The Superior Spider-Man #1
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Ryan Stegma & colourist Edgar Delgado
Cover by Adi Gravnov
Published by Marvel
After a spectacular 50-year run, Marvel decided to put an end to “The Amazing Spider-Man”, arguably the company’s most iconic comic series. Its much-hyped “series finale” with issue #700 released last month was subject to much controversy over the chosen direction of the series regarding the fate of Peter Parker. Marvel put great faith into their long-term Spider-Man writer Dan Slott who pulled off his riskiest move yet with #700.
In the final arc of “The Amazing Spider-Man”, Peter Parker dies. Long-time arch nemesis Otto Octavius, whose body has been quickly deteriorating in a high security prison cell, pulls off one last scheme: a body-swap with Parker. Desperate, Parker aligns himself with the Sinister Six looking for ways he can possibly switch their bodies back. He is unsuccessful, and dies in the body of Doctor Octopus. After an emotional epiphany, Octavius realizes the importance of Peter’s actions as Spider-Man, and the good in helping people, and decides to devote his life to being an even better Spider-Man than Peter Parker; to become the Superior Spider-Man.
The premiere issue of “The Superior Spider-Man” is not entirely successful. Having another person take on the role of Spidey feels tired at this point, rehashed from the overly confusing Clone Saga back in the 1990s. Dan Slott is a capable, sometimes excellent, writer and seems to have thought this out; this comic will probably never get as unnecessarily complex as that story was, but the story being told in this comic feels unnecessary from the start. This will never become the status quo. Peter Parker as Spider-Man is far too iconic for Marvel to ever commit to a permanent new Spider-Man in their main universe (it can work in the Ultimate universe where more drastic changes can be implemented, but that is an alternate dimension). Even from the first issue, this comic feels like a countdown to Peter Parker’s return as Spidey. The issue’s shocking twist in the final pages only adds to the obviously finite lifespan this comic has.
Apart from the major issues surrounding this comic, the first issue is still somewhat entertaining to read. Slott’s dialogue is as witty as always, if not more than usual. There is a lot of humour surrounding the plot of Dr. Octopus-as-Spider-Man taking on an embarrassing Sinister Six line-up. Octavius appears to be having fun being Spider-Man and it makes the Spider-Man scenes somewhat work.
The scenes with Octavius as Peter Parker give off a very different, sinister mood, especially during the dinner scene between Parker and Mary Jane. Octavius’ lingering male gaze is uncomfortable to witness, and implies his treatment of MJ will maybe not be entirely respectful in issues to come. To her, this man is still Peter, and she has no reason to think otherwise. Octavius is taking advantage of Mary Jane in this sense and it creates an unsettling atmosphere.
The artwork in this book cannot go unmentioned; Ryan Stegmen beautifully illustrates the action sequences, and his depictions of Peter Parker’s body inhabited by Octavius are as good as could be hoped. The subtle touches to his facial expressions presents a harsher, colder Parker, and works perfectly in capturing Octavius’ essence. Colourist Edgar Delgado’s contributions vibrantly add to the illustrations. The two working together make this comic satisfying eye candy.
It is too early to tell whether or not “The Superior Spider-Man” was a smart idea, and its first issue raises some doubts as to the comic’s longevity. As of now, it could become a memorable era of creative ambition in the long-term history of Spider-Man, or it could become a train wreck, something to be lampooned years from now. Regardless of which fate becomes more likely, as long as Slott, Stegman, and Delgado are involved, it will at least be a fun experience.