The Superior Spider-Man 3

superior spider-man 3

Today, Patrick and Drew  are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 3, originally released February 6th, 2013.

Patrick: You know, this series has been making us ask one question over and over again: How will this set-up change Spider-Man? Still super early in its run, the series has turned its gaze inward, exploring not only how this out-of-body affects Peter but Otto as well. Fighting crime may be a shortcut to glory, but it also means Otto turning on his friends. That makes for some startlingly compelling psychology.

The issue starts with Spider-Man responding to something totally new: a Spider-Signal shining from atop the police station. Otto thinks this thing is stupid — why broadcast his  location to bad guys? Anyway, Mayor Jameson shares some information about the Vulture’s recent criminal activity. This puts Otto-Spider-Man in a weird position: Doc Ock and Vulture used to be chummy, even working together in the Sinister Six. So Otto contacts his old friend and attempts to pay him off in exchange for giving up the life of crime. But Otto looks like Spider-Man, so Vulture’s none too keen to hear this proposal, and sics his tiny-bird men on him. Otto ably defends himself, but in so doing realizes that Vulture is using children as his henchmen (henchchildren, I guess). A quick flashback — which, interestingly, Peter is privy to —  shows that Otto was beaten as a child, so he is HORRIFIED to discover that Vulture just made him beat up a bunch of children. Otto flicks on his new polarized lenses and cue the Spider-Signal shine directly at them, blinding Vulture and sending him plummeting to his apparent death.

It’s a wonderfully isolated story that takes excellent advantage of the unique position Otto finds himself in. In the previous issue, Dan Slott hinted that Otto was a little disappointed that his legacy going forward was not going to be attached to the name “Otto Octavius,” but to “Peter Parker.” Otto quickly dismissed that as a petty concern. In this issue, we see Otto’s past come crashing into Peter’s present and it’s fascinating to see how their values actually grind against each other. Otto knows that Vulture’s only in the crime-game for the money — he told him as much when they were working together years ago. So where Peter might have gone in, webs-a-blazing, Otto actually wants what’s best for his friend. The most interesting reversal, however, comes when Otto realizes Vulture’s using children to do his bidding. This revelation wouldn’t change the way Peter approached this battle, his goal would always be “apprehend the bad guy, save the children.” Otto’s got a much more severe vision of justice, especially when the baddie  hits a nerve like he did here. That’s what makes Otto kill Vulture — not because he’s still sort of a bad guy, but because he takes a much more hard-lined approach to being a superhero.

Also, how devastating is it that Peter couldn’t keep Otto from killing this guy? It’s huge. Peter was able to pull Spider-Man’s punches in issue 1, but as he’s busy learning the ropes of existing as a specter inside Otto’s mind, he missed the opportunity to weigh in on the killing. It’s neat to see Otto’s memories sort of re-purposed as a hero’s origin, with this added layer of cool that Peter is witnessing/experiencing those memories along with us. Like Peter, we’re so caught up in this story, we don’t really realize Otto’s going in for the deathblow until it’s too late.

There’s also this intriguing runner of Carlie figuring out what’s going on with Peter. She can see it in his more mundane behavior — like using the NYPD crime lab to do personal projects — but the big hint comes right at the end of the issue, when she sees Vulture’s body on the smashed Spider-Signal. What a great image, by the way. Not only does has that body destroyed what could have been a powerful symbol for Spider-Man, but both Peter and Otto are reacting to their fundamental nature being questioned — Otto’s on the verge of being discovered and Peter’s continuing to lose control of Spider-Man.

Spider-Man just killed Vulture

Artist Ryan Stegman does a phenomenal job of simply portraying like a billion different concepts in this panel. Plus, look how similar Peter and Otto’s body language is here. I also really like the way Stegman draws Peter kind of tumbling through Otto’s memories. It’s like he’s stuck in some physical space that rewinds, pauses and fastforwards like video playback. Making Peter an active spectator in these memories (and the abstract little journeys between them), elevates these sequences beyond mere expository flashbacks. I particularly like this one, where Peter finds himself perched outside the window  — a la Spider-Man — so he can peer in on Otto’s memories.

