If you thought the first appearance of the Superior Spider-Man was Superior Spider-Man #1, then you didn't read Avenging Spider-Man #15.1.
And if you haven’t read Amazing Spider-Man #700 yet, then you shouldn't read this because the whole review is one big SPOILER!!! SPOILER!!!SPOILER!!!SPOILER!!!SPOILER!!!SPOILER!!!SPOILER!!!SPOILER!!!
Doctor Octopus is dead. Or at least his body is. The mind of Doc Ock has taken over the body of Peter Parker and become the Superior Spider-Man. In an internal monologue, on his first day in Peter’s body, Ock gloats over his accomplishment even as he makes a dinner date with Mary Jane and contemplates upgrading Spider-Man’s equipment. He thinks back on how he used his octobot to perform the mental switch but also recalls that, “[I]n final battle, I truly saw Spider-Man. In Parker’s last moments, I saw what made him. The loving home. The deep-rooted desire to do good. And above all else…I learned that with great power there must come great responsibility. More or less.” He decides that Peter “was undisciplined. His life was chaos. His inventions never daring enough.” And he starts to do something about that.
On Day Two, at Horizon labs, Otto/Peter vents about Max Modell’s anti-Spider-Man security measures. “Parker could have overcome them. He chose not to out of …what? Respect? I’ll circumvent them in five minutes. Parker was inferior in every way.” He then muses on making the Spidey costume and loses track of who is who. “I remember sewing my costume for the first time,” he thinks, “no…his costume.” At that point he realizes he is standing on the ceiling and is amazed at the muscle memory of his new body.
On Day Thee, Otto/Peter decides that the lab at Horizon is inadequate. He gets a text from MJ reminding him of their upcoming dinner date and decides that MJ is a liability that must be dealt with until his memories call up MJ in all sorts of provocative moments. “Dear God that woman!” he thinks and decides, “Peter Parker is a fool.”
On Day Four, Otto/Peter grouses about having to walk to work. He spots a petty thief and although he has promised to “do good,” thinks this is beneath his dignity. Yet still he strikes out with a fist and knocks the thief out. “That was…that was instinct, I suppose,” he thinks. At Horizon, he dismisses Grady and Uatu as “Fat Hippy and Bald Kid” on his way to his lab where he decides that while “Horizon labs could be considered impressive,” it is not impressive enough. As Spider-Man, he searches out one of Ock’s underwater labs and breaks in. But the lab is calibrated to Ock’s arms, voice and heartbeat, “none of which I possess any longer.” A pre-recorded image of Ock comes up on a screen to taunt the intruder and Otto/Peter thinks, “Is that really how I sound? Like an underwater walrus.” As Spidey fights and defeats the attacking security ‘bots, he reflects that, in all of the past battles of this sort, “Doctor Octopus always lost. My will. My intellect. My power. It was never enough. I was found wanting. And. I. Failed.” Even as Spidey wins, the recorded Ock image prattles on that, “As you breathe your last breaths, just remind yourself…it could have ended no other way. For you pitted yourself against the genius…the might…of Doctor Octopus.” Repulsed by his old self, Otto/Peter determines, “I’m better than that. I must be better than that. Better than that pontificating weak-chinned fool. Better than Otto Octavius.” He punches the viewscreen, shattering it.
On Day Five, Otto/Peter dons his new Spidey costume, with new eye lenses, with clawed big toe and thumb. “I’ve seen myself through Peter Parker’s lens now,” he thinks, “I’ve seen my mistakes. And things are going to change. Because Otto Octavius is no more. His days of losing are over. Doctor Octopus is dead. Love live the Superior Spider-Man.”
So, Otto Octavius is now Peter Parker and Spider-Man. It seems like a very limited idea, the sort of idea that might last a year before having to change back. But, whatever the outcome, this issue gets us off to a very good start. Chris Yost, the new regular writer for the title, does everything right here, mostly through Otto/Peter’s internal monologue which he, very wisely, uses as narration for the whole issue. In that narration, we see Ock’s dominant personality struggle with and listen to the part of the brain that is still Peter. Even as he glories in his victory (“I took his life from him.”), even as he considers Octavius’ scientific prowess superior to Parker’s (“I have taken in the measure of Peter Parker and I have found him wanting.”), he is still seduced by Peter’s goodness, gentler feelings, and sense of justice and seeks to understand his relationship to MJ (“Peter Parker is a fool.”), to stopping a thief (“That was instinct, I suppose.”), to his colleagues at Horizon labs (“How does he put up with this? These distractions…these…people.”), to Max Modell (“He chose not to out of …what? Respect?”), all things the unadulterated Otto would never do. This is all nicely capsulized in his thought, “I learned that with great power there must also come great responsibility. More or less.” That “More of less” is at the root of it and, I suspect, the source of a lot of future fun.
And yet, in spite of these un-Ock-like thoughts and feelings, Otto still doesn’t realize how much of Peter is in there. Exactly halfway though the story (in the last panel of page 10), our “hero” thinks, “I am Doctor Octopus.” The next ten pages are spent proving him wrong. His old underwater lab certainly doesn’t think he’s Doctor Octopus. And within, Otto sees and hears his old self, casually demolishes the defenses his old self found so impressive, and discovers that the Doctor Octopus who thought he was so brilliant and invincible, was a bragging “underwater walrus” who lost every time. Symbolically confronting himself, Otto/Peter finds himself wanting and symbolically destroys that part of him by smashing the video screen. With that, perhaps still unknowingly, he embraces the Peter Parker side of his personality and becomes the Superior Spider-Man.
This is not easy writing to pull off. There is the conflict of the battle in the lab but most of the story’s conflict is internal. Otto/Peter’s narrative has to carry the load of establishing Otto’s mind, his lapses into Peter’s mind, and the synthesis of the two minds that eventually emerges. That this is done in the economy of the narrative captions, makes it all the more impressive. Chris Yost hits the jackpot here.
The artwork of Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco (who, we’re told, will be the artists for the series’ next story arc) is slick and pretty. Mary Jane looks gorgeous in her page eight montage, Peter’s expressions range from sinister to smug to astonished to thoughtful and the use of lighting as Peter tosses in bed (on page two panel one) is wonderful (we may have colorist Dave Curiel to thank for that). Still, there’s something a bit stagey about it. I’d like to see more innovation. Maybe we will when the story isn’t so introspective.
Paolo Rivera’s cover is one of my favorite things about this issue. It features a series of images from past ASM covers reflected off a coiled Doctor Octopus arm. I assume these are Paolo’s renditions of those old Kirby, Ditko, and Romita images but I’m not certain they aren’t the originals, which is a compliment to Paolo. Take a look at this cover, compare the images from (Top Row) Amazing Spider-Man #55, December 1967, Amazing Spider-Man #56, January 1968, (Middle Row) Amazing Spider-Man #11, April 1964, Amazing Spider-Man #3, July 1963, Amazing Spider-Man #33, February 1966, (Bottom Row) Amazing Spider-Man #12, May 1964, Amazing Spider-Man #53, October 1967, and Amazing Spider-Man #32, January 1966 and see what you think.
I’m still not sure what I think of this Otto-in-Peter’s-body idea but I’m definitely going to give it a chance. And, after reading this issue, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to it. Kudos to all involved for getting things off to a great start. Five webs.