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.
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.
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.
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.
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