Chris Yost did very well with his depiction of the Superior Spider-Man last time. Now he tries to boost the book’s sales by bringing in Wolverine and the X-Men. (On the “Next Issue” page, the Beast tells Editor Ellie Pyle, “You’re welcome for the sales bump, Pyle,” so it’s not like they’re making a secret of it.) Let’s see if the second time is as good as the first.
The Superior Spider-Man (who is Doc Ock in Peter Parker’s body, as I think we all know by now) arrives on the scene of a battle between Mayor J. Jonah Jameson’s Anti-Spider-Man patrols and a giant garden spider. “There is irony here,” thinks Spidey, “I destroyed Spider-Man. Now I get to kill his namesake…all in the name of good.” When the monster spider shakes him off, Spidey grabs a lamppost and prepares to skewer it. (He pushes two Anti-Spidey patrolmen out of the way, says “One side, imbeciles,” and thinks, “Ahh…friendly banter.”) He hesitates when he notices that the spider has human eyes but then decides to kill it anyway, only to be repelled by lightning. The X-Men (in this case, Beast, Storm, Iceman, Rachel Grey, Wolverine, and Kitty Pryde with Lockheed) have arrived.
The Beast tells Spidey, “This spider is a job for the X-Men,” and they go into action against it. Spidey, who thinks mutants are more likely “genetic freaks” than Homo Superior, stands by and accesses Peter’s memories of his new allies (which conveniently allows Chris to fill us in on these characters). When he discovers that Rachel is a telepath, he realizes that “that could be a problem.” When the Beast scans the spider and learns that “there are three different strains of DNA present,” Spidey realizes that it poses a threat to Storm hovering nearby. The spider disgorges a fluid on Storm. Spidey webs up and rescues her. He then announces that he is “going to put this thing out of its misery now.” Spidey lands on top of the monster and delivers a two-fisted punch to its skull. An appalled Kitty cries out, “We’re supposed to be containing it, not killing it!” Spidey ignores her and orders Storm to create a change in air pressure. She does (“It feels right that they obey me,” thinks Spidey) and the wall-crawler pries open the spider’s jaws, completing his plan.
When he returns to earth, Wolverine accosts him and Spidey replies by punching him in the jaw. Wolverine strikes back but does not unsheathe his claws. (“Perhaps out of some misguided idea of friendship,” Spidey thinks.) Spidey has no qualms about using all of his powers and he relentlessly slashes and pounds Wolverine into unconsciousness. Just then, the giant spider falls off the building to the ground. Not dead, just stunned. When Beast asks him how he accomplished it, Spidey tells him, “Simple arachnid physiology. A concussive shockwave through the exoskeleton near the creature’s brain, combined with the spider’s sensitivity to changes in air pressure put it into shock. The final strike to the circulation system put it down, although the reaction was delayed given its size.” (Okay, sure. I’ll buy all that.) Storm points out that the spider has turned into an unconscious naked blonde woman. Rachel uses her telepathy to discover that the woman has no mind. “It’s like she was just born. No memories, nothing,” she says.
Then Wolverine grabs Spidey from behind, his claws out this time. He orders Rachel to scan Spidey’s mind. Knowing that she will detect traces of Octavius in him, Spidey decides, “This calls for…God help me…a little Parker charm.” First he tells Wolverine to “use your Badger senses” (a little Big Ten humor, I think) to determine he is the real Spider-Man. When Wolverine suggests he could be possessed, he counters with, “I don’t wear this mask for fun. Stay out of my head. If she reads my mind, I will seriously sue you. Pretty sure Captain America wouldn’t approve of you invading my privacy,” and he seals it with, “Besides, you can’t tell me you’ve never thought about beating up Wolverine.” All this works and Rachel refuses to scan him.
Meanwhile, Beast determines that “our problematic young spider-girl” has “human DNA, mutant DNA, and arachnid DNA” but is not a mutant. “Someone genetically engineered her,” Spidey says. Storm guesses Mr. Sinister is behind it. (Not being an X-Men reader, I’m not real clear on who Mr. Sinister is but Beast tells me everything I want to know by saying, “[I]f this is Mr. Sinister’s work, his genetic hobby has expanded into two new species. He’s never shown interest in human or animal DNA before.”)
The X-Men take the “spider-girl” and depart. Spidey webs away. He has already figured out that, “The girl has the mind of a newborn because she was most likely born yesterday. She’s a clone.” He further thinks, “I don’t know much about this Sinister person, but judging by the color of that girl’s hair there’s someone else who could very well be responsible for this. A headache I would much rather not have to deal with.” And, at Mr. Sinister’s lab, someone has broken in and taken over the “genetic candy store.” The Jackal.
The Jackal! I love the Jackal! I love the Clone Saga! I love Ben Reilly!
Ahem. Don’t get me started on that.
I also love a good surprise ending and this one was particularly good. It almost makes up for the thin story this time. Also making up for it is Chris Yost’s stellar handle on the shifting dual personality of the Superior Spider-Man. I’ve given a number of great examples in the body of the recap. Here’s another of my favorites. It’s from page 1 panel 3 and it immediately gives the reader the feel of the Octavius/Parker meld: “And when the various sensors I’ve placed throughout the city detect these people in a panic, I move to save their little lives.” Again. “I move to save their little lives.” Want to reduce the Superior Spider-Man’s mindset to seven words? There it is. So, Chris’ Superior Spider-Man is first-rate, he does a good job of filling us in on each X-Man (and on Mr. Sinister), and, hey, the Jackal! But it’s still only a sliver of a longer story and gives us very little information. Which is too bad.
The things I said about Paco and Juan’s artwork last time apply here as well. Very slick and beautiful to look at but nothing really innovative or startling. Though I do like the unnerving quality of the giant spider’s human eyes.
I can’t give it full marks because I feel slighted in the story department but everything else was so well done and, you know, the Jackal! Call it four and a half.