Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 1, originally released January 9th 2013.
Drew: What does it mean to be good? Is it about thought or action? That is, does a good person have only good thoughts, or are they simply keeping their bad thoughts from influencing their actions. The popular notion of a conscience as a little angel on your shoulder (or well-dressed cricket, depending on who you ask) suggests that we expect even the best people to consider less-than-savory options, even if they don’t ultimately act on them, but it’s ultimately one that we don’t see dramatized very often. Peter may want to stick around for his date with Mary Jane while a bank heist goes on up the street, but there’s never really any doubt that he’ll be jumping out the window in the next page or so. Otto Octavius doesn’t have that sense of duty, so when he battles with his conscience in Superior Spider-Man, we’re not exactly sure who is going to win.
Issue 1 begins with a little more eulogizing, but surprisingly, not for Peter. Otto is saying goodbye to his old way of life, fully accepting the responsibilities of both Spider-Man AND Peter Parker (though, for clarity, I think I’m going to keep referring to Otto-in-Peter as Otto). Otto rushes to the scene as a group calling themselves The All-New Sinister Six is in the middle of a firefight with the police. Otto steps in — seemingly more out of vanity than any sense of right and wrong — but quickly leaves because he doesn’t like getting beaten up. Peter was willing to take it, since he saw getting violent criminals off of the street as a top priority, but Otto is more interested in winning on his terms. He wants to be in control, so he injects one of the six with “nano-spider-tracers,” which he uses to eavesdrop on their plans while he goes about Peter’s life acting like a smug douche.
By the time the Sinister Six arrives at Horizon Labs for their next job, Otto has already tricked-out everything, Home Alone style. His preparations included alerting the press, who watch as he utterly dismantles the Six. As he’s mercilessly beating Boomerang, their leader, his hand is stayed by none other than the ghost of Peter Parker (or, you know, his residual consciousness or something).
That’s a BIG reveal for fans upset at the idea of losing Peter, but may be a letdown for those who were excited at the idea of Otto in the Spidey suit. It’s hard for this not to feel like a bit of bet-hedging, but this might actually be more thrilling than having Otto on his own inside Peter’s head. It certainly seems like he hasn’t fully internalized Peter’s “no killing” rule, so he might just need a conscience keeping him in line, but it’s curious that he can neither see nor hear Peter. It’s not clear exactly what control Peter still has over his own body, but it looks like that’s going to be a major focus of this title.
Otto’s handling of Peter’s personal life is about what I expected: he’s acting like a dick, but people are willing to forgive him either because he’s so damn good at what he does, or because of the goodwill Peter has racked-up over the years. The biggest laugh (and biggest ick-factor) comes from Otto’s date with Mary Jane, where he leeringly refers to her chest as “the view.”
There’s no doubt Otto has bad thoughts, but here’s hoping Peter can exert enough control to keep him from committing bad acts. Right now, I’m imagining some hilarious reverse-Cyrano de Bergerac, where Peter feeds Otto lines specifically so MJ will NOT sleep with him, but I’ll trust Dan Slott to come up with something better.
Patrick, I know we were generally pretty excited at the status quo introduced at the end of ASM 700, so I’m curious to hear what you thought of this issue’s big reveal. Did we backpedal too quickly? Were you looking forward to more of Otto’s unmitigated antics before Peter’s eventual return to make things right? Perhaps most importantly, would you watch a shot-for-shot remake of Home Alone starring Peter Parker (or Otto-as-Peter)?
Patrick: I’d watch a shot-for-shot remake of Home Alone substituting any comic book character for Kevin. It’s a modern American classic and I won’t hear otherwise.
I actually read that last page a little bit differently than you did, Drew. The premise behind the end of Amazing Spider-Man always suggested that there’d be more Peter Parker left inside that body. I don’t think what we’re seeing here is the beginning of an antagonistic relationship between Otto and Jiminy Parker. This is clearly just me hypothesizing here, but I suspect that we won’t actually see Peter’s ghost (er… whatever) for the next couple issues. Instead, this is just a promise that Peter Parker is still an active force in this world. I’ll be interested to see the extent to which this is explored, but as you mentioned, I was kinda already stoked for a new status quo. I like seeing the simple “what if” scenario of “what if Peter Parker was kind of an asshole?” I understand that this meant also dealing with the scenario “what if Peter Parker died?” and I was willing to pay that cost.
So it does kinda seem like the hedging of bets to show Peter at one with the force at the end of the issue. We all assumed he wouldn’t stay dead forever, but seriously, that was like two weeks ago. It cheapens the beautiful eulogy that was Amazing Spider-Man 700. But I want — very badly — not to judge this issue and this series based on its effect to the previous Spider-man comics. The storytelling here is so light and fun and inventive that I’m going to actively push aside my expectations, and the expectations of the Spider-man fan community, and just take in what we’ve got in front of us.
One thing I really appreciate about Otto being in Peter’s body is that the voice over boxes get to carry some very necessary exposition in a natural way. I haven’t read much Spider-man, so I don’t know these people he works with at Horizon Labs. So when Otto says “Accessing Parker’s memories… Grandy Scraps. One of my co-workers. Good natured oaf. Prone to mistakes,” I love this feeling that I’m discovering this information alongside Otto. Between that little bit of explanation and the fact that he calls The Living Brain “the Super Nintendo of robots” is all I need to get a great feel for the character and his role in Parker’s life.
It’s also super fun to see Otto fight crime in a different way. He knows exactly how the A-NS6 are going to strike, but waits to take any action so the victory is his. There’s a cool moment in this issue where Otto has a bit of a freak out when he realizes that any work he does from this point on will be the legacy of Peter Parker, not of Doctor Octavius. But that’s true of more than just his inventions. Spider-man’s legacy and Doc Ock’s legacy are now the same. Otto considers the future at the expense of the present, and he does this consistently. He lets the bad guys get away the first time because he knows he can face them more adequately if he sets traps for them next time. He blows off his date with MJ (or at least, doesn’t work very hard for the date) because he’s already planning that big press stunt for the next day.
And clearly, there’s going to a breaking point. All of those people in Otto’s ignored present will finally have enough of being ignored, and no amount of Peter Parker-based goodwill will make up for it. We can already see the cracks showing when on the tail end of the dinner. Actually, on that note, we don’t see how dinner ended, just that MJ objected to Peter drinking, and he dismissed her concerns.
Even if our boy manages to claw his consciousness out from under all that Doc Ock brain, he’s going to have to put his whole life back together. And what if Peter can reclaim his mind and body — will there always be a little Otto left in there? I’m excited for the possibilities, even if they aren’t exactly the possibilities I had envisioned from this concept.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?