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Comic Review: Superior Spider-Man #1

Superior Spider-Man #1 cover by Ryan Stegman Marvel NOW!

The most controversial Marvel NOW! title is here, and the controversy isn’t going away any time soon. Superior Spider-Man #1 makes it clear that Otto Octavius is a supervillain with a case of occasional conscience, and sooner or later, he’s going to get himself in trouble with the real good guys.

For now, though, Otto Octavius is happy to trade on Peter Parker’s good name while doing some very uncharacteristic things. Otto may be a brilliant scientist, but he’s horrible at keeping up a facade.

In fact, he’s already started making some subtle changes to his new dual life. He’s made some nasty little additions to Spider-Man’s arsenal that will surprise foes and readers alike, and he’s taken to wearing a Bluetooth earpiece that instantly makes Peter Parker look like a jerk.

Writer Dan Slott is clearly using his new anti-hero to hold the Spider-Man we know and love up to a mirror and show us his inverse. The Superior Spider-Man is reminiscent of Black Costume Spidey, but without the internal torment. Otto has accepted – more or less – that he’s the new Peter Parker, but it seems he was only sort of paying attention to Peter’s memories in Amazing Spider-Man #700. Otto is becoming a superhero with a cruel, calculating edge and a history of violence that makes it impossible to know where his limits are. Slott’s Otto is a well-defined character, even if he’s tough to like.

If there’s one clear advantage that former supervillain Doc Ock brings to Spider-Man, it’s that like a real spider, he’s very good at laying traps. Otto’s approach is centered on being in charge of, and not reacting to, his situation. He brings this tactic to his crime fighting, his science, and his relationship with Mary Jane, creating a new form of narrative tension in Spider-Man’s life. Otto is a man who needs to be in control. His challenge – as we see quite early – will be when things aren’t going exactly as planned.

From a plot perspective, this is a basic Spider-Man story. There’s some fighting, some science, some relationship issues and some more fighting. It’s Otto’s approach that makes the story engaging, because we already know how Peter Parker would react to these things. Seeing the opposite choice is occasionally refreshing, but more often unnerving.

It’s particularly unnerving to see a bad guy succeed in all the little ways good guy Peter never did. Otto is getting the media and public opinion on his side, and he’s asserting himself in every way Peter Parker never did. He’s taking control of his new life.

One of the more disturbing elements that carries over from Amazing Spider-Man #700 is the dynamic with Mary Jane. There’s been plenty of internet rage over what it would mean for Otto to consummate Peter’s rekindled relationship with MJ.

Is it rape?

Will Otto get his tentacles on MJ, or will she figure him out first?

Artist Ryan Stegman does well in setting the reader ill at ease about their relationship. There is a dinner scene between Otto and Mary Jane where Stegman uses his framing to sexualize and objectify MJ in a leering, predatory sort of way. He offers us Otto’s perspective, and it’s not a wholesome one.

Stegman’s art is stronger in the still moments than it is in the chaotic action sequences. The dinner sequence is his best page, but his action scenes sometimes feel like he’s missing a panel to tie things together. There are no great flaws, though, and Spidey looks good throughout.

Otto Octavius is Spider-Man now, but the jury is still out on whether he’s superior – and whether he’ll get to keep his job. Superior Spider-Man #1 is a good first day for the new webslinger, but he’s going to have to start playing along more if he wants to stay in his cushy position.

There’s still some unresolved Peter Parker influence hanging around, and lots of potential for amazing stories ahead.

6.5 out of 10

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