superior spider-man

SEP130696_mEasily 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.

8.0/10

The Superior Spider-Man

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One of the boldest stories in Spider-Man history, Peter Parker’s body is now in the control of Doctor Octopus! Dock Ock is not Spider-Man but he has been infected with the memories of Peter Parker. He is trying to be the best hero he can because his ego demands nothing less. This has been a wild few months of Spider-Man comics. Adam and Nick discuss the first 5 issues of this Marvel Now title as well as the first 4 issues of Avenging Spider-Man. Listen to what longtime Spider-Man fans think of this huge Spidery story.

Listen to the Episode Directly.

Listen to the Episode on iTunes.

Check out Keith’s Review of Superior Spider-Man #2

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Panels That Stuck In My Head

Many of the best panels of the month came from the Batman family books. (check those out here), but there were others that were full of bad-assery. Check out some of my recent favorites here:

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Kate Bishop steals every panel of Marvel’s Hawkeye. This is one of the best comics I’ve read in years.

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Panel composition alone should have you picking up Hawkeye.

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I didn’t see this coming! The ending of Uncanny Avengers #4 was a jaw dropper.

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Luke lets him know how hardcore Leia is.

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When Buddy Baker’s daughter got turned by The Rot in Animal Man it was shocking.

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Is killing killers “superior” behavior? What do you think?

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I think this is Doc Ock’s biggest win. He figured out J. Jonah and tricked him to be on his side. Genius!

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It took the Superior Spider-Man to show Wolverine just how tough he is.

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B’DG everybody!

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US Agent once again has arms and legs due to medical techniques in another dimension. Anyone else still reading Dark Avengers?

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Ever since the Marvel Now teaser came out, we wanted to know what this robot following Hulk was. Now we know.

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Cap is really in a bad place these days.

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Cyclops had to ask this before he blasted Wolverine. At least this younger version of him is polite.

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Uh…things just got real!

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Kyle’s destiny is to be a White Lantern. I think they should keep him as one.

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My jaw dropped when I saw this panel in Star Trek Countdown to Darkness but…I doubt many others had the same reaction unless they are mega fans. My first though was…is he canon now??

I have tons more panels at ComicBookPanels.com

Best Comics of the Week

comic books podcast review

This week’s comics featured a few huge issues with one, in particular, dominating the comic news cycle. I’m reviewing the obvious issue as well as one that’s not as obvious. Let’s get into it:

Batman Inc. #8 – The cover gives it away and it was leaked weeks ago. That said, there was a part of me still hoping it wouldn’t be so. It was a powerful and meaningful death that didn’t feel exploitative. This feels like everything Morrison has been working towards since 2006. The war with Talia and Batman has put Damian in the middle the whole time. While this war has been going on, he has evolved into one of the most complex and interesting characters created in the past 25 years. The scene with him and Dick Grayson was one that will stick with me for a long time. I’m going to really miss this character. I’ve been posting images from Damian’s past recently at www.SonOfTheBat.com Remember Damian and check it out.

*Update -  I decided to write a lot more about this in an article. Check it out here!

Avenging Spider-Man #17 - Unlike Superior Spider-Man, I feel like this title figures out what works with the new status quo right out of the gate. The main reason this seems like a better exploration of Doctor Octopus as Spider-Man is that the Peter Parker “Ghost” is nowhere to be found. You really get into his head better without the repetitive, annoying and helpless voice of Peter nagging at us. We’ve read SpiderMan before, we understand what Peter would do in the same position we don’t need running commentary. OK…rant over! Ha. Seriously, though, this title and this issue in particular keeps the fun of Spider-Man intact by the reactions of Doc Ock to other characters he would have never had mixed with before. Doc Ock learns something with every issue by being forced in positions he finds beneath him. With every team-up, Otto grows and you learn more about how he thinks. This was a really strong issue that shows the full potential of storytelling with this new Spider-Man.

Feeling cheated, robbed, and unsatisfied.

I was ready. I was the target audience. I have the disposable income. A life long Spider-Man fan, I own 606 of the 700 issues in this series and I named my daughter Parker Jane in tribute to the hero. Amazing Spider-Man was the last comic book series that I was buying faithfully. I wanted to love this issue and be excited for the next evolution. It was not to be. Marvel went deep into my pocket and left me unsatisfied.

What did I get for my $7.99? Let’s break it down and keep it spoiler free. The recent Doc Ock story was exciting and left me wondering how it would end in time for Superior Spider-Man to begin. The first chunk of the book is devoted to ending the Doc Ock thread but it was so slow and used the tired trope of “dead Ben talk” to push Peter back to life. This story also had multiple references regarding not hurting the cops. This was just crazy (even in a comic) considering the characters involved. The story moved and built to an enormous crescendo with no pay off. What is teed up instead is a year of stories with this new “Superior Spider-Man” being a jerk. Once the next movie is ready I am sure we will go back to Amazing Spider-Man and this nightmare will end.

