Waiting for the Trade Superior Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Superior Spider-man
(1): My Own Worst Enemy

By Dan Slott, Ryam
Stegman and Giuseppe Camumcoli

Collects Superior Spider-man 1 -5.

 

Why I bought this: The
last trade (ASM 698-700) was epic and I needed to read the follow up.

The Plot: Doc Ock
switched brains with Peter Parker and then Ock’s body with Parker in it died
leaving Ock as the new Spider-man. This trade is Ock’s first days in his new
role.
 
Spoilers after the break

 

Chapter 1 – Ock finds a new Sinister Six made up of
C-listers and takes them on but after taking a few hits decides it isn’t worth
taking a beating and attempts to flee. When a civilian is endangered he turns
around and saves the day but the Six escape. In his day job Ock is doing
Peter’s science job better than Peter but frets how he will never get credit
for it. He then goes on a date with MJ. Later he tracks down the Six and takes
them down hard. He is about to kill one of them when we see Peter’s ghost
arrive and subliminally makes Ock stop.

Chapter 2 – Ghost Peter is horrified that JJJ has finally endorsed
Spidey and that MJ is dating him and does not notice he is a different person.
Later MJ is attacked by mini-Vultures. Ock saves her and breaks up with her. MJ
relates the failed dates to Carlie Cooper, who begins to suspect the truth.
(Peter in Ock’s body had told Cooper the truth in the last trade but she didn’t
believe him at the time).

Chapter 3 – Ock traces the mini-Vultures back to the real
deal and is horrified to learn Vulture is using children as his underlings. Their
fight gets violent and ends with Spidey hospitalizing Vulture in front of
Cooper furthering her suspicions.

Chapter 4 – In a stunning splash page Spidey releases little
spider-bots across the city so Ock can monitor everything. He makes a few
arrests and then accompanies Aunt May to a doctor’s office. When he learns May
needs a cane to walk so he decides to invent a cure for all spinal injuries,
which horrifies Ghost Peter and the Horizon employees for some reason. We also
get a funny moment when Ock releaizes that as Peter he is no longer a doctor as
Peter never even got his master’s degree. This prompts Ock to enroll in college
again. Meanwhile Massacre escapes from Ravencroft killing 90s’ supporting
character Dr. Kafka in the process. Jameson and Spidey are called to the scene
and Jameson makes Spidey promise to kill Massacre next time they meet. Massacre
meanwhile lives up to his name in a diner full of civilians. In the cliffhanger
we see the Green Goblin is back in NYC.

Chapter 5 – Massacre blackmails a Cola CEO into funding him
to kill her competitors. As Peter, Ock meets his new tutor for school: a female
midget named Anna Marconi and they have an enjoyable dinner. Massacre begins
killing cops in the subway until Spidey arrives, disarms him and fatally shoots
him much to Ghost Peter’s horror. He then uses his spiderbots to expose the CEO
from the start of the chapter vowing to watch over and take responsibility for
everything in the city.

 

Critical Thoughts:
Overall this is very good. The concept alone is one of the most original things
I’ve ever seen in comics which is saying something when you consider has 50
years of history spread out over 1,000 individual issues. We’ve seen heroes
replaced before (Cap, Thor and Iron Man come to mind) but usually it is by
other heroes and the key supporting cast know a switch has been made. Here we
have a villain taking up the hero’s mantle and on top of that no one knows
Peter is gone including his loved ones. It is a strong concept and Ock is in
many ways the perfect villain to execute it with. 1) he’s always been show to
be driven by ego even in his most villainous moments (threatening to blow up NYC
so everyone would know he was superior to them or the recent Ends of the Earth
arc) yet he has also had moments of altruism over the years (trying to cure
AIDS, helping Sue Richards during childbirth, curing Peter when he was poisoned
during the Clone Saga). Thus the idea that once he finished off Peter and had
Peter’s powers he would try to take advantage of his fresh start and prove he
could be a better hero than Peter ever was fits very nicely into past
continuity.

I also like Ock’s initial reactions to his new life. I like
him running away in that first fight and thinking Peter had to be insane to
fight the kind of odds he often did. I love his outrage at not being a doctor
anymore and his disappointment that his name won’t be the one to get credit for
any science accomplishments he makes at Horizon. It all just rings true in a
character sense.

I also thought the villains are well portrayed, particularly
Vulture. I like the art a lot. I like the pacing in terms of setting up future
events (Carlie’s suspicions, the Goblin’s return). I also thought the ending
was very strong, with Ock taking Peter’s responsibility  catchphrase and spinning into an
NSA/Orewellian style nightmare as a natural extension of what an egomaniacal
mad scientist would do if he was trying to be a responsible hero. 

