The Superior Spider-Man 8

superior spider-man 8Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Superior Spider-Man 8, originally released April 17rd, 2013.

Patrick: How do we measure the “good” a superhero does? By how many supervillains they fight or alien worlds they protect? Or maybe by how many times they save the world? Those are some impossible benchmarks to understand — no matter what kind of life you lead, you’re never going to meet someone who achieves victory on the scale of an Avenger. That level of “good” is alien. Real life heroes address much more personal issues — hunger, disease, poverty, crime. Y’know, like a doctor. Hey, wait, Dr. Octavius is a doctor.

Having successfully apprehended the mysteriously-behaving Spider-Man, the Avengers run him through a series of tests to determine if there’s something science-fictiony going on there. The tests mostly determine that they’re nothing wrong with good ol’ Peter Parker, but when Otto sees the results, he notices an aberration in his brainwaves. Good thing for Otto, no one else can interpret information this subtle. With no reason to hold him, the Avengers let Spider-Man go.

Wanting to learn more about his abnormal brain waves, Otto seeks out an old invention of his — an advanced brain scanner currently in the possession of Cardiac. Spider-Man bursts into Cardiac’s lab/hideout/hospital and demands the device. After a little bit of violence (there’s always violence), Otto realizes the brain scanner is being used to treat one of his old victims — a little girl with a stuffed penguin friend. His heart appropriately melted, Otto helps save the girl’s life and forges an alliance with Cardiac.

There’s an interesting coda to this story that I’ll loop around to later, but in the meantime, I wanted to talk about what motivates Otto. So much of this series has kind of taken for granted what Otto’s up to — he wants two things: a) to overshadow the Parker’s legacy with his own; and b) to out-live his busted-up Doc Ock body. Even as Otto’s Spider-Man became a more effective crime fighter than Peter’s had ever been, there was something… off about his approach. More than other heroes, Otto flirted with illegal and immoral methods of bringing baddies to justice. At the time, Shelby identified it as Otto willfully sacrificing what was right for what was efficient. But Otto’s attitude toward Cardiac suggests that under any desire Otto has to do good is a steady stream of anarchy. Breaking society’s rules is part of what Otto values.

Spider-Man has a coffee with Cardiac

There’s a weird sense of nostalgia in what Otto’s saying here — he misses being a supervillain and all the fun trappings that come with it. But Otto also approves of the good Cardiac is doing. Where’s that come from? Has being Spider-Man softened Otto, or has there always been a hidden good-streak in Doctor Octavius?

There are clues buried in Spider-Man’s interaction with the Avengers. It’s pretty clear that Otto doesn’t respect these guys — he calls them “a bunch of button pushing monkeys” for crying out loud. We saw some of this in the Age of Ultron tie-in issue, but I don’t think we can count that character development as something that’s actually part of a future that’s going to stick, so let’s just deal with what we have here. Otto’s been policing New York City in an exceedingly practical way. His patrols are streamlined, he has eyes everywhere, and while he also takes the time to fight supervillains, Spider-Man has been the people’s hero. Remember how he calls the cops for back-up? Remember how he takes calls from the Mayor? Dan Slott has made all of Otto’s heroics immediate and concrete. Meanwhile, the Avengers still have huge comic-booky concerns, like whether or not Spider-Man is a Skrull.

Captain America tells Spider-Man that he's not a Skrull

Now, I get that we’re in the Marvel Universe, so these are legitimate concerns. But as a reader, Captain America’s litany of concerns seem downright silly when you compare them to the fact that a little girl’s life is in danger. I think it’s also worth noting that the girl was the victim of one of Otto’s more supervillanous schemes: removing the ozone layer as a show of power. The solution to that kind of block-buster villainy is a more personal act of kindness. As a baddie, Otto thought globally, but as a hero he acts locally.

Artist Humberto Ramos draws some mean action sequences. There are two big fights in this issue and both are anchored by one HUGE drawing of the action with a few panels detailing the particulars. It might not make for the clearest action, but Ramos takes care to show us the important beats and makes the whole thing appear spectacular. But he also excels at the softer moments of the issue. I let out an audible “awwwww” when I saw that little girl hugging a big-headed Spider-Man doll. Plus, he nails everything that’s hilarious about Spider-Man wearing scrubs, complete with a facemask over his facemask and a totally superfluous bouffant cap.

