The Superior Spider-Man 5

superior spider-man 5

Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Superior Spider-Man 5, originally released March 6th, 2013.

Shelby: For a super-villain, murder is often the most efficient way to do business. Unless you need hostages or information, civilians are at best in your way, and at worst witnesses to your nefarious deeds. Also, there’s no more efficient way to be feared and considered dangerous than by ganking a few innocent bystanders. It’s why so many heroes have pretty strict “no kill” rules; not only does it make the hero the diametric opposite of the villain, there are also times when not killing is the harder choice. Doing the hard thing (like saving the life of a cold-blooded murderer) because it’s the right thing is a core tenet of hero-ness. When faced with a choice between what’s right and what’s efficient, I think we all know which option Otto will choose. 

Massacre’s latest plan is actually pretty smart; he gets corporate sponsorship from the CEO of Burger Town to kill as many people he’s able to, while wearing a shirt of their competition. Meanwhile, Otto has added advanced facial recognition software to his Spider-Bots; like the cell phone sonar in The Dark Knight, Otto now has the capabilities to spy on every person in New York. He gets a hit on Massacre at Grand Central, where he has locked himself in with some cops, some  civillians, and a LOT of ammo. Otto breaks in and does the hero thing, saving a kid and disarming Massacre. He then does the unthinkable, holding a gun to Massacre’s head and asking why shouldn’t he pull the trigger. Massacre begins to cry out of fear, the first emotion he’s felt in years. Otto decides that doesn’t change anything, that Massacre will always be a killer, so he shoots and kills him.

spider-man kills

Lots of interesting layers in this issue. The big one is, of course, Otto shooting Massacre. At first I thought it a sign that Peter is losing his tenuous hold on the good doctor, but now I don’t think that’s the case. He did, after all, prompt Otto to rescue that kid and give up his tactical advantage. No, I think Otto is just as determined as ever before to be the superior do-gooder, and that’s where things get a little sticky. I think Otto is focused on doing what’s good instead of doing what’s right. Killing Massacre is good for the people of New York; hell, civilians were goading him to do it. But was it the right thing to do? I don’t think so, especially when Massacre showed an emotion, a glimmer of hope that maybe there was still a chance he could be made well. Spider-Man has always stood for what’s right, even when doing the right thing is not the most popular thing, and that is where Otto is getting caught. He still has that supervillain ego, that desire to be the most feared, but now that desire is translated into a need to be the most fawned over.

There was one thing that really caught my eye in this issue,  something Otto said to Massacre just before he shot him:

“This changes nothing. You are who you are. That killer will always be hiding inside you.”

How long before Peter’s memories are no longer enough to keep Otto from having that realization about himself? Some would say he’s already had it, as demonstrated by his murder of Massacre, but I don’t think so. I believe Otto is still focused on being the most efficient superhero he can be. Killing Massacre was a quick, straightforward solution; ultimately, more people will be saved, and Otto won’t have to waste any more of his valuable time chasing the man down. You can’t deny the logic of it; if efficiency is the end Otto seeks, the means he uses to get there are easily justified.

Back to my first point: murder is an efficient way to be a supervillain. It looks like Otto is planning on applying the same principle of “kill those in my way” in order to be an efficient superhero. So, if the villains are murdering civilians to efficiently commit crime, and the heroes are murdering villains to efficiently stop crime, where does that leave us? How far is Otto going to take this, and is Peter going to figure out how to stop him before it’s too late? I mean, probably, but maybe not: Patrick, what do you think?

Patrick: The only point I want to quibble with you is that Otto is looking out for the best interests of public safety. This isn’t a hypothetical scenario where Otto chose the “murder” option – this is a cold-blooded killer who was apprehended once the Spider-man way (i.e., no killing) and this did not prevent him from killing again. That a sociopath shows signs of fear in no way absolves Massacre of his sins, nor do I even see it as a sign that there’s a possibility of redemption. Otto recognizes the threat and knows — based on evidence — that arresting him will not stop the killing.

It’s also a source of shame for Otto that he resorts to shooting Massacre in the head with a gun. He says that firearms are “beneath him. And he doesn’t take any pleasure in doing it either – his exact words are “there is only one solution here.” This is a dude that LOVES trash talking his opponents. I mean look how readily he gloats to the hostages that he’s saving about how well he understands the explosives they’re wired with.

Spider-Man disarms some bombs

What I’m getting at is that I think Otto knows that he’s crossing a line here. But I think he’s doing so because he actually believes in the good he’s doing. He seems less concerned with his Big Big Big Brother plan of outfitting thousands of spider-bots with facial recognition software. I mean, take a look at this chilling panel from the last page of the issue.

Ms. Pullman is set upon by spider-bots

Otto’s getting some additional justice here, but he’s also gleefully rubbing it in that he’s essentially the most effective spy in New York City, and no one’s privacy is even remotely safe. It’s also sorta weird that Peter barely seems to have a problem with it. It’s not until Uatu suggests that Spider-man is giving himself too much power that Ghost Peter chimes in with a “you’re killing my reputation.” No a problem with invading privacy, just with ruining Spidey’s rep.

