Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Superior Spider-Man: My Own Worst Enemy (comics)

Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli
Collects: Superior Spider-Man #1-5

Well, here we are. It took longer than expected to get to this point - largely due to Ends of the Earth robbing me of any desire to read Spider-Man for a solid year - but I've finally started on the Superior era of Spider-Man. Frankly, I should have tried it sooner.

I was interested in this right from the announcement and you can place that almost entirely on the high concept. One of Peter Parkers greatest enemies assumes his life and role as Spider-Man. How will he fare? This caused no small amount of bitching on the internet but I feel pretty safe in saying that it turned out for the best.

See, I'm generally a bit more receptive to this type of stunt. It's worked out a lot in the past, including Dick Graysons turn as Batman; well, when Grant Morrison was writing him anyway, as the era had maybe two or three stories worth reading outside of him in the two years he was in that identity. Much like that, it was clear the move was temporary; by the end of the first issue, we see there's a backdoor to be exploited in the future of Superior Spider-Man. They thought this one out ahead of time, which is the difference between this and, say, the Clone Saga.

I also find that having someone else under a mask - or, you know, in the body of a hero in this case - also provides a nice contrast with the usual and makes you either appreciate them more or look at them in a different light. One of my favorite Captain America comics is Patriot. That story had jack-all to do with Steve Rogers, aside from the necessary noting of his disappearance, what he meant to people and so forth. We saw the life and times of one of the men who took his place after his disappearance and it gave a wonderful story of a man trying to live up to the legacy. In this case, we have an egotistical villain taking the life of a hero and trying to make good. That just screams interesting reading.

So far, Doc Ock as Spider-Man has turned out to be an inspired move. Dan Slott had built Peter up way too much prior to this, but he isn't even tearing that life apart in a quick, dirty manner. It's all falling apart gradually, piece by piece, just by the way Ock does things. He cuts ties with Mary Jane in a moment of strength; he realizes he'd inherited Parkers feelings for her, but more than that he sees their back and forth for the destructive relationship it is. But in the midst of that, we start to see him slowly piece things together outside of Peter's circle. It's fascinating reading.

Superior Spider-Man also makes a solid case for its lead living up to that billing. Ock pulls a few obvious superhero no-nos - he actually kills a villain in the book, even though said villain killed upwards of thirty people for no good reason - but we also see a Spider-Man that is far, far more practical. Ock thinks of things Peter never would have - partly because Peter is stuck so far up his own ass in regards to his life and is not the best at budgeting his time - and generally makes for a more efficient superhero at the most basic level. Someone in a highly populated area? Ock calls the cops to surround the place and keep it contained until he gets there. Said murderous villain tends to hold hostages strapped to explosives at another place? Ock takes care of that first, whereas Peter would have jumped right in the fray and found himself in a bad position there is no easy way out of. Need to balance a social life? Better use the Ock-bots to patrol the city constantly and weed out the smaller hazards the trained professionals can handle from the big problems that require a superhero.

Frankly, Peter looks kind of incompetent for failing to think of even the most basic changes Ock makes.

It is immediately compelling. No lie, I'm super into this, because it's going to be interesting to see just how the book ends up justifying Parkers way of doing things and proving it's better than Ocks. That's the obvious endgame here, right? But it won't be easy. Even if you prove that Peter is a better hero morally and ethically - you know, the obvious stuff like believing anyone can change, not killing and such - Ock has his crap together more than Spidey Classic ever did. If nothing else, Ock is more efficient than Peter, who always had a habit of flying by the seat of his pants and figuring a way out of messes once he's already in them. This book has pulled a double whammy here, immediately selling me on Ocks time in the suit while also putting forward some fascinating questions for the inevitable return, which is no small feat given where the Peter Parker portion of Slotts run had gone.

Slott also has a good artistic partner in Ryan Stegman. His work is stylized, but not to the point of parody like prior artists for Slotts run. It's dynamic work while being far easier to take. I'm not familiar with the other artist, Camuncoli, but their work is just as good, just in a style that's a bit more traditional and befitting of a typical superhero book. Both artists in this volume are winners.

This volume sold me the rest of the way on this change-up to the Spider-Man world. I hesitate to tell you to go out and buy it right off - this is only the first volume and I don't know if the quality keeps up through the whole thing - but you definitely ought to read it. Doc Ocks turn as a superhero makes for some damn good reading, easily the best of Slotts run thus far. I'm in to the end.

My Opinion: Read It

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