Superior Spider-Man 2 Cover

Rating: ★★★½☆

Don’t rape Mary Jane. Don’t rape Mary Jane. Don’t rape Mary Jane. That has essentially been my mantra ever since reading The Superior Spider-Man #1. It’s a fear and concern shared by many readers ever since Don Slott had Doc Ock switch bodies with Peter Parker, and attempt to rekindle the romance with Mary Jane. It’s become such a huge deal that it is getting more attention paid to it than any other aspect of the new series. In fact, as I’m writing this I’m thinking, “Great, I’m contributing more to the stigma of overlooking everything else about the comic,” but stay with me (unless you don’t want some minor spoilers).

I don’t think that anyone expected an outright depiction of the two characters in the act, but that didn’t quell the fear that it would be established through story telling. Dan Slott is a brave man. He killed off Peter Parker, gave us a cliché sci-fi story of body-swapping and has made Spider-Man’s arch nemesis the new Spider-Man. Dan Slott is not a stupid man. In fact, I’d say the outcry over the Mary Jane/Doc Ock subplot is an example of clever storytelling.

Everything that Slott has done since The Amazing Spider-Man #698 has had readers threatening to quit reading his work. Kill Peter? We’re done. Make Doc Ock the new Spidey? We’re done. An Otto/Mary Jane romance? We’re done. The pattern here is that everything that readers threaten to use as a reason to drop the title is completely contingent upon the events of the next issue. If a certain scenario is to play out, people say they will stop reading. They won’t know if that happens or not without buying the next issue. So in essence what Slott has been doing is getting under our skin just enough to piss us off, but not enough to keep us from reading anymore Spider-Man titles with his name on them.

SSM2 1 (600 x 300)

I, for one, was very pleased with how this issue played out. It’s fun. Otto definitely pursues his sexual desires towards Mary Jane, but what at one point had readers feeling queasy and nervous turns out to be a huge source of comic relief. Basically – Doc Ock has NO game. Keep in mind that the whole time he is in Peter Parker’s body as he takes Mary Jane on several lackluster dates. And yes, ghost Peter is there for all of them.

Peter is one of the aspects of this title that is eliciting a very hot-and-cold reaction from me. I was disappointed with his reveal in the previous issue, because I felt that it took away any impact from killing him off in The Amazing Spider-Man #700. We all knew Pete wouldn’t stay dead (this is comics we’re talking about), but his appearance in The Superior Spider-Man #1 was kind of a shocker. In this issue, he’s a little much. One on hand it’s funny to watch his grief at no one realizing that Otto is in his body, on the other hand after a few pages it starts to feel like whine, whine, whine. It feels more like he’s talking to his fellow Avengers, than to his old foe who has hijacked his body.

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The art of Stegman is also hit or miss throughout the pages. For the most part I like the way that he has been drawing the characters, but then at some points it starts to feel unnecessary for every character to have a super strong jaw line. Edgar Delgado is doing some fantastic work coloring this series, and treats us to some incredible visuals with ghost-Spidey and Ock-Spidey webslinging.

My biggest gripe about the art is the way that Carlie is drawn. Different artists are going to draw characters differently. That’s just fact, but with Stegman’s Carlie it feels too much like looking at a character from an anime/manga fused with a Final Fantasy protagonist. It might work for some, but it took me out of the story because I found it distracting and out of place with the rest of the art. Then when we see her again at the end of the issue as she figures out the body-swap she’s more rounded and soft, than jagged and strong.

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Otto doesn’t succeed in his courtship of Mary Jane, but I would say that the character definitely triumphs here in a few ways. Ghost-Pete is constantly mentioning how Otto will never understand why he’s failing at winning Mary Jane over, because it’s not a scientific problem or equation, but a matter of the heart and soul. Things an evil genius can’t fully grasp. By the end of the issue Otto is hit by another wave of Peter’s feelings and memories. He comes to the realization that it is impossible for Spider-Man/Peter Parker to ever truly be with Mary Jane and becomes aware that it’s a doomed equation. Then he does what even Ghost-Pete says he could never do and leaves her.

I liked this ending because it showed Otto giving up his creepy pursuit of Mary Jane, but it also gave the character a lot of much needed development. Otto is struggling with his role as a hero, but this ending really humanizes him and tones down his ego a bit.  I’ll take “Oh Doc Ock took over my body and dissolved my relationship,” over One More Day anytime.

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This article was first posted on February 1, 2013