Now that the much talked about events of Amazing Spider-Man 698 through 700 have passed and that book has drawn to a close, the Marvel NOW series Superior Spider-Man picks up where that venerable run left off. Peter Parker is dead (for now) and Otto Octavius has taken over his mind and body to become the new and (self-proclaimed) superior Spider-Man.
The final story arc of Amazing set up this crazy new scenario, with Dr. Octopus using a bunch of sci-fi whatsits to swap brain patterns or whatever with Peter and trap our long-standing hero in the esteemed villain’s quickly dying body, taking the younger, super-powered one for himself. Otto quickly moved to take over and/or ruin all of the aspects of Peter’s life he coveted. At the last minute, however, with his dying actions Peter managed to instill in Doc Ock all of the morals and lessons he had learned in his long career of crime-fighting which were still buried in his old brain. That left us with a colder, more cerebral “Peter”, albeit one who was still bound by his lofty moral code.
Phew. That certainly is a lot to take in, and even three issues (with one over-sized finale) was just barely enough in which to fit it all. There have been plenty of concerns and criticism aimed at the new take on Spidey, but a lot of support for the new direction as well. General (if not unanimous) consensus is that these turns will soon be undone like so many other interesting bits have been in the past, but there are still a number of fans that are excited to see what this new scenario will bring to the table.
So does the new issue live up to the hype and expectations?
For the most part, yes. The new Spider-Man certainly has a personality all his own, and it really is fun to see Octavius’s cold, selfish way of life being hampered by his new-found morals and sensibilities. The extremes to which Otto takes his new role, and the points at which he finds himself unable to continue, feel genuine and do well to illustrate the two conflicting personalities at play in his mind. What will inevitably be the most talked about part of the issue, however, is the ending. Stop here if you don’t want spoilers.
The bulk of the issue deals with Otto settling into the routine of his new life as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, and climaxes in a fight with a relatively lame new version of the Sinister Six. As Ock is about to terminally dispatch one of his foes, a ghostly blue hand reaches out and stops him right before he strikes. The frame pulls out to reveal what appears to be Peter Parker’s ghost. Speaking, unheard, to the new Spider-Man, he swears that he will find a way to return to his body.
In the short time since it’s release earlier this week, many fans are already claiming this to be a cop-out. They say this is Marvel using a big event (if we can even call a superhero dying ‘big’ anymore) for a short burst in sales and then immediately recanting in order to return to the status quo. This isn’t necessarily the case, though. Nothing about this issue implies that the situation will be resolved any time soon. They could wrap all of this up in a couple of issues, but they could also let this story breathe a little bit longer and have the ghostly Peter Parker (probably more an incarnation of his conscience than an actual ghost, but we’ll see about that) hang around at the edges of Ock’s life for the better part of the coming year.
Did Marvel exploit the death of Peter Parker to boost sales? Duh, obviously. When is it not the imperative of a major publisher to sell issues and make money? It still stands to be seen, though, if it was simply a cheap publicity stunt or if Dan Slott actually has some original stories to play out in the wake of what went down. We’ll just have to wait for at least issue two to start making those calls.
Overall, Superior Spider-Man #1 is a solid issue. The story-telling is engaging, the dialogue is good, and the plot is clever. Ryan Stegman’s artwork is fun, almost resembling Rob Guillory from Chew at moments, but with more of a ‘sketchy’ style. Edgar Delgado’s colors are great, and really complement the pencils in all the right ways. Neither overpowers the other, and it gives a very down-to-earth feel to almost every page.
From the daily Peter Parker routine to the Spider-Man action to the truly unexpected twist, there is a lot to like about this issue. Any fan of the character would do well to give it a shot and form their own opinion on what’s going on. Whatever happens next, Dan Slott has shown so far that he really does love the character and will continue to send him in interesting (if not necessarily popular) directions.
Spider-Man is dead. Long live Spider-Man.
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