Well, it’s finally here: The Superior Spider-Man #1, arguably the most controversial Marvel Comic to hit the stands in a long time. Well, I guess it’s a little less controversial than Amazing Spider-Man #700 but the fallout over this story is astounding. From death threats against writer Dan Slott (seriously, death threats? You people are sick and have no right calling yourselves comics fans. You should be forced to give up your collections…) to people on YouTube posting videos of themselves burning ASM #700 while admitting they didn’t actually read it and a blogger calling Spider-Man a rapist and telling us that now Marvel wants us to cheer for a rapist… even though nothing has actually happened between Otto Parker and Mary Jane, the outrage and hate over this story is astounding. I like to jump the gun and trash things as much as the next guy, but I at least pick my fights and I know a little more about what I’m ‘nerd raging’ against before I hit the ground.
As everyone should know by now, the ending of Amazing Spider-Man #700 had Doctor Octopus, in Spider-Man’s body, defeat Peter Parker, in Ock’s body, once and for all. Ock’s body dies taking Peter Parker with it, or so we presume. One of the things that people have apparently overlooked is when Ock swapped their minds he also swapped memories. Peter was able to live all of Otto’s life and vice-versa. This means there’s a chance that Peter Parker is still in there and can fight for control of his body. At least this is what I thought after I read that issue. See, I paid attention.
But this isn’t about Amazing Spider-Man #700, which was one of my 5 favorite single issues for 2012 and will still be referenced here. No, this is about the beginning of a new era: The Superior Spider-Man #1. We know the creative team: Dan Slott on words with the highly talented Ryan Stegman working his magic on every page. We know the premise: Spider-Man is no longer a ‘friendly neighborhood’ Spider-Man. He’s stronger, smarter… Superior. But how was the book?
Well, without giving away too much here, this issue continues Otto’s journey to be something more than he ever was. Now, he isn’t going to be suddenly helping old ladies across the street or getting kittens out of trees any time soon. He’s still Doctor Octopus and his ego and drive to just be there for himself is still very much alive. The only thing is… there’s more in his mind now. Now he has the memories, morals, and drive of Peter Parker. At the end of #700 he was able to get a measure of the man behind the mask and it began to change him on a fundamental level. From the beginning of this issue it’s obvious how much of an impact these memories have on Otto. He stops villains and saves lives without a second thought and still wonders why he’s doing it. Turns out there might be a reason for it that goes beyond just having Peter’s memories.
Now, while it’s fun and fresh to see this version of Spider-Man, there are a few things that don’t seem to work (at this point in time anyway). The main thing is no one seems to notice Peter acting differently. It isn’t like it was a gradual change, either. It happened almost overnight and not even Mary Jane, who was able to tell when the Chameleon was posing as Peter Parker, seems to notice. But this could have something to do with that fact that… well, that would be telling, now wouldn’t it?
But all this stuff aside I know you are all asking “Alright, Skott, honestly, what did you think about this book? You, who seem to absolutely hate changes made to established characters, must tell us: Did you like it?!?” Well, faithful reader, I absolutely LOVED it. See, while I generally do hate it when things gets changed (like the origin of Morbius, for example), the reason I hate the changes is because they aren’t organic, they aren’t natural. This whole storyline is a natural progression of things and it flows very smoothly. Of course that isn’t to say that I don’t understand why people are angry over this, people expect the hero to win the day. It didn’t happen this time and the bad guy won (but in winning he also began to lose himself, if you think about it) and people took offense to that. I’ve read and watched reactions to this story and it shows me that of all the super heroes in the market today, none of them connect to readers on a personal level like Spider-Man. I’ve heard people outraged that after Peter Parker finally got a great job (Horizon Labs) and is actually having some good luck in his life, they take personal offense that he’s going to lose it all and he can’t stop it. If anything, this whole controversy (even the stupid ramblings of a certain blogger calling Spider-Man a rapist) shows a personal connect between Peter Parker and the world at large. All Dan Slott has done is take that connection, that love, and stomp on it.
But that isn’t a bad thing.
No, what he did was probably the best thing he could have done: He showed us that despite everything, we still want someone, even a fictional character, to have success and happiness in their life. The reaction to this story has given me some hope for humanity. Of course, I could be looking way too deeply into this but that would only be because it was during Slott’s tenure as writer on ASM that I finally came to realize how much I, personally, love Spider-Man and how much I want and need Peter Parker in my life. And how much I want him to succeed. If you read this book, all the way to the end, you’ll see that the fight isn’t over yet. There is a reason why Otto is doing the things he’s doing and it’s not just because of memories. I was surprised to see that last page, I expected something like it but I was still surprised.
This issue is a perfect example of what first issues are for. This isn’t another useless rebooting of a long established series; no, this is the beginning of a truly bold new era and the only way to make it a new era is by launching a new series to go along with it. That’s the only way it works and it’s nice to see that someone in Marvel still understands what a first issue is supposed to be like.
So, love it or hate it, the bottom line here is that this book was well worth the wait. To be honest, I hated the title when I first saw it. Hated it. HATED it. HAAAAAATED it. But Slott said wait until after reading ASM #700 and the name will make sense and he was right. The Superior Spider-Man is the perfect title for this series and this is one Marvel NOW! book I’m glad I tried out.
Also, there are a lot of people who owe Slott and apology. Feel free to share your apologies in the comments section below and I’ll make sure he gets them.