It takes a lot for an old comic book guy to change. We expect unrealistic things and we expect them to stay the same year after year, decade after decade into infinity. We expect the good guys to win out in the final act. We expect the bad guys to fight another day. We expect our heroes to live forever, or at least for someone to roll back time or bring them back to life. We expect the back story to stay the same, so we can speculate about ends that will never come. We get set in our ways early, and we fight to the death to maintain the status quo.
So, it was with a bit of reluctance that I even picked up a copy of The Superior Spider-Man. It just seemed to fly in the face of my every instinct as a comic book reader. It sounded like the whole world of Spider-Man would be flipped on its head in what appeared to be a random hodgepodge of irreconcilable plot points.
Peter Parker, dead. Living within his body is the mind of his mortal enemy, Otto Octavius. Doctor Octopus, becomes the hero Spider-Man. After years of crime and destruction, why would Doc. Ock even want to play the hero, much less be superior to him? It all seemed to much to make a convincing series. Story arc, maybe but an entire series with Peter out of the picture. I didn’t like it.
Of course, when I finally picked up the book, that was the first thing I noticed hadn’t actually changed. Peter Parker was very present in the pages of The Superior Spider-Man. Maybe a ghost, maybe a conscious for Doc Ock, or a residual memory, but definitely there, perplexed by basically the same things that I was puzzled about. Why would J. Jonah Jameson become a Spidey fan once the webslinger is no longer Peter Parker? Why wouldn’t Mary Jane notice that Peter is no longer himself? How can Doc Ock fight for justice when he is so corrupt? Parker is there not only asking the questions, but also trying to influence their outcomes (with limited success of course. This Peter Parker we’re talking about).
The thing is, once you get into the stories, you quickly realize that this isn’t as game changing as it first appears. By making Parker so obviously a part of the story, we know that things aren’t all over for him. At some point the will be back around. This is just a temporary set back in a life beset with setbacks. In anticipation of that day, the big questions become how Parker will deal with the changes Doctor Octopus has instigated. The new Spider-Man is, if nothing else, much more violent and much less campy. There will be fallout from this new attitude that Parker will have trouble dealing with in the long run.
So, if you, like me, passed on this title initially because it seemed like too much change, you may want to rethink that, and give it a read. It’s not all ridiculous changes for the sake of change, and there are some pretty good stories. I especially enjoyed the Vulture issue and the bits about Doc. Ock’s attempts at winning over Mary Jane. For the most part it’s a good read, and not as jarring a change as fans were originally led to believe.
The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy, written by Dan Slott with art by Ryan Stegman and Giuseppe Camuncoli, was released by Marvel Comics, June 11, 2013. It is rated T+ for older Teens. It collects The Superior Spider-Man Issues 1-5. There are 120 pages in this softcover edition. USR $17.99