Review: The Superior Spider-Man #4 by Dan Slott and Giuseppe Camuncoli

superior-spidey4

The Superior Spider-Man #4
Writer – Dan Slott
Pencils – Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks – John Dell
Colors – Edgar Delgado

Doctor Octopus continues his stolen existence as Peter Parker, and are better than ever. The Superior Spider-Man has destroyed the most recent Sinister Six, forged a bold new path in Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane, and punished the Vulture like never before. Even if his methods are extreme, it’s hard to argue with the results. Even former flames MJ and Carlie can’t. And that’s really what The Superior Spider-Man is about, isn’t it?

Otto Octavius is doing a better job at being Spider-Man and Peter Parker. The ultimate victory. Of course, that’s not why I read Spider-Man. I like the put-upon guy who always does right and ends up screwed over. I like that Spider-Man has to fail a few times before he finds his webs. That’s what resonated with me as a kid. Thankfully, Dan Slott knows it, too, and issue #4 gets into the hard questions of the switch.

Synopsis

The Superior Spidey owns the city. He has crime on lockdown, and villains give up the second he swings onto the scene. As Peter, his relationship with Aunt May is healthier than ever, to the point that the real Peter, living on in the back of Otto’s mind (in Peter’s body) is finally piecing together how screwed up his choices and priorities were. Still, not everyone is taking a liking to the new arrogant and aggressive Peter Parker.

Otto himself is shamed when he learns that his brilliant nemesis was never even a doctor, and so he goes to correct that aspect of Parker’s life. And back in the costume, Otto has to clean up another of Peter’s messes: the sociopath Massacre has escaped Ravencroft Asylum and begun a new swath of terror, and Otto realizes that Peter’s mercy could have prevented all of this.

And amidst all this, another old foe steps in to challenge this new Spider-Man. One who knows the Web-Head intimately.

Discussion

This is why I liked the premise amidst all the complaints. What’s it like when someone else takes a new initiative in Peter Parker’s hectic life? The story isn’t merely Doctor Octopus doing the opposite, as he’s bound Spider-Man’s particular brand of duty and honor, not just because he’s usurped the man’s life, but because he’s actively trying to prove he can do a better job at it. And every step of the way, he has. It’s been a slow burn across four issues, but it’s paying off.

Not letting the villains of the week take him lightly? Check. Sorting out his business with MJ and making himself even more appealing to her because of it? That’s real game. Punishing the Vulture for using children? It’s hard to imagine even Peter holding back from that. And now the big test, and one we all saw coming: taking a life. Can a superior man come to a logical conclusion that spares Massacre, or can Otto’s intellect come up with a solution that keeps Spider-Man’s motto and hands clean while justifying a particular brand of justice?

Every headline has been asking this recently, and politics and current events aside, this is precisely the sort of situation this Spider-Man story had to have been made for. This is Otto Octavius testing his boundaries within Peter’s life.

There’s only one thing dragging the story down, and it’s Peter. Specifically, Peter existing in the back of Otto’s mind, playing the guardian angel. It doesn’t work for me because while his influences are clear, the constant reprimanding becomes obnoxious. Especially when the bulk of it is easily summed up across the current four issues as, “Whoa, Doc Ock, don’t do that, that’s the opposite of what I would do! Oh wait, you did the right thing.” Constantly. I understand Peter would do that. I like that Peter comes away from every conflict doubting his own place in his own life. Except that since Ock barely acknowledges it with the slightest of teases in actions or dialogue, it loses it’s power. It’s like a bad buddy comedy, where two people who are polar opposites collide and cooperate, except the straight man can’t actually play a foil for the more extroverted one.

It plays out like Lethal Weapon, except Murtaugh has little to no input on anything, which dilutes the tension and awkwardness of everything Riggs does. It’s Superbad, except Jonah Hill isn’t arguing with Michael Cera. If you’re younger than that, I’m sadly out of analogies. I’m sure Adventure Time has one.

However, that’s the worst objective thing I can say about this title, all four issues of it. That is not a horrible complaint. I may even be alone in it. The book is a brilliant character study of not only Doctor Octopus, but Peter, and J. Jonah Jameson, and MJ Watson, and Carlie Cooper, and every villain that crosses the paths with a foe they thought they knew and understood. This is a character, Spider-Man, we thought we knew and understood, and all it takes is a new person using the name to make us question what we assumed.

And through all that, it’s well paced, with a lot going on in a clear manner, like the best old Spider-Man books. The threads weave seamlessly. Dan Slott is proving to be the real superior amidst all the controversy, even if the solicits have already told us this is a short lived trek. No, I didn’t like how Peter went out before this. Yes, I was getting slightly tired of Spider-Man after Spider-Island – not in a bad way, like a good roller coaster I came away exhausted and excited, and it’s hard to top the next experience. I cannot say that Dan Slott is disappointing me with The Superior Spider-Man as a title, though.

Giuseppe Camuncoli is great. He has a clean, bold style that suits Spider-Man and the rest of the cast perfectly. I enjoyed Ryan Stegman’s issues, but Camuncoli’s line art aided by John Dell’s inks fit the book more, to my eyes. There are some crowded panel layouts (at least for this day and age), and the pair pull it with a constant energy on each page that keeps the story moving.

Edgar Delgado’s colors really stand out in this issue because I can compare them to the past three. This is a great example of how a colorist aids the other artists, because he works so well with Camuncoli and Dell’s crisp lines and open panel angles, accentuating their art. Compare it to his work with Ryan Stegman’s sketchier, darker inks and crowded dynamic angles, and you can see that Delgado’s color selection has changed to play to the artists’ strengths and focuses. I feel like Delgado gets to play with lighting and palettes this issue; past issues had some great tones dictating the mood and narration, like in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. This issue seems to breathe a bit more and embrace the notion of the brightly colored comic book.


Verdict

I admit The Superior Spider-Man is a tough sell, but when you deal with comic fans, almost any idea that bucks the status quo is. It had a slow start, and while I felt the second issue upped the ante, I’m starting to see this really does unfold better when you can burn through it all at once. However, now is a great time to jump on, if you haven’t, or if you bailed. There’s some interesting play with the Spider-Man mythos going on, and the scripting and art is top notch. T

There’s a letters page with many old Spidey fans announcing their leave of the character and Marvel, but I think that there’s something here for the truest of Spider-Man fans; Spider-Man has always been sci-fi to me, and the best sci-fi challenges are beliefs and notions. Dan Slott and the art team on issue #4 has done that, and while I came into this issue hesitantly – to be frank, it’s a game at Nexus to not have to touch Superior Spider-Man – I now have a book I want you to read. This team is having fun with the characters, and that’s worth the cover price.

Besides, that past page reveal…

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