Comics review: Is the Superior Spider-Man really superior?

In case you’re threatening to go totally TLDR on me ūüėČ , an¬†audio version of this review is available as well! Just scroll right down to the very end¬†of this post, where you’ll find it as a¬†podcast entry for the Spiritblade Underground Podcast. The specific podcast episode that features this review was ‘up’ as of May 3, 2014, which I’ll link to here, but as stated you can also find the isolated review at the bottom of this post – with some background illustrations from the comic!

The Superior Spider-Man is a new series and part of the Marvel Now universe, following right after #700 of the previous volume, The Amazing Spider-Man.

Spider-Man has never been my favorite superhero. The movies with Toby Maguire were kind of okay I guess, but definitely no more than that, although I have to admit I really do like the new movie franchise with Andrew Garfield playing the webslinging hero.

It’s especially the Spidey¬†comics however that were never able to grab me. Whenever I encountered him in other Marvel titles, I¬†found Peter Parker (and his superhero alias)¬†too “teenagey”, often childish even. Frankly to me¬†he bordered on an annoying do-gooder who¬†consistently failed to hold my interest for more than one comic.

I had heard that with the new Marvel Now relaunch/reboot/reimagining (take your pick) there had been a significant change to Spidey: in his new title The Superior Spider-Man it was no longer Peter Parker but his arch-enemy Dr. Octopus who donned the webbed costume!

Now I hadn’t read any issues of the previous title The Amazing Spider-Man¬†except for the Fear Itself tie-in issues, so I didn’t know the origin of this storyline firsthand, but it seemed that Otto Octavius – a.k.a. Dr. Octopus¬†– had switched bodies with Peter Parker, leaving Peter’s mind inside his own¬†dying body while starting a new life himself in Peter’s younger, stronger body. I kept hearing people talk enthousiastically about it on several of the podcasts I’ve subscribed to, with comments ranging from “It’s on the top of my monthly reading list” to “That is one consistently awesome title”.

Then I read the first issues of Mighty Avengers, an Infinity event tie-in, and encountered this new Superior Spider-Man, for the first time. Despite everything, I really liked him! This was no longer the annoying do-goody teenager, but an arrogant mystery guy in a well-known superhero suit, with no clear boundary between good and evil and with a taunting manner that annoyed the crap out of the other superheroes Рwhich added a lot of humor for me as as a reader.

So, long story short, I decided to go and read this Superior Spider-Man after all. Right now I’ve binge-read the entire series, so issues #1-31!

Story

Doctor Octopus¬†had always been a super villain, but it seems that when he transferred his mind into Peter Parker’s body, there were some superheroic residuals there.¬†Ock now not only has Peter’s¬†memories, experiences and¬†reflexes but also a sense of morality that is new to him but that he can’t resist. He now actually wants to be one of the good guys, a real hero that fights the villains and protects the people.

Doc Ock has not actually become Peter of course, so he’s still arrogant and megalomanic and still has all of his own memories and experiences as well. Hence his ambition to be a superior Spider-Man: not only does he want to improve on the former Spider-Man’s performance and efficiency, he also demands a better life for his civilian alterego Peter Parker. Of course what exactly Doc Ock defines as “better” is somewhat¬†colored.¬†It doesn’t take long before he bosses everyone around, has his own minions¬†and is dangerously close to becoming the city’s very own Big Brother due to¬†his Spider-bots.

An extra¬†plot thread¬†is that Peter Parker has not entirely disappeared: a tiny whisp of him, of which it’s not clear whether it’s his soul, his mind or just¬†an imprint of his memory, still hides inside Peter’s physical brain. This “virtual Peter” is fully conscious and aware, but not able to communicate with his body’s thief Dr.¬†Octopus. He¬†seems fated¬†to watch and undergo everything Doc Ock says and does, powerless to do anything about it. Peter however is not one to give up that easily, which adds yet another layer of interest for the reader.