Spider-Man in scrubs

Drew, I frequently feel like Slott is earnestly making a case for the Superiority of this Spider-Man. I know that might ruffle some feathers, but I think he makes a compelling argument. It also looks like Slott might be making a more permanent move toward a world without Peter Parker — as Otto announced he’s going to attempt a Parker-ectomy on the last page of this issue. What do you think, Drew? Can the series survive losing Ghost-Peter’s influence? Is Peter gumming up the works or is he holding it all together?

Drew: That’s a great question, and while I think it’s obvious that Peter is a boon to Otto — having access to Peter’s memories are essential to his cover story, if nothing else — I’m not sure Otto sees it that way. Otto would refuse help even if he didn’t think there was a danger of that help taking over his brain and/or blowing his cover — hell, the man is about to perform surgery on his own brain — so I can’t imagine he’ll see much utility in keeping Peter around. At least, not in his head. I suspect he’ll have the foresight to not just throw out Peter’s consciousness — he might need a consult every now and then — but he’s definitely getting him out of his brain. I’m pulling for Otto to load Peter onto the robot, but I’m kind of a sucker for that robot.

As long as Peter’s consciousness is still alive somewhere, there’s still a chance that everything will be returned to normal, and while I’m enjoying the hell out of what Slott and Ramos are doing, I suspect the action here will eventually restore the status quo. For me, it’s not really a matter of “if,” but “when,” and it seems like Carlie is set on pressing the question sooner rather than later. She seems to be zeroing in on Otto, and has even enlisted the help of somebody who doesn’t like her — Ramos keeps the face obscured, but I honestly don’t know enough about the characters to make much of a guess, anyway. How her investigation will collide with Otto’s Parker-ectomy could determine just how long he’ll be in the driver’s seat. It seems like Carlie could save a few steps by just going to the Avengers, but we can’t expect everything to be so easy.

Speaking of the Avengers, I actually really liked the approach Ramos took for the fight scene. Sure, there aren’t a ton of panels, so the sense of cause and effect is pretty limited, but check out how dynamic that main image is.

I thought mom said no rough housing inside

There’s just too much going on in that panel to take it in all at once — effectively, your brain breaks it into smaller panels as you read the dialogue. Like, I process Mjolnir long before I ever get to Thor, which means he throws it a second time just by virtue of my eye roaming the page. It gives the panel a sense of motion even though it’s depicting a single moment. It stretches the time Peter is evading their blows, making the smack-down he gets at the end feel much more balanced than “one panel of winning, three panels of losing” might suggest. Also, I can’t get over how funny it is to see Black Widow complaining that apprehending him is “too hard” — not that it’s impossible, just that it’s more work than she really wants to put in.

You’re absolutely right about this issue’s commentary on the nature of heroism, Patrick. We see a whole mess of superheroes fighting and running absurd tests in their ivory tower, but the real heroic acts in this issue are those of doctors. Otto certainly looks silly in the Spidey-suit and scrubs, but the image is a very clear statement of who the real superheroes are. It also serves to teach Otto the value of helping others for the sake of helping others. Sure, he’s spent the past 7 issues doing heroic acts for glory or out of some perversion of morality, but there’s something much more immediate about saving a little girl and becoming her personal hero. To me, that’s the promise of a Superior Spider-Man.

All supervillains are one Mr. Pinky Penguin away from doing good

The prospect of a touched Otto Octavius is enough to make me want to see him behind the mask for a long, long time — perhaps enough to be willing to say goodbye to Ghost-Peter. I’m sure that prospect would upset too many fans to ever be a real possibility, but I think Slott has totally earned it. Otto may still be figuring out what it means to be a hero, but he’s turning into a damn good one.

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?


38 comments on “The Superior Spider-Man 8

  1. I’m hoping that we get to keep Otto around for as long as possible. I’m reminded of when Dick Grayson took on the role of Batman. I was actually disappointed when Bruce returned. Not that I don’t love Bruce of course, but Morrison made such a compelling argument for Dick as Batman that I didn’t want to see it end quite so soon. Dick was still Batman for a while after his return, but it just didn’t feel the same. I wonder if Marvel will try to do the same thing for Otto.

    Peter will come back at some point (when does Amazing Spider-Man 2 premier?) but that doesn’t mean that Otto has to go away. What if he finds his way to another way to cheat death and keep his Spidey-powers? I’m not sure how that would happen, but this title has proved that anything is possible! Much like when you are on a boat.