I like seeing Otto develop a life that belongs to neither Otto nor Peter. It’s not just that Otto’s becoming more Peter-y or that Spider-man is becoming more Octopussy, but a third unique character with his own relationships and hobbies and values is starting to emerge. Take the fine example of Anna Maria Marconi. Anna wouldn’t be as impressed by, and therefore so thoroughly wooed by, Peter in his own body. Similarly, there’s no way she’d give Otto the time of day if he were still tromping around in his old body. But that’s not the only thing that this specific combination of Spider-Octopus does uniquely: he also calls the cops for back-up – something Peter never thought to do. He’s forming relationships that are mutually valuable to Spider-man, so what happens if Peter gets behind the wheel again? Will the cops demand he take up some of his old habits? When Dick Grayson was Batman, Jim Gordon told him that the beat cops liked the new Batman better – due the the rebooty* nature of Bruce putting the cowl back on, we never saw the blow-back from the return to the status quo in the GCPD, but it’s an interesting thing to consider. When the inevitable return of Peter Parker does arrive, I can’t wait to see how that all shakes out.

*Between “octopussy” and “rebooty,” I feel as though I should apologize for the persistently sexual nature of my adjectives.

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?

12 comments on “The Superior Spider-Man 5

  1. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about the art in this issue, but it’s all very competent without being particularly showy. The layouts are all pretty standard, and while some of the face acting is kinda wonky, the body language is all pretty solid (especially in the pages leading up to Spidey shooting Massacre. I don’t know – even now — when I’m forcing myself to talk about the art — I don’t have anything definitive to say about it. How do you guys feel about Giseppe’s Camuncoli’s art?

  2. This might be a stupid thing to compliment, but how about the way Slott introduces a little person character and addresses her size just as much as people would in real life? Like, that’s simply a dimension of her character – she’s not a joke, she’s not defined by it. It’s a mature presentation is all I’m saying.

  3. Quick question; if I’m looking to give Superior SM a shot, how far back should I go in Amazing SM to get the gist of the Otto takeover. Also, any good Doc Ock stories from the past I can read to get a good handle on the character, I only know him from the movie and the vague memories I have from the animated series when I was a kid. Thanks!

    • I only read 698-700 (but not 699.1 – unless you wanna read Morbius’ book in NOW) and that gives a pretty clear image of what’s going on in Superior (plus you get the added bonus of getting to read ASM700 – which is beautiful: read every word of both stories and the letters page, it’s incredible). I think the consensus is that 688-700 is the “complete” ending to ASM, but someone else will have to verify that.

      [conversely, Shelby picked up Superior at issue 1 with ZERO prior Spider-man experience. C’mon, you saw like a billion Spider-man movies, you know who these characters are.]

      As far as good Doc Ock stories, I’m not well-versed in Spidey history to answer that. Guys?

      • I can’t really offer a different perspective, but I can second Patrick’s suggestion of #698 as a great place to start. Many fans swear by Slott’s entire run, which starts at ASM #546, but that’s A LOT of comics to read. I found myself more than oriented starting with #689.

        • Kool, thank you gentlement. Drew you’re saying I’d be best off starting at 689, is that a correction to Patrick’s suggestion that 688 was the “beginning of the end” or simply a personal jump on point? Because ya, unless I absolutely fall in love with Spidey over this series, I don’t think I’ll be backtracking all the way to 546. As an aside, why can’t I check the “notify…via email” box when signed in using twitter rather than fb?

        • Oops! I said #689, but I totally meant #698. I only read the final three issues of ASM, but I found them to be sufficient introduction to SSM.

          I’m not sure about the “notify via email” button. It’s a larger wordpress mechanics thing, but I’ll send a note to support.

        • Starting at 698 is enough to get what’s going on. More than that is just more Spidey. The previous Doc Ock story was Ends of the Earth, which was Amazing Spider-Man 682 – 687, Ends of the Earth Special #1 (completely unneeded, but a nice tie in story about Spider-Man’s little known allies around the world) and Avenging Spider-Man #8, which was the fallout from it and not especially great, but did wrap things up.

          After that in Amazing was a Lizard story line, the Alpha story and a Kingpin/Hobgoblin/Peter at Work story line (and then the Doc Ock takes over in the last 3).

          Before that is. . . umm, crap, I don’t remember. There was a Vulture story in there, before that was Spider Island. . . but none of that is needed to understand the story. Ends of the Earth is the only thing resembling essential and that is mostly because it talks about Doc Ock knowing he’s dying and trying to come up with one final plan before he expires.

  4. Thanks Kaif, that pretty much sounds like what I googled yesterday, so I think I’ll try it from 682 onwards. Since you seem pretty well versed in Spider-Man, care to suggest some classic storylines I should read? I figure Spidey must have “equivalents” to the Batman greats, stuff that just has to be read right? Thanks in advance.

    @Drew, thanks for looking into it, let me know if you get a solution. For now I’ll keep using fb I suppose, although my owl pic on twitter is much kooler :p

  5. I don’t get why Spider-doc would need a gun to kill massacre when he could have easily done it with a single punch. He could have made it look like an accident without drawing attentions from the avengers or anyone else that might think he wasn’t being himself.

  6. Pingback: The Superior Spider-Man 8 | Retcon Punch

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

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