Comics : Superior Spider-Man #21

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This review was first published on: Nov 2013.

Background...

After Doc Ock died for the first time (well actually the 2nd time if you count ASM #131), Angelina Brancale sacrificed herself in a Hand ritual to bring her former lover back to life. Brancale, an obese woman who (with the help of a VR headset designed by Carolyn Trainer) can transform into the hulking Stunner, stayed in a comatose state until the body of Otto Octavius passed away. With Otto dead again, Angelina returned to the land of the living and swore revenge on her lover’s murderer. Unbeknownst to Angelina though, Doc Ock actually swapped minds with Peter Parker and is in fact the Superior Spider-Man. But you guys already knew that.

In Detail...

"Lethal Ladies"
Superior Spider-Man #21
Jan 2014 : SM Title
Summary: Stunner, Peter earns doctorate
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inker:  John Dell
Lettering:  Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist:  Antonio Fabela
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Publisher:  Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alonso
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Assistant Editor:  Ellie Pyle
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Articles: Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Menace, Stunner

Betty Brant, who was last seen dumping Flash in the pages of Venom, is being shown around the Daily Bugle offices by Robbie Robertson. Apparently Betty is rejoining the Bugle staff, possibly to replace the recently fired Norah Winters. In true Bugle fashion, the super powered Stunner bursts through a wall in the building and demands to know the whereabouts of Spider-Man. Robbie declares that Spider-Man has eyes all over the town and that no criminal is safe from his new brand of justice. Stunner takes this to mean that performing a crime in front of a Spider-Bot will flush out the Superior Spidey.

Meanwhile, an exasperated Otto Octavius is devising a plan to reverse the damage that Dr. Lamaze has done to Peter Parker’s goals of achieving a doctorate. As Anna Maria tries to talk some sense into her boyfriend, Ock blathers about robot doubles and krakens before shedding his civies and taking to the rooftops as Spider-Man. At Spider Island 2, Ock’s minions spot the destruction that Stunner is causing to draw out Spider-Man. After being informed that the damage is being caused by a “blonde Amazon woman,” Otto instantly realizes who his new foe is.

Elsewhere, Carlie Cooper makes one last stop before going to the Avengers about the truth behind the Superior Spider-Man. That stop is the grave of Otto Octavius, where Carlie lays down flowers in remembrance of her ex-boyfriend Peter Parker. It doesn’t take a genius to know that something awful is about to happen to our bumbling police detective though. Carlie falls through the surprisingly empty grave and is captured by an unseen laughing goblin.

Back in Manhattan, Ock pleads that Stunner step down, not wanting to hurt a woman that he obviously still cares for. Using an improved web formula, Ock tethers Stunner to the ground and commands his Spider-Bots to track down where Angelina is broadcasting her VR signal from and shut it down. Ock then swings away, which gives Angelina a chance to change the density of Stunner’s VR form; allowing her to escape the webbing.

With evil thoughts in mind, Ock quickly makes his way back to the University to confront Lamaze. He is stunned though when he finds that Anna Maria has already beaten him to it. Anna has taken it upon herself to plead with Lamaze. At that point, Otto realizes that Anna understands him like no one else ever has. That tender moment is quickly interrupted though when the last woman that understood Otto Octavius launches a bus at both Anna and Lamaze. Using an enormous amount of webbing, Ock catches Stunner's projectile weapon in mid-air. With Ock using all his strength to keep the bus aloft, Stunner now has her chance to extract revenge. As he begins to take a ruthless beating, Otto feels as if the only way to save Anna is to come clean to Angelina and tell her that Spider-Man is in fact Otto Octavius. Just before he spills his gut, the Spider-Bots come through and disconnect Angelina from the VR headset. Everyone is saved and Ock suddenly has an idea.

As a disoriented Angelina awakens from the shock of being suddenly disconnected from her headset, she sees the unbelievable sight of Doctor Octopus (white suit and all) standing in front of her. In reality it is Ock using the VR headset to recreate an image of his former body. After “breaking up” with Angelina, this reborn Doctor Octopus makes his way to Dr. Lamaze’s house to inform his former colleague that it was in fact Peter Parker who was always the genius behind the curtain. This paves the way for Peter to finally receive his doctorate.

In the depths of the sewers below New York, a captured Carlie stands before Menace and the Goblin King. A journal, which probably has the secret of the Superior Spider-Man contained with in, is now in the possession of the goblins. Things are about to get even more interesting.

In General...

With lots of action being promised in the coming months of this title, Dan Slott continues to take time to focus on Ock’s life as Peter Parker in this issue. While the anticipated showdown between Ock and Stunner didn’t disappoint, it was the growing relationship between Otto and Anna that resonated most with me. I mentioned in my review of Superior #20 that I was worried about what would become of Anna Maria once Otto’s perfect little plan begins to fall apart. After seeing Ock willing to lay down everything for Anna’s safety though, it has become clear that he sees his new paramour as much more than just a means to an end. If this issue does one thing, it cements the strong, burgeoning bond between Otto and Anna. I’ve got a feeling that this seemingly doomed love story is going to play a key part in the closing chapters of this saga.

Having Otto gracefully break Stunner’s heart because of his new love for Anna was a nice touch as well. I think that with the Superior saga amping up and probably settling into it’s final days, this is probably one of the few opportunities Slott had left to arrange the reunion between Otto and Angelina. I’ve always been rather fond of Web of Death, the J.M. Dematteis arc that introduced Angelina Brancale, and felt as if re-introducing the character now that Otto is the central figure of the Spider-verse offered up lots of fun possibilities. With Ock not wanting to hurt his former lover and Stunner out for blood, I thought that Slott handled the entire concept quite well. The resolute ending also gave Angelina some much needed closure; something that her character definitely deserved.

Again, I can’t say enough about the superb artwork provided in this issue by the talented Giuseppe Camuncoli. While the Bugle scenes aren’t nearly as dynamic as those illustrated by Humberto Ramos a few issues ago, I just love the cleanliness of Camuncoli’s character designs and fight scenes. There was never a panel that I had to examine more closely to figure out what the heck was going on. The depiction of the classic Doctor Octopus is also a welcome blast from the past.

Overall Rating...

Some of Slott’s loose threads concerning Peter Parker’s personal life are tied up and we’re also given one of the most touching moments yet between Ock and his new flame Anna Maria. I feel as if the action is going to jump up a notch in the coming issues, so it’s certainly nice to resolve some things before Venom and the Green Goblin decide to begin wreaking havoc.