The Superior Spider-Man #11
Script – Christos Gage
Plot – Dan Slott
Pencils – Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks – John Dell
Colors – Edgar Delgado
Full disclosure: I haven’t been reading The Superior Spider-Man since issue #8. I figured since Marvel didn’t seem to give a damn about Spider-Man, I can’t be bothered to, either. There are a lot of books on shelves or in digital distribution that are vying for my attention, so shuffling where my time and money goes has become a pretty easy task. In any medium, the biggest hurdle will always be the fans. Fans can smell authenticity and insincerity and half-hearted efforts, and they will make the creators pay for any breach of the unspoken contract between consumer and creator that says: “Don’t play me for an idiot. Respect my intelligence, and I will respect yours.”
It’s the biggest conceit we have in fiction. The audience is willing to accept ideas and executions as long as the story is engaging and obeys the very rules it is asking the audience to work with.
To me, Marvel has broken the bond, in some big ways.
To be clear, I am not trashing Dan Slott, Christos Gage, or any of the artists. I think Dan Slott has a pretty cool story to tell, even if in nearly three decades of loving Spider-Man this story never crossed my mind as something I wish I could see. And that’s actually the coolest thing a concept can bring to my table – something I didn’t even consider would be good, and it is good.
Except that there have been just enough screw ups along the way that I can’t just enjoy the ride. The biggest offender on any list when I talk to friends or strangers at the shop or on the street (because I do that) is the Age of Ultron event.
I am not trashing the Age of Ultron or any other books except for how they impact this title, The Superior Spider-Man. I think it’s fair to hypothesize that this story was meant to come out well before Slott pulled the swap, and while Gage did a good job trying to make the pieces fit in the AU tie-in, immersion in the core series had already been broken. It just doesn’t work with what’s being presented across the Marvel Universe as a whole, and Spidey’s appearances in that core series didn’t click with Gage’s issue.
When Brian Michael Bendis first began truly weaving the Marvel Universe together all those years ago, it was exciting. Usually the characters had been compartmentalized into their own existences, with only the odd crossover inviting them to mingle. Over the years, everything bleeds into everything else, and that’s an idea that isn’t too hard to embrace. It made the world that much more immersive and alive when it was handled well. I think it’s falling apart here, with The Superior Spider-Man.
Ignoring Age of Ultron, let’s look at The Superior Spider-Man from issue #1 to #8. Let’s remember how tied together the universe is. Before I sat down with this most recent issue, I caught up on the entire run. Spider-Man has changed his tactics, from using an army of robots to brutal efficiency to outright murder. The whole time The Avengers note that something is wrong. We are waiting for them to call Spidey on this. When they finally do, they test him for Skrull DNA, then shrug it all off. Black Widow even empathizes with him. Then they let him go.
That’s it. It’s quick nod to The Avengers that they acknowledged it, and then back to the story at hand. I stopped caring then. There are all kinds of concessions you have to make over the years. Captain America, who didn’t even want to work with a murderer like Frank Castle in Civil War can put up with Wolverine and Widow because they’re soldiers, and he gets that. Yet when one of the least-lethal guys he knows snaps and kills someone in public, he doesn’t even show concern beyond bringing the guy in. I find it curious that someone who has been an Avenger and Fantastic Family and general team-up material isn’t setting off any flags for any of the people he’s worked with fighting crime.
It seemed to me that while Marvel was content to push Age of Ultron and work with wildly varying characterizations across several titles, they weren’t taking Spider-Man as seriously. Or rather, the way they take the book serious is by hand waving as many of the concerns long-time readers might note away for the sake of the book just being what it was: Doctor Octopus as Spider-Man, don’t ask.
That’s cool. I came back to Superior Spider-Man just looking for a quick, fun read, and let it stand on it’s own as much as it can. Maybe Slott knew this going in, or maybe he’s had to dodge and weave to keep his story’s momentum going while accompanying summer crossovers and getting the “serious” concerns out of the way so he can just do his thing. Whatever the case, he’s making it work, and it’s good.
We’ve had some fun one-off plots like the Jester issue. We’ve had serious character exploration and themes that have always been close to Spider-Man (bullying) explored in the same issue. We’ve had a fantastic supporting cast – I’ll be sad if Anna Maria is ever lost to the mythos when Peter inevitably returns, as she’s been a highlight for me.
While rereading the run and catching up on the issues I’d missed, I found my new attitude made the book even more fun. I just don’t want to consider slip ups in other titles or the Bigger Marvel Picture. The book simply entertains if you let it.
Issue #11 deals with Spider-Man ensuring that the Spider Slayer makes it to his execution. It’s a simple premise and one of the shining instances Slott is able to make Otto Octavius be a Superior Spider-Man. Otto is in full curt, anti-social effect, no cover needed. He’s rude to his professor, rude to guards who have wronged him in a past life, and coldly efficient in dealing with the Spider Slayer. There’s a level of planning that brings Grant Morrison’s Batman to mind, but Otto still isn’t that good. His arrogance overlooks something.
And it’s here that my reread of the series shows that issue #8 wasn’t as terrible as I first knee jerked. It brought a gift. It set up the deletion of Peter Parker. With the Peter subplot handled for the time being, The Superior Spider-Man has been able to cut loose. More than ever Otto can be himself, which is really what Slott wanted to show. With Peter gone, the subplots such as Mary Jane noticing something is up and the romance with Anna Maria is even more effective. It’s been a slow burn, but this book really does feel freed.
Christos Gage scripted this issue, which is also a large draw. A challenge in comics is how other writers can handle a concept. We’ve seen creators protect their stories, and other creators completely ignore others’ works to do what they want to. I always like seeing when writers are on the same page and genuinely excited to be sharing an idea. Gage nails Superior Spider-Man again, here. While Slott certainly brings the action and unbelievable arrogance of Otto to life, Gage is able to get to a more introspective core of the character. It sheds a more somber light on the situation – he did it well in Age of Ultron’s tie-in, and it works well here when Otto revisits prison as a freed man. I’d love to see Gage and Slott tag-team this title going forward, they both have a great chemistry with the characters and ideas without overriding each other’s own angle.
Giuseppe Camuncoli has been of the rotating artists on the book, and he and inker John Dell kick ass once again. It’s easy to see why they’re here – the art plays well with the art of Ryan Stegman and Humberto Ramos, and like those two, is classic Spider-Man. Dynamic angles, coiled poses, a balance of New York City grit and breathtaking absurdity rendered into a cohesive style that does Spider-Man justice are all at play here.
Edgar Delgado’s colors remain crisp, sharp, and alluring. The true detail and suspension of disbelief comes from Delgado’s coloring: skies that are so clean and blue you can feel the breeze, dim and sterile corridors, and gorgeous lighting work. There’s a lot of shiny metal in this issue, and he makes it all look cool to the touch and chrome-slick.
I’m glad I came back to this book after my brief storm off. I still have issues with how everyone else is working with the idea and character, and the Mighty Avengers book has me bracing for impact, yet…
When the Superior Spider-Man works, it’s one of the better books Marvel is putting out. It has top tier art teams, Dan Slott and Christos Gage are having fun with the idea, and it’s stories call back to the older days of comics when you would get your full entertainment value out of the single issue instead of waiting for the trade. Editorial hang ups aside, The Superior Spider-Man is a title with a lot of heart and Marvel needs more titles like it.
Tags: Dan Slott, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Marvel, Marvel NOW! (All-New Marvel Now!), Reviews, Superior Spider-Man