    • Being a huge fan of Nightwing, I enjoyed his short experience as Batman too. I knew from the very first day that it wouldn’t have last (because a fan favorite character like Bruce Wayne can not stay dead for long), but all good things must come to an end.
      At least Dick still has a spot in Batman’s world. The real tragedy is when a character sinks into oblivion, as it recently happened for some wonderful characters like Blue Beetle (both Jaime Reyes and Ted Kord) and Grifter. I hope we’ll see them somewhere as soon as possible.

      • Well, not that anyone around here cares (understandably so), but Blue Beetle can still be found in the pages of Threshold if you really want a Jaime fix. As for Ted Kord, just wait for his triumphant return in Grant Morrison’s Multiversity!!!

        • Let’s hope it will get better with time. The more Jaime appears in it, the better it will get, that’s for sure.
          There is a recently launched DC series that started well: Katana. Most of miss Nocenti’s works are awful, so you may think I’m joking: to make you understand that I’m serious, I’ll tell you what went on in the first 2 issues.
          There is a gang (probably related to an oriental cult) which goes after Katana and fights her (probably to rob her sword). Katana becomes friend with a member of that gang, and persuades him to become her mole.
          He brings her to a meeting of the whole gang, and you tell yourself: “Now Katana will pretend to be his girlfriend, and listen to what they’re saying in order to get as many informations as possible.” Miss Nocenti decided to follow a less expected path: during that meeting, Katana immediately reveals her identity, and this leads to an action packed scene.
          At the end of that scene, Katana is the winner, of course, and you tell yourself “Now the leader of the gang will say something like “I’ll take my revenge”.” For the second time, miss Nocenti chooses to go in a less expected direction: the leader asks Katana to join the gang! And, even more surprisingly, she says yes, because, as she says in a thought bubble, “I will consider getting close to my enemy, but only to kill him.” FANTASTIC!!! Until now, this is a 5 stars series. Thank you for your reply! : )

        • Man, we had THE WORST introduction to that series. I honestly can’t think of a worse introduction to a series I’ve ever had. It’s such a shame too, because I normally love Keith Giffen’s work. I mean, the guy is a legend. I was almost going to give Threshold another chance just to see Blue Beetle again, but I’m still not over that GL:NG Annual.

        • I really tried Threshold. I got through two issues. When it came time for month three, i couldn’t spend $4 on it. I would maybe have spent 50 cents. Not a whole dollar, though. God, it was terrible. I haven’t even looked since issue two.

          I liked Blue Beetle 😦

        • Oh man, Kaif, that’s an entire issue more than I made it. Mixy and I wrote up the New Guardians annual (which was essentially a backdoor pilot for Threshold) and the first issue and that was too much time in Keith Giffen’s world. It bums me out, because I liked Blue Beetle too – and i also like Larfleeze (as a character) but I sure as hell won’t be reading Giffen’s series when it starts in June.

    • Yeah, I’ve found myself really drawn to any Batman stories from Dick’s tenure under the cowl — not just Morrison’s stuff. Snyder’s Black Mirror work is an obvious example, but I also enjoyed the Gates of Gotham, and even the bits of Red Robin that featured Dick-as-Batman.

  2. Slott was taking random questions on Twitter yesterday and one of them was “Who would win in a fight: Harry Potter or Peter Parker?” That’s obviously a silly question, but Slott answered “Harry. Peter’s dead.” which makes me think that Slott at least is in it for the long haul. I’m sure we’ll see Peter alive again, but probably not in time for Amazing Spider-Man 2.

    It also might be worth pointing out that Spider-Man, as a movie property, doesn’t fall under the Marvel Studios banner. While it will certainly be frustrating for Spider-Man movie fans to turn to the comics and not find Peter Parker, I suspect the opposite will also be true. I’d be much more interested in a Spider-Man movie right now if I thought it was Doc behind the mask. I wonder if Marvel is actively establishing a Otto-as-Spider-Man so they can make movies with him in the future? That’d be crazy, right?

    • Hahaha! And they can just call those movies “Superior.” That would be a great workaround. If that’s what it takes to get Spidey in an Avengers movie, so be it. You’re right about any marketing between the film and comic versions not being coordinated, but I think it would be dumb for Marvel to not try to capitalize on whatever interest Superior Spider-Man 2 might generate. That said, maybe that capitalization is better focused on trades, anyway.

