Comics : Superior Spider-Man Annual #1

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This review was first published on: Dec 2013.

Background...

Last December, Doctor Otto Octavius managed to finally best Spider-Man. However, he wasn’t content with just killing him- he also took over his body, BECOMING Spider-Man. In his last moments of life, Peter Parker managed to convince Doc Ock that he needed to live for the greater good and continue his life of responsibility. Octavius agreed…but his path has not been the most heroic. While he saves lives, he’s been doing so in what he believes is the “Superior” fashion. And part of that is “correcting” all of Peter’s “mistakes”, such as putting his family at risk…

In Detail...

"Hostage Crisis"
Superior Spider-Man Annual #1
Jan 2014 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man vs Blackout
Writer:  Christos Gage
Pencils:  Javier Rodriguez
Inker:  Alvaro Lopez
Cover Art:  J.G. Jones, Laura Martin
Lettering:  Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist:  Javier Rodriguez
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)

In an old abandoned warehouse, an old member of Kingpin’s gang seeks out a former contact of his. Due to the Kingpin’s recent demise (which, if you’ll recall, he faked back in Superior Spider-Man #14), leaves the man out of work and in need of cash. He decides to make ends meet by selling off some info he got while the Kingpin was still in town- that Spider-Man’s tech is supplied by local geek Peter Parker. However, the man soon realizes he’s been duped (his money is actually cut up newspaper) and his contact attacks and kills him before we see who it really is: Ghost Rider villain Blackout!

We cut to Peter Parker/Otto Octavius, who is enjoying some time with his “family”. He’s enjoying being his own boss (a development from Superior Spider-Man #22) and using his newfound free time to do all the things he couldn’t before. While Aunt May goes off to make more food for her nephew, Jay takes the time to talk to Peter and warn him about staying away from Spider-Man, given his erratic behavior. With this being Otto though, he justifies Spidey’s new behavior and refuses to stop. He does promise to always keep his aunt safe and thanks Jay for bringing her so much happiness.

Otto begins his trek home, chastising himself for his previous treatment of May in his former life. While he acknowledges Jay was right about Peter connecting himself to Spider-Man, he figures he’s safe because nobody knows that with the Kingpin gone! This would be the time to cue the muted trumpet, because as Otto enters the subway station, Blackout leaves.

While riding the train, Otto decides to test his security network while underground. The thing manages to work perfectly and he gets clear footage of May and Jay being attacked by Blackout. He immediately works his way off the subway train and rushes back. However, he’s too late and Blackout takes off with May in tow. Jay calls Peter, who arrives out of costume. Jay informs him that Blackout is seeking Peter and left a pre-paid cell phone he would call later with instructions. Otto promises to return May “by any means necessary.”

Blackout soon contacts Peter with his demands- sabotage Spider-Man’s equipment so that Blackout can easily kill him in a fight. If he does anything to signal anyone else, he will have no problems killing Aunt May. Of course, Otto’s arrogance prevents him from thinking he can make any mistakes and he has been tracing them since he received the phone call. He uses his own tech to contact Danny Ketch, the second Ghost Rider, to gain more intel on Blackout. Ketch tells SpOck that Blackout is an unrepentant killer and will go after anything a person cares about. He also tells him that Blackout is a half-demon who likes to rip out people’s throats, can suck the light out of a room, and is sensitive to sunlight. His final advice is to kill him, even if that isn’t Spidey’s style (has he been out of the loop?) or he’s essentially killing everyone he knows.

Otto considers going to Doctor Strange for help, but realizes with his ability to read auras and such, he may put his secret in jeopardy. While he starts to feel guilt about caring more for his own life than May’s, he quickly convinces himself that it’s Peter’s fault for putting her in danger in the first place. Believing to be Peter’s superior, he swears to prove it. He heads to their last known location (an old slaughterhouse) just as they are about to leave and surprises Blackout with an army of Spider-Bots and a vicious assault.

Blackout tells SpOck that May is as afraid of Spidey as she is of him and immediately turns to kill her. Thankfully, the Spider-Bots form a shield around her. Spider-Man manages to get the drop on Blackout and the fight resumes. The villain breaks Spidey’s eye pieces to disable any advantage he thought he had. Even with his Spider-Sense, Otto seems to be no match and Blackout quickly subdues him. When he goes for the killing blow (a bite to the neck), Otto’s trap kicks in- armored plating and a strong electric shock. He frees May and tells her to get to safety while he finishes with Blackout.

With May gone, Otto begins his real work- he breaks an arm and a leg and hangs the half-demon by his coat on some meat hooks. Blackout isn’t scared though because he knows he’ll heal and that Spider-Man can’t kill him without making himself a target, and if he locks him up, he’ll break free and kill the entire Parker family. Otto considers this briefly for a moment and then proceeds to do his own work studying Blackout by ripping out his teeth and claws to study them. May hears his cries of pain and turns back. Spidey hooks up a “solar simulator” while Blackout pleads for mercy. It’s then that Spider-Man reveals his plan- if ANY of Peter Parker’s friends or family is ever hurt, he will find them and do much worse than he has done here. Blackout agrees, but Spider-Man turns on the light anyways. May, who has been watching from a distance, runs away horrified.

The next day, “Peter” picks up some flowers for May and is bumped into a man on the street, who just so happens to be a pick pocket. When he sees who his target was though, he returns the wallet, terrified of the consequences. Meanwhile, below the streets of Manhattan, the new Green Goblin discusses Spider-Man’s newest behavior with his Goblin Knight. While Phil seems content to leave Spider-Man alone, afraid he’s lost his mind, the Green Goblin won’t. Why? “It’s a tradition!”

In General...

When I first heard about this annual, I was a bit annoyed. Marvel had billed this as one that “counts”. It was them admitting that a lot of other times the annuals don’t matter. And the past few have been pretty disappointing, in my opinion. So when I bought this I went in a bit apprehensive.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised by this one! Was it a deep and complex story? No, it was pretty straight forward and only really had one central problem to solve. But it addressed a big issue in Spider-Man since Peter started at Horizon and with years of Daily Bugle work- Peter has always been a target because of his connection to Spider-Man. Many a story have involved a villain relying on Peter to get to Spider-Man because of the pictures he took. With Otto behind the mental wheel though will he really let such a thing go for long? Nope!

Now for some, this issue may be a bit violent and grim. Otto’s behavior is definitely not for younger audiences, but it does make for an interesting read. It will be fun to see if this concept goes further in the “Superior” main series, and it will definitely be interesting to see what the new Green Goblin does with this information. He’s a man with nothing to lose, it seems, as Spider-Man’s new behavior only seems to make him more interested.

I also want to see what May’s reaction to all this is. She’s always been afraid of Spider-Man (not counting the period of time in which she knew his identity), and now he’s given her an actual reason to. This is a little thing that bothers me though…I miss the more with it Aunt May of the JMS era. While she’s not as bad as she has been in the past, I do sometimes find her completely oblivious behavior to be a bit…dated seeming.

This issue does leave me with a little question though: Why does Blackout want to kill Spider-Man, exactly? Why does he come after him so quickly? I could see this working if maybe another villain had this information, but a character that isn’t a Spider-Man standard seems like an odd choice to come directly after Peter and his family. I suppose they needed someone who could take a savage beating and wouldn’t need to be used in later stories, but it still seems like an odd choice from a story perspective.

Overall Rating...

Overall, a very interesting read. A definite good use of the one-shot and finally an annual which really takes advantage of the concept (an extra issue for us, extra cash for Marvel). While I’m not typically a fan of Christos Cage, he really delivered this time around.