Comics : Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special #1

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Arms of the Octopus"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This review was first published on: Nov 2013.

Background...

In the first two parts of this crossover, the X-Men ran into a gamma-radiated Doctor Octopus who was pursuing a man named Dr. Jude. Superior Spider-Man showed up and took down the villain, deeming him an imposter. (Superior Spidey IS the real Doc Ock, after all.) Dr. Bruce Banner came to examine the Ock impersonator and they were attacked by the Abomination. After a quick battle with the Hulk, the Abomination was revealed to be a robot imposter. When Beast found a blueprint for a Doc Ock robot in Dr. Jude's handwriting, he called Spider-Man, who was flying a helicopter with the X-Men and Jude inside. When Jude found that the gig was up, he blew up the helicopter! (Oh no!)

In Detail...

"With Mercy For the Greedy"
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special #1
Dec 2013 : SM Title
Summary: Hulk and X-Men guest star
Arc: Part 3 of "The Arms of the Octopus"
Editor:  Nick Lowe
Writer:  Mike Costa
Artist:  Michael Dialynas
Cover Art:  Alexander Lozano
Lettering:  VC's Cory Petit
Colorist:  Rachelle Rosenberg
Staff Only
Issue
Review

Our story initiates with an image of Superior Spider-Man plunging from the exploding helicopter, 10,000 feet in the air. Apparently, he survived the initial explosion because Jean Grey shielded him and the other X-Men with a telekinetic mind-bubble. Spidey spots the others around him falling from the explosion and orders Jean to slow their fall with telekinesis. Sadly, she deems that they are falling too fast and there are too many people to save.

Spider-Man begins barking commands at Cyclops and Iceman, but they cannot follow because they, sadly, are unconscious. Otto decides to take things into his hands, donning the falling set of robotic arms which belonged to the Doc Ock impersonator. Our favorite anti-hero grabs the X-Men, and uses the “tensile strength of the heavily-reinforced arms” to “absorb the shock of the impact” when they hit the ground. Back on solid land, Spider-Man takes off the arms, which are smashed, and thinks about how he could have used it as the Superior Spider-Man. Jean wakes the others, and Iceman queries about where they are. They stand in a bare field with broken helicopter ruins around them.

Meanwhile, in Jude’s secret underground laboratory, Molly attempts to comprehend why her teacher has spent years making replicas of dead villains to convince them they’re time-travelers. Hank sarcastically asks her if she can find a journal explaining his motives and plans and she actually has. Hank decides to try to crack what the diary is about while Molly finds other clues around the lab. Suddenly, a random robot in the lab begins to move and Hank prepares to defend Molly. Luckily, the robots in the lab are simply exiting the lab, paying no attention to the interlopers. A phone in a lab suddenly beings to ring and Hank picks up.

On the phone, Spider-Man informs Hank that he has their number because it’s Jude’s office line and he is calling in “some bucolic wasteland.” Spidey updates him about what happened to Jude and tells him that they don’t know where Jude is. Otto predicts that he may be heading to his school. Scott takes the phone and tells Hank that he must find a way to stop him. Jean asks why they were headed to the school in the first place and Spidey remembers the time machine at the X-Men’s school.

Hastily, Otto hangs up the phone and begins to disassemble it. When Bobby asks what he’s doing, Spidey decides to teach them a lesson to always have a backup plan. Soon, Bobby is sliding into a small town with Spider-Man on his back, and Otto explains that Jude was trying to convince the X-Men that their time machine was broken with the robotic villains so they led him to it. Then, he would use it to “right some perceived wrongs.”

When Spidey spots an explosion of some sort below, Bobby lowers to investigate. Madly, Jude hijacks a car which fails because of the radiation he is “throwing off.” The heroes arrive and Scott quickly blasts Jude out of the car. When Spidey fires webs at him, Cyclops blasts him, and Bobby attacks him with ice, Jude explodes. Spidey orders Jean to put Jude to sleep when he turns around to see a colossal robot hovering over him.

Later, at the scene of where the Hulk pulled off the Abomination robot’s head, Hank and Molly wake Bruce Banner, who is now naked from the transformation. Hank explains their situation to Banner and shows him Jude’s journal. Bruce eagerly begins to walk off when Hank reminds him that he needs pants.

Back in the random town, Spidey confronts Jude’s robot. Arrogantly, he critiques the machine and easily subdues it with its own mechanical arm. After the takedown, Otto analyzes the robot the X-Men are battling and realizes it was built with something that looks like vibranium. He finds a gap in their opponent’s ribs which contains the power source. Unfortunately, Cyclops cannot narrow his beam to hit it and Iceman doesn’t understand what Otto tries to explain to him. Instead, Bobby forms a funnel, which Spidey jams in the machine’s ribs. When Scott shoots into the funnel, it decreases the size of his blast and destroys the power source.

Spider-Man awkwardly congratulates the X-Men’s victory, telling them that they have great courage. Then, Scott decides to take charge and formulate a plan against Jude. He explains that Jean will “pinch off his carotid arteries” until he passes out while Bobby puts out fires and helps civilians. Otto, though, informs them, “I’m going to pummel him with all my strength until he falls down.” Otto is personally insulted him and he’ll leave the science to Hank.

