Easily the most controversial decision in the Spider-Man universe since One More Day, Superior Spider-Man was definitely a divisive moment for spider-fans. Admittedly, I had enjoyed Dan Slott’s run immensely up to that point, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It helped that Steve Wacker was continuing to edit the book and Wacker’s track record on great comics speaks for itself. Thankfully, my faith has thus far been well-placed. Despite some early, and arguably questionable missteps, Dan Slott has found his footing and more importantly he’s found Otto Octavius’ voice. While I certainly want Peter Parker back as much as the next fan, I’ve enjoyed the dichotomy of seeing someone like Otto Octavius (ruthless, vain,etc) grapple with the sense of duty and responsibility that fueled Peter Parker.
Over the last 20 issues we’ve watched Spider-Ock navigate his way through the minefield of Peter Parker’s life, possibly improving it in some ways (finally getting that PhD for Peter) and tearing it apart in others (burning bridges with Max Modell and MJ, alienating the Avengers, and turning NYC into a mini spider themed police state). Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the series has been watching the ways that Otto-as-Peter-Parker deals with the various people in Peter/Spider-Man’s life, be it friend or foe. Otto is invariably more acerbic, misanthropic, and curmudgeonly but Dan Slott has also added an intriguing depth of compassion to underlay Otto’s rather unsavory nature. We saw it early on with Otto’s extraordinary rage at the Vulture’s use of children and in his relationship with Anna. It’s that relationship with Anna that a somewhat indirect bit of depth to the conflict in this issue. Specifically, issue #20 saw the return of Stunner, Otto Octavius’ former love interest, taking the fight to Spider-Man as, wait for it, vengeance for killing Doc Ock back in Amazing Spiderman #700.
Amidst the property damaging battle with Stunner, Dan Slott is beginning to pulling at the seams of Otto’s carefully plotted life. His PhD is now in question, Carlie Cooper is finally beginning to unravel the mystery behind Spider-Man’s sudden personality shift, and the Green Goblin is slowly moving in. In short, it’s becoming clearer that we are moving ever-closer to the downfall of Superior Spider-Man.
If there’s a weak spot in the issue, it’s Dan Slott’s penchant for exposition dumps and semi-crowded script. I occasionally get the sense that Dan Slott had a longer timeline in mind when plotting these stories and for whatever reason is now a shortened schedule. But, these are ultimately minor complaints. This is another solid issue in what has been a solid few months of Superior Spiderman.