It’s the last installment of the story. So, is that darn QPE finally “going to destroy the majority of old New York,” as Miguel O’Hara’s hologram Lyla stated two issues ago? And is SpOck going to get squashed by a no-longer-mind-controlled-and-out-for-revenge Sinister Six?
The Superior Spider-Man regains consciousness to find himself berated by villains he has supposedly killed. The Green Goblin. Kraven the Hunter. And Doctor Octopus. Or as Otto Octavius refers to himself here, “the most arrogant, narcissistic, self-deluded man in the world.” The “murdered” villains are courtesy of the Chameleon who taunts Spidey by assuming their appearances. But the other members of the “Six” are there, too, including Sandman who has trapped Otto in rock hard sand, and Electro who assaults Spidey and then orders Vulture to bring Lightmaster over. Lightmaster is devastated by the apparent death of Sun Girl, who is his daughter Selah. “Sun Girl’s death is on my head,” thinks Otto, “The first of many.”
The Vulture roughs Lightmaster up a bit, demanding to know how the QPE works. But Lightmaster is too busy mourning Selah. When Vulture attacks him, Spidey calls out, “Leave him alone, Vulture! It’s me you want!” Lightmaster is not grateful. “Spider-Man…Why didn’t you save my daughter?” he asks. Fed up, Electro strikes Lightmaster with an electric bolt. Then Vulture flies him high into the sky and drops him. Spidey realizes that he has indeed forged “the Sinister Six into a Superior team…but not as intended.” They are, instead, bound together by their new hate for him. And they are destroying New York. (Which reminds me that, in last issue’s review, I thought the QPE had teleported them away from New York… or something. Instead it looks like it brought planes and ships and things onto lower Manhattan. But what happened to the Masters of Evil?)
But, in the Bowery, Sun Girl crashes to earth, still alive. She recovers in time to catch her father as he falls. Electro sends Vulture and Mysterio to deal with her while he tries to activate the QPE with his powers. Spidey pleads with Electro to not activate it. “Your power. It’s too much for the engine,” he says, “The effects will be a hundred times worse.” “Good,” says Electro. Spidey tries to get Sandman to listen but he can’t get over the trauma of having “somebody else in [his] head.” Otto tells the group that, “All the years, all the times we spent together, I only wanted you to be better. I was trying to take responsibility for you!” Electro gives SpOck something to take responsibility for. He activates the QPE.
Spidey thinks, “What I told Electro was true. The engine will convert his power in a different way than Lightmaster or Sun Girl. What’ll he’ll in fact do is destroy the entire city.” (At last! The threat to the city that the QPE is supposed to pose.) Electricity flies all over Manhattan and we get a “team-up” glimpse of Captain America, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Ant-Man, Dragon Man, Miguel O’Hara and others reacting to it. “No one is here to save New York from my hubris,” thinks Otto but he is wrong. Sun Girl defeats Mysterio and Vulture, then uses her powers to free Spidey from the hardened sand. He immediately punches Chameleon, breaking his jaw. (“I take down Chameleon first because he deserves it.”) Electro, weakened by the QPE, is easily defeated. That leaves Sandman with whom SpOck thinks he can reason but Spidey’s recent actions have destroyed that chance. “Even when we fought before,” Sandman says, “even when you tortured me, never did I think that you would do this! That you would violate us like this! I don’t care anymore! Dr. Octopus was right. Let this city burn!!” Spidey is helpless to stop him but Sun Girl flies right through Sandman’s head, disrupting him. “I remember once…once I believed in you,” Sandman tells Spidey, “That part of me is dead.” And, saying that, he disperses into sand all over Manhattan.
But the danger isn’t over. The QPE is still belching out energy. Electro recovers and jolts Spidey with electricity but Sun Girl fends him off. She tends to SpOck as a ball of QPE energy spreads over the whole city. Spidey whispers to her, telling her how to stop the danger but all the time he is thinking, “Once upon a time, I was a petty little man who believed that he was better. That the world owed him for a lifetime of abuse. I was wrong. I was so wrong. And this city nearly paid the price for it.”
And then the danger is over. Sun Girl does what Spidey told her which was to “break the thing.” Something he couldn’t do himself because her powers shielded her from the effects. “I couldn’t have gotten close enough,” he tells her, “If you weren’t here, millions of people would have died.” “This is all because of you, isn’t it?” she asks. When Spidey admits it is, she flies off, saying, “To think I always wanted to be just like you. A hero.” Otto thinks back on his promise to the dying Peter Parker; his vow to not be a villain, to be a superior Spider-Man. He looks at the damage to New York and at the news and police helicopters, the Avengers Quinjet and the Mighty Thor, all in the air and confronting him.
So maybe, by saying “old New York,” Lyla meant southern Manhattan after all, because it is pretty much trashed. And why? Because, in spite of his vow to be a superior force for good, Otto Octavius still thinks like a villain. What’s so wonderful about this story is that he is beginning to realize it. He sees himself as an “arrogant, narcissistic, self-deluded man” and a “petty little man who believed that he was better” and he knows that, without Sun Girl, he would have been responsible for the deaths of millions. What sets him apart from his old self is that he now recoils from that sort of evil. It is a somewhat heavy-handed but nice touch that Chameleon torments him with Dr. Octopus’ face (telling him, “To think they called Octavius a villain when this is what you do.”) while the Sandman sides with the old Octavius belief that the whole world should be destroyed. In other words, SpOck’s attempts to do good are in the same mode as Doctor Octopus’ attempts to do evil (and the villains see it as worse) but, at last, Otto is starting to realize this.
It is also worth noting that Sun Girl does all the work here. She saves her father from falling to his death, she defeats Mysterio and Vulture, she stops Sandman’s rampage, she dispatches Electro when SpOck’s defeat of him proves temporary, and she turns off the QPE. The irony is that her desire to be like Spidey has made her a true hero while Otto has turned Spidey into someone she no longer admires. The one thing in SpOck’s favor is that he understands all this. When Sun Girl frees him, he tells the Sinister Six, “Her name is Sun Girl. She’s here to remind us all what a hero is.” That’s exactly what she is here for; to contrast her instinctive heroism with the perception of heroism from a villain who is slowly learning how to be a hero, in spite of himself.
This is cool character-driven stuff and it has become the stock-in-trade of this series. Whereas Superior Spider-Man is bogged down in cute games of Otto’s ignorance of Peter’s past life interfering with his run-ins with people in the present (“…and then he meets Spidey 2099 and doesn’t know him…and then he meets Flash Thompson and doesn’t know him!), this book is portraying the step-by-step process of someone bad learning how to do good, which is what this whole thing should be about. Perhaps that’s why I feel like the whole Doc-Ock-as-Spidey bit is seriously tapped out whenever I read Superior but I fall in love with it all over again whenever I read Superior Team-Up.
If you read only one Superior Spider-Man series, read this one. Four and a half webs.