Spider-Man falls into another of Otto's memories

Drew, how’d you feel about this issue? I think this series gets stronger with every issue. It’s amazing how many possible angles Slott seems prepared to approach the relatively benign “villain in the hero’s body” conceit. The letters pages at the end of this issue is really upsetting to me: people with absolutely no faith in the writer they’ve been reading for years to tell a compelling story just because he sorta-kinda-maybe killed off Peter Parker (a little bit). Oh and how about that nice little burn on Batman?

Drew: I’d like to think that it doesn’t matter if bad guys know where Batman is — he’s the goddamn Batman. I don’t really want to turn this into a discussion on the logic of the Bat-signal (though I fully intend to in the comments), but I couldn’t help but be distracted by the idea a Spider-signal. Like, it’s obviously about Batman. It felt a little strained including it at all, but the dig feels especially out of place given the role the signal plays in the final fight. Otto uses the signal to blind the Vulture, but didn’t he break it on page two?

the Signal

He didn’t just turn it off — it’s smoking, and Jameson is complaining about how much the thing cost. To me, that sounds like he broke it. Not that it matters — everyone seems resolved to never use the signal again after the scene, so it would be reasonable to assume they’d already set to carting it off to the scrap yard (you know, where you take stuff that is broken beyond repair that you never intend to use). I’d have no problem with either using the signal or making fun of it, but including both feels like Slott is trying to have his cake and eat it too. I hate to get so hung up on a small detail — I really did enjoy this issue — but that Batman joke draws a little too much attention to itself for the resolution to feel natural.

Otherwise, there were a ton of fascinating ideas here. Patrick identified several, but the one that really caught my eye was the fact that Otto kills Vulture with no interference from Peter. This wasn’t Otto overcoming Peter’s influence — Peter simply wasn’t there to guide Otto’s actions in the final battle. Patrick included the panel where Pater rejoins the action, completely confused to see the Vulture’s body, but Slott sets up his absence earlier in the issue:

Pater stays in Otto's mind

Even in death, Peter has some great responsibilities, and paying attention to what Otto is up to must be at the top of the list. Also interesting: Otto’s glasses take on a Spider-Man-esque shape. We’ve seen Otto inserting himself in Peter’s memories, representing his subjective experience of Peter’s memories, but this suggests that the way Otto experiences his own memories has changed as a result of his time in Peter’s body. I’m not sure yet what to make of this development, but it’s definitely intriguing.

Patrick is right to remark on the sheer volume of ideas Slott seems prepared to address here. He seems to recognize that essentially every angle is a good one. Even the slightest hints of developing some of these ideas is enough to get me excited. Take, this throw-away exchange:

Can Otto hear Peter?

Is Peter slowly learning how to make Otto hear him? Maybe, but that’s all we get in the way of suggesting that this issue. I’m not even sure if that’s something I want, but I’ll be damned if I don’t hope it comes up again soon.

This series continues to impress. Slott has a number of muscles to flex, be they the conceptual ones on display here, or more character-based, like in the previous issue. Slott clearly has a well-thought-through plan (which can make the angry letters column pretty painful to read), which has me signed-on for the long haul. Slott will just need to keep in mind that my allegiance will always be to Batman.

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?

17 comments on “The Superior Spider-Man 3

  1. I feel about the letters section in this title the same way I feel about the comments section of virtually every other site on the web; I’m just not going to read it, otherwise I will be unreasonably angry.

    Nothing frustrates me more than people REFUSING to try something merely on principle instead of actual merit. This title is very, very good; even in issue one, when I didn’t know completely what was going on and was really uncomfortable by Doc Ock eye-raping MJ, I was still on the edge of my seat. The writing is compelling, the art interesting, and the concepts complex and intriguing. We all succumb to nerd rage now and again, but to have fans completely abandon a creative team for taking a character in a bold and thoughtful new direction makes me pretty crabby.

    • I am less crabby about the letters after seeing Slott relish the hate mail in the AR mail thing. It’s still mind boggling, but I work in education: I’m used to seeing things that just don’t make sense.

      I didn’t take it that The Vulture died. I thought he was just seriously injured. I’m going to reread it when I get home from work. I wouldn’t mind – I hate The Vulture and heck, we’ve now got him using Kid A and Kid B to do his work; How much lower can he sink?