However, there is a big con and that is Ghost Peter arrives
way too soon and brings little to the table. Look we all knew from day one
Peter was coming back but we didn’t need to see him this soon. Chapter 2 is by
far the weakest entry in this trade with the Peter’s constant narration on Ock’s
actions just irritating. Worse it over simplifies the story. We all know Ock is
going to fail at being Spider-man. But for the story to have meaning Ock’s
failures and successes need to be his own and not caused by the subliminal
influence of Peter.

The Mary Jane subplot is also kind of weak, but in that case
I’ll give Slott a pass because it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t
situation. If Ock beds Mary Jane there are going to be cries of rape. If he
ignores her she would know something is up and fans would complain she’s being
marginalized in a story where she should have a presence. This way Ock rids
himself of her in a way that sidesteps the first issue, but also keeps her
loyal to Peter on a subconscious level and contributes to the Cooper subplot.
Overall probably the best that could be done in terms of service to a long-term
story with Ock as Peter.

Grade B+.  There is a lot more good than bad here, and
even more promising is seeds are being set to let the concept grow and improve
in the future.

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Spider-man 700

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Amazing Spider-man:
Dying Wish

By Dan Slott, Humberto
Ramos and Richard Elson

Collects Amazing
Spider-man 698-700.

 

Why I bought this: I
love Spidey in general and this is the biggest Spidey story in years, possibly
decades so I frickin’ preordered this on Amazon to get as soon as it hit trade.

 

The Plot: Doc Ock
manages to switch brains with Spider-man putting Pete in Ock’s body just as Ock
is at death’s door.

 

Heavy spoilers ahead:

 

Chapter 1 – In prison we see Ock doesn’t have long to live. We
then see a fairly typical day in the life with Pete being in an upbeat mood as
he stops crimes, does some science stuff at Horizon Labs and socializes with MJ
and Aunt May. The Avengers page Spidey saying Ock is asking for him and doesn’t
have long to live. Spidey agrees to visit him and in private we learn that Ock
has switched their brains though each has access to all of the other’s
memories. Peter-Ock then goes into cardiac arrest.

Chapter 2 – Doctors revive Peter-Ock but they feel he has less
than 24 hours left to live. Peter imagines all the damage Ock can do in his
body including killing his loved ones or using his Avengers security codes to
take down the team. He then accesses Ock’s memories to realize how Ock did this
and it dates back to issue 600 when Pete used a mental control helmet to
override Ock’s Octobots which then gave Ock a copy of Pete’s brainwaves. Pete
then uses Ock’s memories to activate one of his escape plans to hire a new
Sinister Six to bust him out of jail although he only ends up with three:
Scorpion, Hydroman and Trapster. Peter-Ock then offers the villains millions to
bring him Spider-man alive.

Chapter 3 – Octo-Peter is taking MJ on a date when he
discovers “Doc Ock” has escaped from prison on the news. Ock then goes to the
airport to book a flight to Belgium
and not return until Peter dies. Meanwhile in Ock’s undersea lab Ock’s body
goes into cardiac arrest again, Peter goes to heaven and chats with Uncle Ben
and every other major dead cast member and Ben tells him to get up and fight
one more time. Back in the world Peter-Ock is recovers and orders the villains
to go to the police. Mayor Jameson gets on TV and calls Ock a loser, which
angers Octo-Peter enough that he decides to stay in New York to prove to himself that he can
beat Spider-man in a fight. At the police station Peter-Ock runs into Carlisle
Cooper and tells her about the brain-swap but she doesn’t believe him. When she
fires on him the arms react instinctively and injure her. Pete feels bad but
with time running out he takes what he came for from the police impound–the
brainwave helmet that set this in motion 100 issues ago—and leaves. Octo-Spidey
gathers Pete’s loved ones in Avengers
Tower to protect them
from Ock, while showing them Peter’s plane ticket to explain Peter’s absence.
He says they are being targeted by Ock because of the revelation that Peter
builds Spidey’s tech at Horizon. Ock tries to self destruct his undersea base
with the villains in it but Peter has already disarmed the device since they
share memories. So Ock-Spidey just calls the police and tells them where Ock’s
base is. Scorpion and Hydroman take out the cops as Pete wonders how far he
will let the villains to get his life back. Back inside Trapster realizes Peter-Ock
has built a new brain-swap helmet and is afraid he is Ock’s intended victim so
Peter-Ock neutralizes him pretty quickly. MJ tells Peter she still loves him
but of course it’s Ock and not Peter in one of those great Spider-man ironies
and they share a kiss. Peter-Ock goes to Avengers Towers
to tell one of the super science guys there what has happened but it is too
late as Ock has activated all of his Octo-bots across the city and the Avengers
are out dealing with them. So finally we get the physical fight between the two
of them with the other villains helping Octo-Peter. Octo-Spidey gets rid of
them by “letting it slip” that Jameson is here among Peter’s loved ones and
Scorpion’s obsession with Jameson takes over so that he and Hydroman abandon the
fight. Max Modell defeats Hydroman as Scorpion threatens Peter’s loved ones.
Scorpion goes too far when he threatens Aunt May (whom Ock was once engaged to)
and Octo-Spidey hits him full strength and dislocates his jaw as Ock realizes
just how strong Peter’s body is.  When
Peter sees this he realizes just how much damage Ock can do as him and realizes
he has to stop him at any cost so he uses the Ock arms to throw them both at
the window. Octo-Spidey saves them both with a web cushion. Peter plays his
final card by having the brain switch robot attack but Ock has protected his
skull and then he hauls off and decks his own dying body. As Peter-Ock is dying
he flashes back to Uncle Ben and Octopus sees the memory too. Peter realizes
the brainwave link partially functions even without the machine and floods Ock
with memories of his entire life and career as Spidey in a series of gorgeous
splash pages. And then Peter dies telling Ock the lesson of With Great Power
and Great Responsibility while getting him to promise to keep his loved ones
safe. As he stands over his own dead body, Octo-Spidey vows to be a Superior Spider-man than Pete was.