Meanwhile, Hank discovers from Jude’s journal that he was involved in fruitlessly studying time travel until he focused on mechanical engineering based on Otto Octavius’ work. Banner finds that Jude’s body generates gamma radiation, so they cannot contain him. Then, looking at Molly’s IPod, Hank gains an idea.

Elsewhere, Spider-Man and the X-Men track down Jude and tell him he will never get near the time machine. Jude decides that he could talk his way to the machine because, after all, he is a teacher. Spidey lunges at him, telling him, “Your arrogance, Jude. That will be your undoing.” Jude smacks him away and the X-Men attack.

Back at the lab, our scientific heroes have made a containment unit they hope will stop Jude. Hank and Molly begin to flirt while Banner conjures a way to get Jude into their invention. Strangely, the phone in the lab begins to ring.

Meanwhile, Jude has subdued the X-Men and is holding Spider-Man by the neck. Jude is ranting about how nobody would fund him in gamma science because of how the area was producing monsters like Doc Ock and the Hulk. So Jude went crazy and turned himself into a monster and committed to, when he had the chance, kill Octavius and the Hulk. Spider-Man weakly tells Jude that he has been using the power he emits to connect a receiver into a line it’s dialed into, so Hank and Banner have been listening for 20 minutes.

Suddenly, the Hulk captures Jude in the containment machine Banner and Hank developed, ending Jude’s ranting.

Later, S.H.I.E.L.D. has arrived at the scene and is taking Jude into custody. Banner explains how the containment unit converts the fiend’s radiation into mechanical energy so he cannot turn it into power. While Jude is most likely swearing in the unit, a song plays in the speakers. Hank explains that it is a joke and Otto replies, “Right. Of course. I love jokes. I’m Spider-Man.”

Scott pulls Banner to somewhere private from the others and asks him why he doesn’t just kill himself. Scott explains that he must think about all of the bad things that happen because of the Hulk and, by killing himself, it would end. Banner replies that, through his scientific developments, he is saving more people than the Hulk hurts. “Hulk smashes, Banner builds” is his new motto. Banner describes to Scott that he has probably seen the man he will someday become and is scared about the people he may hurt, but he can make it up by being a hero.

While Banner and Scott hug it out, Spider-Man commends Hank on his work and Hank asks if he wants to examine their time machine. Otto ponders about the option of righting his “tragic missteps” for a second and thinks of a new future where he is credited for his deeds, not Peter Parker. Ultimately, he decides against it, saying, “The arms of the octopus are long, and I know better than to return to their grasp.”

Spider-Man concludes our story by informing Hank that he has high hopes for his school and thinks, “They’ll do fine, these young X-Men. They’ve got great aptitude for the hardest lesson of all: How to be a hero.”

In General...

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special #1, despite its intimidating price tag and ridiculously lengthy name, excels in many areas while failing in others. I really enjoyed many elements of this concluding part of the arc, but as a conclusion, it was very anticlimactic as a story. The plot itself is very poor; the villain and his robotic cronies are easily defeated, not that they posed much of a threat in the first place. Dr. Jude is ridiculously easily subdued in the dullest manner; he is trapped in a containment unit. As a villain, Jude isn’t really written with any depth or edge.

So, I assume that my negative opening led you to believe that this was an overall bad issue. Fortunately, the rich dialogue makes up for the discernible plot shortcomings. The character interactions are entertaining and full of heart. The dialogue is particularly the shining element of this story, providing some clever conversations and remarkable narrating from Superior Spider-Man. I found it interesting how Otto feels dominant over the X-Men and decides to “coach” them on being a superhero. The Arms of the Octopus’ title was well-tied into the story in the ending too.

Another significant feature of this issue is how it actually works as a team-up. Usually, team-ups are somewhat lopsided towards one hero and poorly conceived. I mean, you just need to have two superheroes fight each other senselessly for sales, right? Every character seems to get a scene or two in the spotlight and everybody contributes about evenly to the advancement of the plot. Dr. Jude, the main villain, has ties to each hero which gives each one a link to his origin. Each hero has a unique interaction with the other heroes, particularly Spider-Man and the X-Men, and Scott and Banner. Most of all, the story is formatted so that it would only work with the particular characters in the story, which is very rare for team-ups.

Otherwise, I have a few small quibbles with this story. Firstly, we get no conclusion with Hank’s relationship with Molly. Second, I was annoyed over the fact that the Doc Ock robot never got a suitable ending because he was simply blown up in the helicopter. Third, I was bothered that Spider-Man (or the real Doc Ock) donned his old arms and was disappointed when the arms were damaged because he could have used them as a hero. Well, he could have easily replicated the arms but doesn’t need to use them because he already has retractable arms on his costume.

Lastly, Michael Dialynas’ art was rough but efficient. It captures the heart that has been seen throughout the entire story and emotions are evident in the facial expressions. Dialynas is obviously a beginning artist and his art has a certain style but it isn’t exactly consistent in his work yet. Still, it’s solid art and, out of the three artists in this story, he is the one artist I hope to see more in the Spider-Man universe.

Overall Rating...

Despite the poor, anticlimactic plot with the dull villain, this issue has fantastic dialogue and works very well as an overall team-up. I would like to see Mike Costa write some more Spidey stuff.