Likes

Writer Dan Slott heads off to a very interesting start by consistently portraying this new shady version of Spider-Man as a very different kind of Wall Crawler, while at the same time showing and developing different aspects of his character in each issue. What I particularly like about Superior Spidey, is that the story is mostly character driven. Of course there are the thrilling action scenes, a lot of web-slinging and breaking of heads and even the building of a private Spider army, but in the end these are just a colorful background to the development of this new Spider-Man’s character. While he is still Dr. Octopus and still wants to rule the world, he now wants to do it by solving crime,¬†in order to keep¬†the people safe. Of course he goes about this in a way that is at best a mixture of good and evil methods. Meanwhile, he really respects aunt May and improves on his relationship with her – something Peter had been neglecting. Also, he applies himself to Peter’s studies and not only gains himself a doctorate, but also starts his own company, Parker Industries. And last but not least – while on the one hand his relationship with the Avengers grows more and more strenuous, he falls in love!

The beauty of this budding relationship with Anna Maria, who he meets during his renewed studies, is that it is entirely authentic, true and pure. Peter – or rather, Doc Ock – always makes time for her, even if she calls him on a particularly inconvenient moment – like a fight against a super villain team. When she’s crying, he immediately comes running, anxious to fix whatever might be wrong. When aunt May asks Anna Maria some inappropriate and hurtful questions,¬†Peter ‚Äď or actually, Otto –¬† defends her passionately, and rightly so. In short, Anna Maria may well be¬†the one true chance he has of¬†showing his true heroic,¬†good side, and theirs is a great and moving romance.

Dislikes

I have only one rather big beef with this comic: it has ended waaaaaay too soon! I mean, only 31 issues of awesomeness? Come on!! ūüė¶

Buy/Borrow/Skip

To answer the question in the title: Yes, this Spider-Man is definitely superior – at least, for¬†me, as a reader! ūüôā

The Superior Spider-Man is a laugh-out-loud hilarious, exciting, surprisingly satisfying read, that I heartily recommend to everyone who’s in the market for something refreshingly original.¬†It has very quickly become¬†one of my favorite comics,¬†it’s consistently awesome, it’s a perfect jumping-on point for new Spider-Man readers and I’m now definitely going to try The Amazing Spider-Man’s newly rebooted title! Issue #1 has been¬†released April 30, 2014 ūüôā

I give the entire Superior Spider-Man run a Quality score of 9.5/10 and a Relevance score of 7/10.

And here’s the audio version of this review¬†for the Spiritblade Underground Podcast – with some background illustrations ūüėČ :

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Comic tip: Pacific Rim ‚Äď Tales from Year Zero

Recently I discovered a graphic novel which is kind of a prequel to the Pacific Rim¬†movie, which I thought I’d share with you all for it’s a great read. Pacific Rim – Tales from Year Zero was published in close collaboration with the movie’s creators, which is great: some of its most important characters are in the graphic novel, and of course the Kaiju and Jaeger designs are very recognizable as well.¬†Nevertheless, the writers used background stories to the movie that were never filmed, but were originally created to give more substance to the movie’s universe.¬†Thanks to this¬†graphic novel, much of this unknown extra material is now available to us as well.

The graphic novel contains 52 pages¬†of world-building short stories. I’m not going to summarize the stories, for that’s near impossible without spoilers. What I can do however is give an example of the kind of background story you¬†will get: the drifting phenomenon¬†that we got to see in te movie – the neurological connection between two people and a¬†Jaeger – is explained more elaborately in the graphic novel, for instance in the two panels below:

Still, every piece of background information is woven into a a real story, making it a true graphic novel, instead of, say, a compendium.

Recommendation

Even though this prequel¬†is by no means essential¬†to understanding the movie Pacific Rim, I’m genuinely recommending it to you. The stories are well-told with quality¬†artwork and they really enhance your knowledge and understanding of this movie’s world. Plus, they may be short stories, they still belong together as parts of a bigger whole.

In short, it’s a great graphic novel, which I found worth the read.¬†As a bonus, you get to enjoy the movie and it’s characters a little longer! ūüôā

So what do you think, will you give this graphic novel a try? Let me know in the comment section below!