WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #31 and the entire series, so read on if you dare, my little Spider-Bots!
The dude’s got a major motion picture coming out next month. You really think Peter Parker was going to stay dead and buried under the rubble of his own mindscape while archenemy Doctor Octopus (in control of Parker’s body) let New York City go to hell at the hands of the Green Goblin? No way, man! While Doc Ock’s swan song as Spidey occurred in the previous issue, the ramifications of his actions as a superhero are being felt (and will continue to be felt) by the recently resurrected Parker. But writers Dan Slott and Christos Gage prove, as Peter consistently demonstrates throughout this series finale, perseverance and a fierce determination to save lives despite the insurmountable odds against you are all the ingredients you need to be the truly Superior Spider-Man.
I had my fair share of concerns regarding the idea of one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes gallivanting around in his body. Spidey/Ock (SpOck?) had malicious tactics ranging from blackmailing Mayor J. Jonah Jameson, militarizing an army of Spider-Minions and covering the city with his voyeuristic Spider-Bots. He even played public executioner once or twice, putting him at odds with allies like the Avengers. As Peter Parker, SpOck alienated friends and family with his arrogance save for new love interest Anna Maria Marconi and ended up constructing Parker Industries in place of former employer Horizon Labs. And let’s not forget how he used Peter’s memories of the “good times” with Mary Jane Watson as a form of releasing…um…”tension.” Just…GAH!
He was creepy. He was violent. He was an egotistical, abrasive asshole. That was the whole point. And it worked well. Ock’s take on Spidey was meant to infuriate and intrigue. It was meant to show what a Spider-Man without limitations and inhibitions would be like and why that would eventually lose out to the teachings of “power and responsibility.”
Granted, SpOck earned a few wins as a genuine hero and was able to show a nobler side from time to time. But in the end, Dan Slott shows us that Ock’s mentality of “quantity over quality” regarding crime fighting eventually leads to his downfall as the Green Goblin (or Goblin King) makes his grand play for New York with his Goblin Nation, an amalgamation of most of the city’s criminal elements under his rule. Due to hubris, SpOck has been oblivious to this underground movement and realizes the error of his ways. He ends up making the ultimate sacrifice: wiping his consciousness out of existence to make way for Peter to reclaim the mantle and take down the Goblin.
And yes, it is awesome to see Spidey back doing what he does best. He is quipping all the way and attempting to salvage damaged relationships with his friends and allies all the while battling Goblin’s forces. And while the reveal of Green Goblin’s identity is very anti-climatic, the final conflict proves that Parker has wised-up a bit to some of Ock’s tactics while still holding true to his own values. In the end, Spidey’s happy to be back in control, but a moment with Anna Maria reminds him that, in order for his return to be even possible, one of his greatest enemies showed true power and responsibility at last.
And then the unnecessary Epilogue. Honestly, the upcoming AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series relaunch could have handled these loose ends better (and it still may), but it just feels like a tacked-on ending to the stories of characters like Carlie Cooper, J. Jonah Jameson and especially Mary Jane. For the entire series’ run, the one woman who apparently knows Peter better than anyone never clued into his personality shift and basically chalked up his out-of-character behavior as him just being a dick. Now with him sharing the whole story, her response is simply, “Well, that sucks. Good to have you back, Tiger, but I can’t live with this craziness anymore.”
Sigh…really, Mary Jane? You’ve been terrorized by the likes of Venom, Chameleon and Kingpin for years without blinking. You cradled Spidey’s dead body in your arms during THE OTHER storyline and found the strength to carry on. You fought side-by-side with him during SPIDER-ISLAND when all other allies had fallen. You put up with the f@#king CLONE SAGA, lady! But you draw the line at the guy being a lecherous jerk for a couple of months because his body was taken over by a super villain? Bullshit! If there’s one aspect of SUPERIOR that I’ve never particularly cared for, it’s the characterization of Mary Jane as an aloof third wheel who just automatically gives up on the person she’s loved and trusted for years. Like I said, the Epilogue just feels like an afterthought to reset the status quo of Spider-Man as a reviled loner. Hopefully, the AMAZING relaunch will at least play with these dynamics in new and interesting ways.
But despite my qualms with certain characterizations, SUPERIOR proved to be an interesting read. Dan Slott took the stereotypical superhero concept of the “mind-swap” and put the Spider-Mythos on its ear for a year and a half because of it. And it was entertaining. We got to see Spider-Man take on his opponents in ways we had never seen before. We got to see him pull out all the stops and go into darker territory. We saw a villain do his best to be a hero, fall short more often than not and eventually find redemption in self-sacrifice. Whether you felt it was a welcomed break from seeing Peter constantly down on his luck or it infuriated you so much that you could not wait for the slightest sign of the old Spidey, the point is it garnered a reaction from you. You wouldn’t be reading my two cents on this series otherwise.
Just like Peter Parker, I have no doubt that Doctor Octopus will return down the line (his physical body is still missing, I believe). But while it lasted, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN was an interesting exercise in shaking up the character’s mythos, giving readers a different take on “power & responsibility” and making fans truly appreciative of their favorite original web-head as well as finding a modicum of sympathy for one of his main enemies. Here’s hoping Spidey’s little sabbatical has made him wiser and has prepared him for further adventures in a new ongoing series. Pete’s got quite a few apologies to make.
Rest In Peace, Doc Ock. Long Live Spider-Man.
Issue #31 Score: 8 out of 10
Overall Series Score: 8.5 out of 10