Spider-Man for the first time in a decade. And with one page in Superior Spider-Man #1, they’ve managed to erode my confidence in their ability to tell new stories.
I’m wondering how many issues before they hit the reset button? I was thinking at least a year before they restored the status quo, but Marvel might not have the stones to make this one last a year.
Still, in spite of their missteps, here’s a lot to like about this issue. Ryan Stegman’s art is wonderfully kinetic and plays well to the over the top story that Slott is telling. Other than the eye rolling final page, The Superior Spider-Man is a much improved and entertaining take on one of comics’ most popular characters.