Massacre, a callous serial killer first introduced in ASM #655, escaped from prison last issue and immediately continued his killing ways. The Superior Spider-Man, after being berated by a furious J. Jonah Jameson who blamed Spidey for not letting Massacre die by police gunfire during his last rampage, has vowed to put a stop to Massacre once and for all. With Doctor Octopus behind the mask instead of Peter Parker, he just might be telling the truth.
Marcus Lyman's recent killing spree at a fast food restaurant is already making its rounds on the 24 hour cable news channels. Having been dubbed the "Burger Town Massacre," the CEO of Phizzy Cola is watching the coverage aghast. The bad publicity that this recent rampage is causing her company looks to be nearly irreparable. Apparently this is very clear to Lyman (aka Massacre), who makes a visit to the CEO’s home with a startling proposition. In what may be one of the strangest plots ever devised by an insane killer, Massacre offers the CEO of Phizzy Cola a chance to smear the name of their direct competitor, Mocha Cola. Opening up his trench coat, Massacre reveals a red Mocha Cola sweatshirt underneath (whose logo looks suspiciously like the ‘90s era Marvel Comics logo). “For 12 million I’ll walk into the heart of New York and kill everyone in sight,” explains Lyman.
Meanwhile at Horizon Labs, the Superior Spider-Man is working with Uata Jackson to add facial recognition software to his Spider-Bots. Uata (and ghost Peter) questions the amount of power this new software will give Spider-Man, but Ock shrugs it off calling it nothing more than a “friendly neighborhood watch.”
Once the upgrades are complete, Ock allows his bots to search the city for Massacre and swings off to the home of a new cast member. Anna Maria Marconi is a dwarf and a tutor who has been pestering Octavius to attend one of her sessions ever since he re-enrolled at ESU so that Parker could receive his doctorate. Ock tries to rebuff the notion that he needs tutoring but is enticed by the young woman’s cooking. After filling his stomach and then exuding physics knowledge on his would be tutor, Ock finally leaves Anna’s house and is promptly notified of the success of one of his spider-bots. Marcus Lyman has been found entering Grand Central Station.
After notifying the police (a tactic that makes ghost Peter wonder why he had never thought to do that himself), the Superior Spider-Man takes off – but in another direction. Knowing that Massacre likes to store hostages in a different location in case things go awry, Ock traces the frequency of the explosives to a Mocha Cola warehouse. After freeing the hostages (and having a temporary crisis of character moment), the Superior Spider-Man heads for the battle ground that is Grand Central Station. Inside, Massacre seems to have already killed a group of policemen by the time Spidey arrives. After some elusive dodging of gunfire, Ock is able to tag Massacre with a left hook to the jaw that quickly sends him to the ground. Once Massacre realizes that his backup plan has already been foiled, the Superior Spider-Man grabs one of the serial killer’s guns and proceeds to shoot him in the shoulder. As a stunned Massacre crawls across the floor to retrieve his other weapon, Spider-Man jumps on and crushes the villain’s hand.
Holding the gun to the head of the clearly beaten Massacre, Otto Octavius goes on a tirade. “How many are dead and dieing here?!” he screams “When is it enough?!” Suddenly something changes. For the first time since the accident that took his emotions, Massacre actually feels something. With tears running down his eyes, Marcus Lyman says that he’s scared. Ghost Peter uses Lyman’s sign of emotion as proof that anyone can change, but the Superior Spider-Man’s mind is made up. With a terrifying muzzle flash, Spider-Man fires the gun at point blank range.
With relief, the CEO of Phizzy Cola watches the updating news story from her home. Suddenly, all of the TV screens become filled with an image of the Superior Spider-Man. Somehow he has found out that the CEO paid Massacre for the Grand Central shooting spree and has sent his Spider-Bots to make her pay.
The line has been crossed. All indications point to the fact that the Superior Spider-Man just killed a man in cold blood. There’s no turning back from this. While we’ve been privy to how much more proficient the Superior Spider-Man is over the last few issues, this is the first we’ve seen how twisted and lethal the new Spidey’s heroic logic is. The last page of the book only adds to the dark paranoia of the book. Saying that it is his “power and responsibility to watch over and judge you all,” is a perfect example of how Otto has taken Pete’s mantra and added a villainous touch to it.
While I enjoyed the ending and the intensely dark direction that Slott is driving the Superior Spider-Man towards, I did have a couple complaints. First of all, I thought that Massacre’s credibility as a truly frightening antagonist took a nosedive as soon as he showed everyone his lovely Mocha Cola sweater. Was the entire premise of Massacre’s extortion plot created just so Slott could show Ock going all Big Brother on someone at the end of the book? I also thought that Ock’s meeting with Anna Marconi seemed a little out of place. I assume that Marconi is going to become a recurring character as long as Otto is still wearing the webs, but the scene broke up the flow of the intense story and just seemed like an excuse to introduce a new character.
Minor quibbles aside, I still feel as if Superior Spider-Man has been a resounding success so far. I've been hearing from fans who feel as if the notion is so far fetched (and are so upset with the way that Peter's "death" was handled) that they aren't even giving this book a fair shake. I think we all know that the status quo will be restored soon (probably sooner rather than later), so why not see what intriguing things Slott can come up with in the meantime. If writers aren't taking chances, if new and exciting plot devices aren't being developed, then what's the point?
The ending was breathtaking but there were some missteps along the way. Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art is as superb as ever though. Ryan Stegman has been getting a lot of pub recently for his work on the book, and for good reason, but I think Camuncoli is my favorite of the three rotating Superior Spider-Man artists right now. Our old pal Humberto Ramos takes over the penciling duties next ish.