The next feature in the oversized issue was very confusing. I kept going back and re-reading to see what I was missing. This made me frustrated and I didn’t care once the reveal came around. This story also made me realize that the Amazing Spider-Man I know will be back. Hey they kept Superman dead for over a year before bringing him back. The Black Cat feature was stylistically interesting but I felt it didn’t warrant a place in ASM #700. If it were Black Cat #700 then I would say yes, I want more Spider-Man for my Spider-Man dollars. The rest of the issue is filled with expanded house ads for the new Superior Spider-Man and an expanded letters page. In the end I felt like John Malkovich at the end of Rounders when he taunts Matt Damon. Save your $7.99 and pick up Avenging Spider-Man 15.1 for $2.99. You’ll get the same story without all the wasted paper.

It took five years, but Dan Slott has finally won me over.

Here’s why I dropped Spider-Man when Brand New Day began: stories that bring a character back to basics are so much less exciting than those that build on what came before and go to new places.

J. Michael Straczinski did that.

Following the abrupt departure of my all-time favorite Spider-Man writer, in a dissatisfying storyline that JMS requested his name be removed from, I was heavily biased against Spider-Man’s 2007 status quo and new writer(s).  There were four of them at the time if you don’t recall, but Dan Slott has always been at the helm.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve come to accept that I’ll always have the JMS storylines that are so close to my heart.  The ones where Peter learned about the tribal origins of his powers under the tutelage of Ezekiel, battled the children of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn, and put the black suit back on now live on my bookshelf, but that chapter of Spider-Man is over.

I moved on to other characters.  There’s no shortage of other comics to read, and for a time I didn’t miss Spider-Man.

Except, Marvel used a host of great artistic talents on Brand New Day, which drew my attention back to Spidey.

These artists include: Chris Bachalo,

Mike McKone,

Lee Weeks,

Barry Kitson,

JRJR,

Phil Jimenez,

Giuseppe Camuncoli,

and Humberto Ramos.

If so many of my favorite artists were illustrating Spider-Man post-marriage, I decided I was surely missing something.

When early BND volumes showed up on the discount table at my local comic shop this past year, I knew the time was right to give those stories a chance.

The contrast was immediately apparent between the Spider-man I knew and the one I was reading in those early Brand New Day issues.  Spider-Man was no longer a winner.  He no longer lived with his hot wife in the Avengers mansion and was instead replaced with the perpetual loser from years past who was always broke, couldn’t pay his rent, couldn’t get a girl, couldn’t hold down a job, etc.

Now, the new status quo wasn’t all bad.  We lost the marriage of Peter and Mary Jane, a story element I adored, but traded Spidey’s retractable stingers and organic web shooters for the return of classic story elements, like Harry Osborn and mechanical web shooters.  We gained a few new villains, like Menace, Screwball, and Mr. Negative; along with a host of villain redesigns.

What I didn’t realize before picking up the new storyline was that it did progress in these comics.   It’s just that, while Slott’s main plot point was to bring Peter Parker back to basics, he allowed the supporting cast to evolve in a big way.

Flash Thompson lost his legs…

…and became Venom.

Doc Ock lost his health.

Eddie Brock became Anti-Venom.

J. Jonah Jameson had a heart attack, lost his newspaper, and became mayor.

Curt Connors transformed back into The Lizard and ate his family.

All the while Norman Osborn was head of Hammer, the SHIELD replacement agency at the time.

Those story elements and others like them were what I gleaned enjoyment from at first.  As I read more, I came to enjoy the consistency in the writing style and the long term storyline goals built up over a number of issues leading to a big reveal.  This was supplied by Slott and his editor Steven Wacker.

Slott’s biggest strength is that, rather than tailoring the title to his own voice like many other modern writers would, he customized his style to stay true to the character of Spider-Man.  Keep in mind that this is the same chameleonic Dan Slott that wrote GLA, She-Hulk, and Arkham Asylum: Living Hell.

Here’s the kicker: I avoided Slott’s run for all of this time because I thought the back-to-basics approach was boring.  Now that I’ve read the books I realize that this was a five-year red herring!

As Slott took over as the sole writer of the title for the Big Time storyline, we had already seen Spidey start a relationship with Carlie Cooper and don the black suit.  Peter would soon wear a number of alternate uniforms and work a steady job at Horizon Labs.  Working as a scientist developing inventions inspired by his adventures behind the mask is a believable idea.  It suits Parker and reminds the audience of his character’s academic background.

Plot elements that were seemingly meant to take Spider-Man back to square one, were setting the reader up to be surprised by what is potentially the most exciting point in Spidey’s long and rich history.

Doc Ock has switched his consciousness with Peter Parker!  All sources point to the next storyline being one where he operates as Spider-Man in Peter’s body.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!  The status quo will inevitably shift back towards a more classic approach in the future, but its a welcome feeling to eagerly anticipate each new piece of the story.