Bonus 1 – An old Peter is hanging out with his grandson and
tells him about his life as Spidey, albeit with some memory gaps.

Bonus 2 – Back when Peter was dating the Black Cat she gets
a new apartment and manages to steal things to decorate it behind Peter’s back
while he fights a giant robot.

 

Critical Thoughts:
Simply Fabulous. Issue 700 is every bit as epic as it should be. This is an
instant classic worthy to be included in the pantheon of the greatest
Spider-man stories ever told as Peter and Ock play this intense game of mental
chess anticipating each other moves back and forth and taking advantage of
weapons and alliances available to them in their new identities.

The two set-up issues are also well done, particularly the
narration in chapter 1 which reads like a typical Spider-man picking himself up
for a new day story and then once you know the plot twist the exact same
narration takes on a completely different connotation.

That Slott ties his explanation to how Ock was able to do
this back to issue 600 gives this story an even more epic feel as it looks like
something that has been in the works for 100 issues set between two big
landmark numbers for the character. Issue 600 in general did a lot to make Ock
a much more credible threat, as there was long period where he was clearly no
longer at the same level as the Goblins and symbiotes. Slott has been building
Ock up throughout his run on the title and this is a hell of a payoff.

There are a few quibbles. To me the biggest one is Jonah
suddenly coming around and seeing Spidey as a hero. First of all in a general
sense Spidey saved the life of Jonah, his son and pretty much everyone who
works at the Bugle scores of times and Jonah has never come around so why
should this time be different? In a more specific sense Jonah’s problem with
Spidey has always been his fear that an unknown masked man not accountable to
anyone would cross the line and go out of control one day, (in fact Jonah’s
been shown for years to support Captain America because his identity is subject
to government oversight) so to have him change his mind in a scene where Spidey
brutalizes Scorpion is completely contrary to the entire motivation of the
character. I get Slott is doing it for the irony of ‘Jameson’s finally stops
thinking of Spider-man as a menace only when he actually is a menace–nyuk
nyuk’ factor; but it just does not work if you know the history of Jameson’s
character. That same type of poetic irony works perfectly in the Mary Jane
scene so using irony isn’t always a bad choice, but I don’t think works for
Jameson.

Ditto the use of Ock’s prior history with Aunt May. There’s
a scene when Pete accesses Ock’s memories and it is implied he relives Ock and
May having sex. That’s just icky and unnecessary especially for a story of this
magnitude. Conversely having Ock treat the threat the villains pose to Pete’s
loved ones as a game until Scorpion threatens May is a good use of that same
old continuity between Ock and May.

Finally while I can see the argument that having Pete force
Ock to relive his memories as a way of getting him to embrace being a hero is a
shortcut that is too external to Ock to make him really change; I disagree. I
found the scene to be quite powerful and I loved the flashback collage and
narration. Here Pete is dying and we see the “amazing” life he’s lived and it
inspires Ock to be a hero, making it Pete’s last heroic validating act. That
doesn’t mean Ock is instantly a good person now, it just means he’s going to
try to be a hero which sets up the fun of the Superior title: seeing Ock try to
live up to Pete’s legacy–which this being comics he will almost certainly fail
at so Pete can reclaim his life later in what will hopefully be a story just as
epic as this one.

 

Grade A+. If
you’re going to kill off Spider-man and cancel the flagship title of the Marvel
Universe you better have a damn good story to live up to that. Fortunately
Slott has an excellent one in this trade.

 

PS – As for the bonus stuff, the first one is crap but I
found the Black Cat story to be a fun little throw away but then I like Felicia.