      This series is better than the last year of Amazing. It’s very, very good right now.

      • Yeah, I didn’t think he died either. I re-read it, and Carlie doesn’t say definitively that he’s alive or dead. I suppose it doesn’t really matter in the end, though; should Vulture make a miraculous recovery, it doesn’t change the fact that Otto had no intention for him to survive the fall.

        • I guess I don’t know what the point of the story is if Vulture didn’t die right there. Yeah, no one confirmed that the guy is dead (and his head wasn’t chopped off), and this IS a comic book. But the emotional thrust of this story is Spider-Man kills the Vulture.

        • Yeah, I think it’s less that he actually killed him, more that he intended to kill him. Ultimately, whether Vulture dies or not, that intent is still there, the damage to “Peter’s” character is still done.

        • Peter never really fucked someone up before, did he? Beat to such a pulp that they had to scrape him into the super ambulance? I thought it was the surprise at his viciousness (Peter always recognized that the Vulture, while evil, was still an old man under those stupid wings. A vicious and evil (and willing to kill) old man, but an old man nevertheless).

  2. As Doc’s actions boil up to the surface, even Spidey’s physical demeanor is shifting. Stegman and Slott keep the polarized lenses activated through the entire scene involving Charlie’s rising suspicions. And the lenses echo the Doc Ock sunglasses. I can’t help but love the brilliant subtlety of the visual cues through this book.

    This issue finally sold me on the series as a whole, though. I’m not sure if I want as much Parker peanut gallery. If this is Doc’s story, then let it be his story to tell.

    • The ghost-Peter is a weird element in this thing, for sure. I do think we’re meant to see ourselves in his frustrations with Otto’s actions. Peter Parker has always had the honor of being the most relatable superhero ever, and keeping him semi-active has been an important part of making Otto more sympathetic as well. That said, I was a lot happier with Peter’s involvement in this issue than I was in the previous.

  3. As promised, I want to take up the Bat-signal argument. Ultimately, telling bad guys that Batman regularly visits the MCU — the most heavily armored police station in all of Gotham — isn’t really much worse than the idea of having a police station. Sure, it could be a target for bad guys looking to harm good guys, but it’s also a veritable fortress, full of police. A police station is the absolute worst place to perpetuate a crime, unless the crime is to kill literally everyone there, in which case, Batman’s presence doesn’t really make much of a difference.

    If you want to talk about the Bat-signal being a weird thing, let’s talk about the notion that Batman is largely perceived as an urban legend. His mythic nature is actually really important to his ability to fight crime, so the thought of a very public demonstration that he does, in fact, exist, seems kind of counter to that notion. Like, either the GCPD are openly acknowledging that he exists, or putting on a charade in order to maintain an elaborate urban legend. As a taxpayer, I think I’d be upset with either.

    • Furthermore, there are a number of times in all media where Gordon admits that the signal isn’t always for Batman; sometimes it’s just to remind criminals that Batman is always out there.

  4. Random question – does somebody have a scan of the letters page, or names of the posters (particularly if any are listed from Ohio? Apparently, somebody who goes to my shop was printed, but they were already sold out by the time I got there.

  5. Bringing this back up because of a subplot in today’s “Avengers” #6. Spider-Man is a member of the Avengers, and in the first storyline, issues 1-3, it was obvious he was Peter. Today’s issue, however, issued a subplot of Spider-Man generally being a dick to his teammates (eating Cannonball’s food from the fridge despite his name being on it, then giving Cannonball a hard time and telling him he “spit in the food” as he walked away; then complaining to Iron Man about how the younger members weren’t treating him with the respect he deserved, which Tony just laughed off). So the version of Spider-Man currently on the team is definitely Otto (Cannonball even referenced his new uniform). I’m not sure whether this subplot is going somewhere, like one of his teammates discovering who he is, or if Hickman just wanted to acknowledge that Superior was going on, but regardless, I thought you guys might be interesting in Otto-Man’s appearances over in some other titles.

  6. Pingback: Deadpool 10 | Retcon Punch

  7. Pingback: The Superior Spider-Man 12 | Retcon Punch

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