(SPOILER ALERT: If you have not been reading Amazing Spider-Man or the following series Superior Spider-Man and plan on it, read no further)
Well, don’t we all tend to jump to conclusions a little quickly around these parts? Fanboys are a terrible lot to try and please…while we claim that we want new and different stories, when a writer like Dan Slott comes along and tries to deliver by seriously shaking up the status quo we get our panties all ruffled and bunched and start snarking away like a bunch of little snots. Obviously, I am talking about the writer’s run on Amazing Spider-Man of recent. To begin with he made Peter Parker’s life a little more structured by giving him a great job at Horizon Labs as a come-and-go-as-you-please R & D scientist with the convenient cover of being “the guy who invents Spider-Man’s tech”. The “Big Time” storyline actually saw Mr. Parker’s life lookin’ good for a while…which any long-time fan knows is a true problem for terrible times to come.
And come they did. Through some machinations and a tens of issues spanning plot point our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man’s most villainous..erhm…
villain foe, Doctor Octopus managed to take over Peter Parker’s body and escape his own cancer-crippled form leaving the hero in the rapidly decaying soon-to-be corpse.
The whole story came to some startling conclusions as the rather complicated details started becoming apparent in the issues leading to the series ending Amazing Spider-Man #700. Firstly, this swap was managed with technology Parker stole from Octopus and developed at Horizon Labs “for Spider-Man”. Second, the swap was enacted over time, and slowly so that its effects would have some permanence. Third (and this is a big one) both men had full access to the other’s memories, emotions, and experiences. This last is of the most important, really.
As issue #700 plays out Spider-Ock arranges himself rather nicely in Parker’s life: rekindling his romance with estranged Mary Jane, making nice with New York City Mayor, J. Jonah Jameson (you’ve been away a long time, haven’t you casual reader?), and generally making himself look the hero. All the while Peter-topus has been reviving the Sinister Six and using villains as heroes to regain his body in a twistedly fun game of cat and mouse. The whole affair came to a head in an abandoned Avengers Tower as the mind switched men fell to the ground level as Doc Ock’s true body died. And die it did–with Peter Parker’s consciousness in it. Through some machination however, Otto experiences the events–with the full emotional charge laying within. So with a seemingly dead Peter Parker’s soul and a living Peter Parker’s body, Doc Ock–now understanding the mission and weight of Spider-Man’s creed “With great power must also come great responsibility”–vows not only to carry on for Peter and Spider-Man but to be more than amazing…to be…ahem..Superior.
Insert fanboy clamor and people swearing to never pick up another issue of Spider-Man until things have been righted. These sorts of developments don’t really bother me none…my comic book career began with the Death of Superman and as we all know Superman stayed dead forever and was never heard from again…oh wait, there were four of him and then he returned from the dead as the true original and had a mullet for three years after that. The point is, the status quo gets shook up but rarely does it stay so, and even rarer for flagship characters with forthcoming blockbuster movies. The real question is–can Spider-Ock’s Superior Spider-Man deliver the same quality book that Slott and Marvel had been delivering in ASM?
Well the answer is resounding “yes”. In fact I waited until 3 issues of the title had been released before publicly airing my thoughts on the matter. The book is quite good for a number of reasons and they shall come in bullet form following the colon:
- Shaking up the status quo is good–when a character like Spider-Man who recently had a 50th anniversary wants to stay fresh it can be important to change some of the ways the expectation of a quality story story is delivered.
- Otto Octavius still has to masquerade as Peter Parker and Spider-Man–nobody knows about this switch–with the exception of one character who suspects something is amiss. This means the Otto is constantly having to cover his tracks, be careful about how he acts while attempting to be “Superior”…
- That act isn’t easy. Being a reformed man doesn’t come easily to the former Doctor Octopus. Many things about his personality smack of super-villainy and mad scientist-osity. There are many comical moment written in where we see a high buttoned and lab coated Parker calling underlings “buffoon” or constantly talking about “his plans”. There is one particular moment–though not terribly villainous–where Spider-Ock orders a robot butler to bring him “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot” which is a total Star Trek: The Next Generation reference–hilarious and awesome, but not a Peter Parker thing for sure.
- Force Ghost Peter Parker–yup Peter Parker is still “alive” in one way or another, though only the reader knows it. As Otto is galavanting around in Peter’s body being a creep good ol’ Spidey is yelling in a blue hue on panel at him, and making the comments that most of the readers are thinking like “How come nobody notices he is saying Super-Villain things!!”. This is just a sign for those highly volatile fanboys to see that this shake-up may be long-term, but not permanent.
- Otto and Peter are constantly impressed with the other–since ghost Spider-Man and Spider-Ock have access to each other’s memories they are learning a great deal about each other. Ghost-Spidey is impressed with the inventive way Otto is using his powers and approaching some of the life-balancing problems Spidey has had, while Otto is constantly impressed by the amount of BS Parker had to overcome and the restraint he displayed regularly in battling his foes. This is a great tool for character development and opens the door for Peter to actually be superior when he does finally resume the mantle of the arachnid.
In all its a highly enjoyable romp…and in other Spider-Man titles and titles where the character appears, expect to find this Spider-Man and these character development to be in full effect. The change isn’t permanent and in the meanwhile its fun, interesting, and definitely different. As for being “superior”, well, I can’t entirely attest to that but it is more than worth your buck and your time.