Friday, August 1, 2014

Superior Spider-Man: A Troubled Mind (comics)

Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Humberto Ramos, Ryan Stegman
Collects: Superior Spider-Man #6-10

Round two, FIGHT.

After an opening volume that put the pieces on the board, volume two offers more of the same. Make no mistake, that is meant as a compliment. The first five issues only scratched the surface of this idea.

As expected, SpOck pretty much wrecks Peters old life, one piece at a time. He's on the outs with the Avengers, he barely seems to pay much attention to Horizon Labs and most of the friends Peter made have fallen by the wayside. In its place are some new, equally interesting scenarios that come about due to the connections Ock establishes in his return to college in pursuit of his doctorate.

Less expected is the fact that the "back door" I mentioned in the last review is dealt with a hell of a lot sooner than I expected. I didn't go into detail last time, but the gist is that some part of Peter Parker remains in his mind, taking a visual form as some sort of apparition for our benefit. This seemed like the obvious solution to bringing Peter back when the time came, but the situation comes to a head here, within the first third of the series. I doubt everything is as it seems - I'm sure it will be revisited down the line - but for now it appears to have wrapped.

Not a moment too soon, in my opinion. I get why the fragment of Peter was there. People were pissed when this storyline kicked off. Marvel and Slott needed something to take some of the immediate heat off, so patting readers on the head and almost immediately assuring them that Pete isn't completely gone seems like a fair enough price to pay to keep it for a while.

Trouble is, it wasn't doing Peter Parker any favors. It's kind of hard to miss someone when they won't go away in the first place and Ghost Peter was verging on the point of being an annoyance. Using him to highlight the differences between his and Ocks way of doing things is fine, but there came a point where they were beating us over the head when the story didn't need it. It also doesn't make him look all that great; he gives credit where its due at times, but more often than not he's worried more about what is happening to his life and second guessing Ock than he is with noting the clear improvements to his crime fighting formula.

SpOck needed room to breathe and that wasn't happening with Pete around. There's a scene late in the book where Mary Jane finds herself in trouble; Ock doesn't know that, of course - even if he did, I'm not convinced it would have changed his mind - so he reroutes the call to the fire department - people trained to handle such situations - and thwomps some of Hammerheads goons across town instead. Mary Jane expects Peter to rescue her at every point in the affair - and, if we're being honest, he absolutely would have dropped everything to save her - but he never comes.

See? We can spot the difference in approach with no problems and we didn't even need Peter the Whiny Ghost to beat it into us.

Also of note is the new supporting character in Anna Maria, one of Ocks classmates in college. She really bucks convention in a way most female characters in Spider-Mans supporting cast do not. Peter Parker has had relationships with a fair number of women, but most of them are cut from the same cloth; stunningly beautiful, perfect in appearance, well loved and, in the case of Mary Jane, occasionally a model or actress. Anna Maria is a far sight under five feet tall and, while she's drawn as a fairly pretty woman, she's not supermodel level attractive like most of the girls Peter has falling all over him. She also has to put up with some obvious challenges, including the expected bullying. Her personality and outlook add something new and, frankly, she's the best supporting cast member Slott has made so far. It's kind of a shame she's probably going to fall to the wayside when Peter regains his body.

Humberto Ramos is back. Past reviews will show that he is not one of my favorites, but I've kind of come to terms with the reality that he's clearly going to be in the rotation of artists until Dan Slott decides to move on. To be fair, aside from a few scenes that show his weaknesses, he's does good work here that is mostly devoid of the oddly sized limbs that I hate so much. Stegman also returns for the last two issues of the collection; his artwork is stylized as well, but for some reason it goes over better with me.

Two volumes in and Superior Spider-Man remains a clear winner. Maybe I'll feel differently once we near the end, but it's kind of sad that I'm already a third of the way through this series. This really feels like a status quo that deserved an extension, much like the Dick Grayson era of Batman recieved. I genuinely think this could have carried another twenty issues, especially given the fact that Marvel double-ships Spider-Man books.

My Opinion: Read It


  1. Ghost Peter annoyed me too. Slott described it as keeping the training wheels on SpOck for awhile, but I thought Peter's end was much more powerful when it was abrupt. I mean, the way he went out was horrible - stuck in someone else's body, watching his life literally being stolen from him, and then being totally un-mourned because no one actually realized he was dead. That's awful, but it's also really powerful, and having him still around blunted that some.

    Superior Spider-Man is the tops though. It gets better and better as the run continues.

  2. You bring up a good point there. I found the constant need to hover and critique Ocks methods to be the more irksome bit, personally. It clearly was not meant to come off that way, but it had the unintended side effect of making it seem like a comic I otherwise really enjoyed was talking down to me.

    It also comes back to what you said about dulling Peters death, though. I mean, I didn't feel much when Peter the Whiny Ghost went out around issue eight. He provided a good narrative excuse to see some Ock flashbacks, but otherwise he came off poorly. Eventually I got to a point where I was like "God, shut up Pete and let me enjoy Ocks adventures".

    Just read volume three a couple days ago. Going to get to that soon. Still really enjoying the book. The third volume did worry me a bit though. Heavy, heavy focus on his Spider antics, leaving most of the civilian stuff out, which is just as interesting to me. It seemed intentional, given it was even addressed, sort of, but I still hope it's not going to be a pattern for the second half of the run.

    I can already tell I'm really going to miss Superior Spider-Man when it ends. Thirty some issues is probably longer than was originally intended to start with, but this really feels like a direction with enough legs to carry on for a long time.