Superior Spider-Man 1-31
By Dan Slott
Author’s note: the original 2016 list by The Hollywood Reporter is #1-33. 31 was the series finale with 32 and 33 telling a side story that took place around #19 that heavily tied into the Spider-Verse crossover. As they came after the finale, were only co-written by Slott, and didn’t add much to the overall narrative I’ve cut them out of this entry.
Since around 2008, when I began dabbling in the world of comics again, I’ve consistently checked out the weekly reviews my favorite sites post following each New Comic Book Day. It doesn’t matter if it’s something I’m currently reading or not, it just lets me keep tabs on all of the shenanigans taking place in these universes we’ve all come to love. The reason I’m taking up a paragraph on this now is twofold. One, we have quite a journey still ahead of us (assuming you’re reading this) and so I imagine you’ll get to know me a bit as we dive deeper. Two, this is one of those series I “followed” with a fair amount of interest at the time and, despite a few false starts, this is something I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Now that it’s on “The List”, I have no choice and I’m once again glad I started this challenge.
Before we dive into these issues a little stage setting is required. Previously finding himself to be dying, Otto Octavius manages to swap his mind with Peter’s thereby becoming Spider-Man while Parker is trapped in Ock’s dying body. While Peter doesn’t succeed in reversing the process, he imparts his morals and memories on Ock’s mind and receives Otto’s word that Spider-Man would continue protecting the city before the body gives out. That’s the thrust of the series, Doc Ock is now living Peter’s life, heroically even, but he’s still Doc Ock with the arrogance and viciousness (for which he’s known) alongside Ock’s vast mind. He’ll be Spider-Man, but he’ll be the superior version. I find myself kind of surprised by how much he truly succeeds at this goal.
How to Villain Your Way to a Better Hero in 6 Easy Steps
One of things I really loved about this run was watching Ock take his prior experience as a villain and watching how it informs his approach to being a hero. First he turns his octo-bots into self replicating Spider-bots that he scatters throughout the city giving himself thousands of eyes everywhere to monitor the city. It allows him to prioritize trouble and respond exactly where and when he is needed. He uses that to his advantage arranging for his heroics to also serve as publicity stunts. He’s stopping more crime with a fraction of his time compared to Pete, and the masses are on his side. Mayor Jameson embraces the Spider-Ock (ironically over Peter’s dead body) going so far as to install a spider-signal, which Ock immediately destroys because it paints a target on him, but that’s still huge in the Spidey-Verse.
He orders a bunch of henchmen that he places in a base, in an abandoned prison complex, on a private island he was given. At one point he uses them to fight off the Avengers. Every point I’ve brought up in these last two paragraphs could easily have been written about any number of stories from his villain days, however, he IS a hero in this… just in a bit of a maniacal, egotist kind of way. As long as you accept the basic story conceit that it’s an Ock greatly influenced by Parker’s memories, everything just falls into place. It all makes absolute sense for the character. These additions free him up for a more rounded personal life too, which he has mixed success with.
Towards the beginning especially, you see see Ock trying to out-Parker Peter. He’s there for Aunt May. He starts leveraging his genius at Horizon Labs, making huge strides. He even comes “this” close to winning Mary Jane’s affection before realizing the vicious cycle of anguish it would trap MJ in. This particularly shows how much Peter has influenced Otto’s thinking as he goes from treating MJ as a science problem that needed solving in order to acquire her to worrying about her well-being if a relationship were to grow. With that avenue closed to him, Ock settles into a relationship with Anna Maria Marconi who he feels a great kinship to. Often the subject of ridicule due to her diminutive size, would guess her to be around 4.5 ft tall, her small stature belies her strong personality with an intellect to match Ock’s. In many respects, she’s the character I most sympathized by story’s end, she is a truly likeable character who falls deeply in love with Otto Parker and the resolution leaves her in a place where I can’t help but empathize with. Pete’s back, but she loved Octavius (unaware of it not being Peter.)
The rest of the relationships fair rather poorly. The Avengers end up battling Spider-Man. Mayor Jonah Jameson goes from enthusiastic supporter to being blackmailed and giving the former prison, The Raft to Ock. MJ cuts all ties to him after seeing more personality changes (I’m guessing this leads to her working for Tony Stark.) The most pivotal supporting character though is Carlie a former love interest of Peter’s. She starts digging and eventually comes to the conclusion that Ock has control of the body which plays a major role in the conclusion.
The Clothes (or Body) Don’t Make the Man
Carlie (along with the notes she’d made about Ock) end up captured by the Goblin King’s (Norman Osborn) forces and Ock’s secrets fall into his hands. Having months ago found a backdoor into the spider-bots that made his forces invisible to them, Osborn has amassed an enormous force to his side. Shortly after Ock’s battle with the Avengers, Osborn launches a full-on assault on Spider-Man. At this point the series jumped ahead a month in time. All of his henchmen are taken away as the city itself turns on him, destroying his spider-bots in the process. Every place of significance to Otto is blown off the face of the Earth while Goblin kidnaps Anna. Everything he has built since his “New Lease on Life”, is taken away from him. Ock is reacting much as he has in the past, when things fall apart, so does he. The difference this time is that his desire to do good and his love of Anna allows him to do what is necessary to save what’s important. He sacrifices himself to win the day. He moves on, allowing Peter to take back what’s his, knowing that Peter’s unrelenting drive to persevere is why he was routinely defeated. It’s why Peter IS the Superior Spider-man. Peter’s return throws Norman off balance allowing him to win the day. He didn’t die when Ock’s body did, rather he lived on, playing a game of cat and mouse with Octavious’ mind.
That’s pretty much where the series leaves us. Pete has quite a mess waiting for him back in his life, but seems ready to do it. Overall I’ve really liked this side trip in the Spider-Man mythos. Honestly, my only real complaint about this run is that time jump I mentioned in the closing chapters. While I think I understand the choice, it left me feeling like Doc deciding he needs Peter to save Anne and relinquishing the body felt rushed. Other than that, things went surprisingly well for a story that was a bit out there, conceptually. It’s also relevant to this day, as it was why Ock interjected himself into Amazing Spider-Man #800 recently. The whole ordeal has had a lasting impact on both characters, with Peter nearly losing himself while attempting to hide within Ock’s mind. I wish I could devote some time in seeing how things play out (particularly the evolution of Parker Industries), but we still have 97 more of these to get through. Don’t worry though, a second Bucket List is already filling up.
Our next stop will be Hawkeye #1-22 by Matt Fraction and David Aja, which is available in its entirety on Marvel Unlimited. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this run but I don’t believe I’ve read even one issue of it. But that’s ok, my knowledge of Hawkeye could use a bit of work anyway. Until next time, feel free to share your thoughts on Superior Spider-Man with us by:
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