WARNING! MAJOR spoilers for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700 and SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #1 ahead! Read on if you dare, True Believers!
ISSUE #1: “HERO OR MENACE?”- Writer: Dan Slott; Artist: Ryan Stegman; Colorist: Edgar Delgado
I’m not going to lie: I saw this first issue’s big plot twist coming. I just thought it would take about a year or so for it to come around and not immediately within the first issue of Spidey’s brand-new series.
Lovers/haters of writer Dan Slott’s take on Spider-Man (and believe me, that line appears to get crossed quite frequently by fans) can breathe a slight sigh of relief with the revelation at the end of SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #1. As AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700 drew to a close and it appeared as though Peter Parker had drawn his last breath trapped within the dying body of his arch enemy Dr. Octopus (who had conversely taken up residency in Parker’s body), I’m sure many fans were wondering: how can a suddenly reformed Doc Ock ever prove to be a suitable replacement for our favorite wall-crawler? The truth is, he can’t. And that immediately proves to be the new book’s greatest asset and weakness at the same time.
Right off the bat, Superior Spidey has no problem showing off his “superiority” to good guys and bad guys alike. He has drastically upgraded Parker’s tech, plans out battle tactics and strategies that are on a Batman-level of efficiency and does not shy away from opportunities to demonstrate his ruthlessness. He also has a different approach than Peter did when it comes to verbally assaulting his adversaries, opting to arrogantly point out the futility of facing him rather than deliver a joke or quip at their expense. In fact, he appears to be more irritated with the latest incarnation of the Sinister Six because they’re composed mainly of D-list supervillains rather than the powerhouses he was able to recruit back when he was evil. Indeed, Ock’s take on being Spider-Man is drastically different from his predecessor, but it is still very entertaining.
What is also entertaining is seeing Ock adjust to actually being Peter Parker. With much frustration, he is slowly coming to accept that his former life as Doctor Octopus is no more and that, from here on out, all his great accomplishments and endeavors will be recognized as being Peter’s. It is a very interesting take on the whole “mind-swap” concept and having to live in glory of another man’s legacy, but it doesn’t garner so much sympathy for the character as it does humor at the expense of his trademarked overly-inflated ego.
What isn’t so entertaining and is actually pretty creepy is the fact that “dirty old man” Ock takes every opportunity to twist Mary Jane Watson’s love and devotion to Peter to his lecherous advantage. It’s difficult to empathize with a hero who has no problem ogling his date’s breasts and completely tuning out her conversation in favor of eavesdropping on the Sinister Six. Thankfully, it seems as though Slott is writing Mary Jane as a girl with enough common sense to realize that Peter is acting very out of character, so who knows what form that relationship will take in the long run?
But, ultimately, the “long run” for the Superior Spider-Man is both bolstered and undermined at the same time by the final page’s revelation: a remnant of Peter Parker’s personality resides in Ock’s mind stating that he is still “in the fight” and swears to find a way to regain full control of his body. This was hinted at in ASM #700’s epilogue in AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #15.1 and all throughout SUPERIOR #1 where Ock/Spidey would apparently act heroically or self-sacrificing on instinct. Well, it turns out that Peter’s ghost literally looms over the new web-head, influencing and quelling Ock’s sometimes violent behavior without his even knowing it. Thus, it seems that Peter has taken on the role of his own Uncle Ben to be Ock’s moral compass and conscience…whether he likes it or not.
As someone who felt ASM #700 didn’t quite deliver enough on Peter’s curtain call, it was a pleasant surprise to find that he’s still going to be a major part of the story even if it is just as an Obi-Wan Kenobi-like spirit keeping Superior Spidey on the right path for the time being. But at the same time, I recognize a few problems with the concept unless they are addressed properly in the issues to come. It’s hard enough to accept a morally ambivalent character like Doc Ock stepping into the webs, but it could be even more difficult to accept the change if he doesn’t come into his own as a hero naturally rather than being “guided” by the spirit of Peter Parker. Then again, who’s to say that it actually is Peter? It could be a hallucination, a mind trick, whatever. It’s the Marvel universe, after all. Maybe it’s Mephisto just messing with him.
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN sets up some pretty interesting dynamics with regards to Doc Ock and his new lease on life in the body of his greatest nemesis. But I feel that for this new take on the character to have any chance of longevity before Parker’s eventual return to the land of the living, a lot has to be addressed in the next few issues. The character needs to garner and maintain an appeal and likability that is earned all on his own naturally…and not just because he is being led around by the hand by the ghost of Peter Parker.