Not that long ago I decided that I really needed to add some Spider-Man to my reading rotation and since The Superior Spider-Man by Dan Slott had already been on my wish list for some time I decided it was as good a place as any to leap into.
For the benefit of those who might be unaware, The Superior Spider-Man volume 1 picks up after one of the more shocking and tragic moments of Spider-Man’s history. I’ll not go into details of how it happened but when My Own Worst Enemy begins Otto Octavius has transferred his consciousness into Peter Parker’s body. This has not only granted Octavius Parker’s abilities as Spider-Man but it has also given him access to all of Parker’s memories and experiences. We quickly see the internal conflict this creates in Octavius as he frequently acts heroically seemingly out of instinct. During the opening pages of the book a new iteration of the Sinister Six is committing a robbery when the new Spider-Man arrives on the scene. Octavius immediately views the group with disdain as he feels they are all inferior villains and during the fight the usual Spider-Man witticisms are replaced with more pompous observations. Octavius is quickly put in his place by Speed Demon, who uses his super speed to pummel Octavius, landing more blows in a fraction of a second than he has every experienced in his life. At this point Octavius attempts to flee the fight but when an errant explosive boomerang heads towards a police officer, Octavius is surprised when he instinctively acts heroically and saves the man’s life. Most of the book deals with Octavius trying to come to terms with his new found heroic lifestyle and not only trying to live up to the lofty reputation Parker established but surpass it. Octavius both feels he is and wants to be superior to his predecessor.
Octavius actually does a good job of being Spider-Man, even going so far as to improve upon the hero’s efficiency as a crime fighter. Through the tactical use many, many “Spiderbots” Octavius is able to create a network of eyes and ears throughout the city that cut down on the amount of time he has to spend aimlessly patrolling the city. He also begins to use various nanobots to his advantage, infecting Boomerang with a variety that allows him to track and listen to the new Sinister Six’s plans. Early on it truly does appear that the Octavius Spider-Man truly is superior.
Of course taking control of Parker’s life means being more than being Spider-Man, it means he is also in control of Parker’s real life. In some ways he excels at this, as his more efficient patrolling gives him more time to spend with Aunt May. Yet his interactions with Mary Jane Watson push the boundaries of good taste as he leers at her breasts over dinner and eventually tires of trying to seduce her after four or so dates, instead realizing that he can tap into Peter’s memories of all the times they had slept together in the past. This is one of the more comical moments despite its utter creepiness as the “ghost” of Peter Parker has been revealed to be along for the ride and is revolted by Octavius’ use of his body and memories.
This ghost dynamic actually lends a lot of heart to the book overall as Peter frequently provides comically frustrated observations and insight to the action. At several points he even successfully stays Octavius’ hand as he starts to lose control and do some very unSpider-Man things.
Of course this is a book about a life-long villain in control of a super hero’s body and many of Octavius’ decisions definitely reflect that. While this Spider-Man is often a superior crime fighter he just as often shows a willingness to cross lines that Spider-Man would never, ever think of crossing.
But that is what makes the book so good.
To the other characters in Parker’s life, they see him as the man they know him to be acting in a manner that is definitely out of character for the real Parker. As readers we know the truth that the man on the inside is not the man they see on the outside. In my opinion this allows for such out of character actions, such as increased violence, to be tolerable if not out right enjoyable. This is not the case of a character suddenly acting in a manner that runs contrary to its established continuity but rather a “new” character born out of the old.
Final Verdict: 8 out of 10
The Superior Spider-Man was a great book and one I highly recommend. I for one am really intrigued by the story that has been established and enjoyed Slott’s writing on the book. I loved how super creepy and pompous the Octavius Parker was and how he was willing to go beyond the limits of his predecessor. I equally enjoyed the ghost Parker acting as observer, commentator and sometimes conscious of Octavius and really, really can’t wait to get my hands on the next couple of volumes to see where this story goes.
I know Parker has long been back at the controls of his own body by now but if it stays like this I’m going to really enjoy watching him cope with having Octavius in control.