Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 2, originally released January 30th 2013.
Drew: Comics are about big conflicts — right vs. wrong, good vs. evil — but it’s rare to see them tackle the more complex subject of nature vs. nurture. Part of that may simply be that it would muddle the simple, primary color notion of good guys fighting bad guys, but I think the larger reason is that it’s a difficult conflict to dramatize. For adults, the root cause of their evil behavior generally isn’t as bad as stopping it, but even when writers take pains to explore the forces of nurture through flashbacks, there’s no real way to demonstrate nature. It’s a microcosm of the debate as a whole — how can you ever eliminate either as a variable? — but can lead to fascinating questions. With issue 2, Dan Slott has poised The Superior Spider-Man as the perfect place to explore those questions further.
The issue begins with Spidey receiving accolades for stopping the Sinister Six while the ghost of Peter looks on irately. Otto has big plans for MJ, much to Peter’s chagrin. Fortunately, Otto is terrible with women, and proceeds to strike out at every attempt. Eventually, he realizes he can simply access Peter’s memories to relive being with her. It’s icky, but it also means he’ll stop trying to get into her pants, which is good for everyone. Curiously, accessing Peter’s memories has the side-effect of bringing Otto to the same conclusion that Peter always does: he and MJ simply won’t work. Meanwhile, Charlie is beginning to suspect that “Peter” isn’t who he says he is.
It’s a fun issue, but there are a couple of themes that really spoke to me personally. Early in the issue, Peter gets frustrated with Otto’s approach to MJ, exclaiming, “You can’t treat this like some equation. It’s not about minds and bodies. It’s about hearts and souls. Variables you’ll never understand!” We’re meant to agree with Peter, but I often find myself feeling more like Otto here, missing the human element in the logical solution. Aside from annoying my girlfriend, this thinking often leaves me unable to understand people’s arguments on a fundamental level. Intriguingly, Otto’s eventual agreement with Peter doesn’t exactly disavow his calculating approach.
Even with all of Peter’s memories and feelings, Otto still treats it like an equation. Sure, there are some incredibly complex variables, but in the end, Otto uses logic to come to the same conclusion Peter did with his heart.
I’m not sure we’re supposed to identify with Otto as strongly as I am here, but it’s fascinating to me that the same data — Peter’s memories with MJ — can lead two very different people with very different approaches to the same results. It’s an elegant and thoughtful solution that reinforces the very principle of this series: that if anyone had experienced what Peter had, they would also become a force of good. Some may see that as diminishing Peter Parker’s moral strength, but I think the notion that anyone could be Spider-Man is an incredibly inspiring message.
Outside of those larger moral quandaries, this issue was a blast. I was particularly enamored of Peter’s unheard comments as Otto continued to strike out with MJ. Peter has nothing better to do than follow Otto around (because he’s in his head or something, right?), so he just kind of keeps a running commentary. The fact that Otto eventually realizes he can’t be with MJ is a relief (especially for you, Shelby, since you were so icked out by the thought of Otto and MJ), but it unfortunately means we won’t get any more sequences like this:
It’s interesting that, outside of the relationship stuff, Otto actually is beating Peter at his own game. He devises a way to patrol with robots, freeing up time for a personal life, and even makes nice with J. Jonah Jameson. Peter chastises Otto (again, silently) for ignoring a mugging on his way to save MJ, but if Otto had arrived even a second later, she surely would have fallen to her death. Otto is making the right choices, in spite of Peter’s anxiety.
I continue to enjoy the heck out of this series. It’s asking some truly bizarre questions about identity and morality, but doing so with a keen sense of humor. Shelby, I know you were uncomfortable at the prospect of Otto getting together with MJ, so I’m wondering how you feel about it now that that issue has essentially been laid to rest. Also, how funny is it that Slott essentially diffused the situation with a masturbation joke? It’s still icky, but it’s more haha icky.
Shelby: Oh, I am SO RELIEVED I don’t have to worry about Otto trying to get into MJ’s pants anymore. I was both looking forward to this issue and dreading it because I was anxious about that uncomfortable situation. Now that the only thing I have to worry about is Otto being a creeper to characters who mean far less to me, I can relax a little bit and take in the issue for what it is. I’m not totally sure what that is just yet, but I like what I’ve seen so far.
I, unlike you jerks, didn’t read any of the Amazing Spider-Man leading up to this run; I wanted to have a fresh start with Otto as Spidey to see how he does things. Drew, you brought up nature vs. nurture, but for me this title is about comic book continuity and fandom. There are a lot of comic book fans who believe very strongly in continuity. I understand that desire to keep things the same; I am definitely a creature of habit. I order the same thing from restaurants, I watch movies and TV shows over and over, I re-read books constantly. I probably read World War Z every six to nine months; there’s comfort in continuity and it’s hard to find a reason to change things when they’re already working. Otto’s Spider-Man doesn’t just represent a relaunch of the character, he represents the Character Relaunch as a comic book device, and I think the point that’s being made is it’s not the same, it might not be better, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It’s too soon to tell if Otto makes a “better” Spidey than Peter; I have a sneaking suspicion his douchebag castle in the clouds is going to come tumbling down around his ears before this is all over. But there’s no denying that what he’s doing is good.
Otto is improving on the technical aspects of being Spider-Man. I’m certainly not going to try and argue that makes him better; as a total softie, I side with Peter on the “soul vs. equations” issue. Peter Parker is Spider-Man, that’s the basic truth of it. I have no doubt he will end up fully in charge of his body in the near-ish future. What I’m intrigued by is the journey ghost Peter is taking. Is he going to learn how to be a better Spider-Man from Otto? There are a lot of really interesting things happening in this book, and now that I don’t have to be distracted by Otto being a total perv, I can sit back and enjoy.
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?