      • That’s a good point about trades. Maybe that’s part of the long game. By the time Phase Three rolls around (after Avengers 2), there should be a few Superior Spider-Man trades out there and the world could be primed and ready for a Marvel Studios Superior Spider-Man movie. I wonder how that language is written – does anyone know whether Columbia Pictures has the rights to Peter Parker or to Spider-Man?

        • According to Screen Rant, Columbia has the rights to “all things Spider-Man.” So right now, if anyone was going to make an Ock-Spidey movie, it would legally have to be them right?

        • I would bet the language in the actual contract is more specific than “all things spider-man.” I would also be willing to bet that Disney could argue that Otto-as-Spider-Man is a new creation and an invention of Marvel, and therefore property of Marvel Studios. Intellectual property rights are tricky.

    • Hey, I thought we were talking about Nightwing and Blue Beetle? WTF.

      Seriously though, if this were a time before Guardians of the Galaxy was getting all of this movie buzz, I’d say you were crazy. Now though, I’ve just got to say that if anyone would do an Ock-Spidey movie, it would Marvel Studios. They just have this fearless approach. Like, whatever, we want to make these movies so fuck everything else.

        • No killing Michael. That’s bad.

          Hey, does it seems like DC’s really focused on the video games lately? Injustice, a new Arkham game, DCU Online a few years ago, this Infinite Crisis MMO brawler thing. Obviously, the games don’t connect to eachother in any way, so it’s not in the model as the Marvel movies. Thoughts about DC and games vs. Marvel and movies?

        • DC is pouring a lot of quality and attention to detail into their games (and animated projects) that we just haven’t seen in the movies yet (outside of pointy-ears and from what I’ve seen so far, Man of Steel). The only connection I can see between DC and games vs. Marvel and movies is that DC has had immense success with the Arkham franchise and wants to keep that going just as Marvel found their success with Avengers. But I’m sure there are a ton of other factors too.

        • Even the comics based on the Arkham franchise are great. Batman: Arkham Unhinged is pure awesomeness each month. It also has some details the New 52 universe can’t offer: for example, Babs still is Oracle in that series.

        • Oh and the Injustice Comic is unbelievably fun. It’s fast and funny and CRAZY SHIT happens all the time. I’ve hear the actually Injustice story is a little wonky, but also fun too – it’s written by Jimmy and Justin of All Star Western fame.

        • I have obnoxiously low expectations for Man of Steel. Like, I just can’t get excited for it. I will see it (because obviously), but I’m not counting the days down or anything.

        • I really want to be excited for it, which I think is causing me to actually be excited for it. I saw the newest trailer and I got chills. The score is beautiful and it showed Superman fighting a giant robot. Superman vs. a giant robot. SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. I totally get being cautious though considering the existence of Superman Returns.

        • The first digital issue – so you know, like 10 pages – is free on comixology right now as part of their Injustice Justice League sale (so just for the rest of today). Mike and I checked it out a few weeks ago and were surprised by the quality. Sometimes it’s nice to have a good surprise!

      • Hey, so this is something that I’ve always thought was weird about The Avengers movie: It’s one of the highest grossing films of all time, but Joss Whedon mentions in the commentary multiple times how they could only afford to have Hulk on screen so many times because the CGI was so expensive. Is that possible? Like, was the technology they were using that much more expensive than Gollum’s, or were they given a disproportionately small budget, or was the paycheck for the talent just that big? I bring this up because it seems like Guardians of the Galaxy is going to need several CG characters, but there’s no way they’ll have anywhere near the budget of The Avengers. Are they just going to be creative in keeping Rocket off-stage, or are my armchair calculations just way off?

        • Well, they paid Downey Jr. 50 million bucks to do the movie, so maybe that’s part of the answer? GotG will have a much smaller budget, but they aren’t going to have to pay anyone nearly that much to star in their movie either.

        • Yeah, I’d say RDJr. was one of the bigger ticket items in that movie. Also, I don’t totally believe Whedon about the Hulk – just about every action scene in that movie uses CG doubles for characters, and like 90% of the just-hanging out scenes have CGed backgrounds.

        • Oh yeah, I definitely thought it was weird. Like, Iron Man is also CG. My guess is that the motion capture technology is more expensive than straight animation, but the thought of any movie technology being prohibitively expensive for The Avengers strains credulity a bit.

  3. I hope we get to see more Black Widow and Spider-Woman in the pages of Superior Spider-Man in the guest spot role that was once reserve for the Black Cat.

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