Today, Ethan and Shelby are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 12, originally released June 19th, 2013.
Ethan: When I sit down to write about an issue, I tend to start by flipping through my digital copy to grab the panels I want to include in the post. As I was looking through Superior Spider-Man #11, I ended up with about 10 separate images. That obviously won’t fit into a single post, but it’s a credit to writers Dan Slott & Christos Gage and artist Camuncoli that so much of the issue struck a note with me. A flashback to the worst day of J.Jonah Jameson’s life, further insights into Otto’s and Smythe’s psyches, a surprise cameo – there’s no time to waste!
As the civilians begin to pick themselves up amidst the wreckage of the Raft, one of Otto’s spider-eye bots finds them and instructs them to stand together so that the bots can protect them in a force field. Jonah steps outside of the protective field at the last minute, determined to see Smythe pay for the murder of Jameson’s wife. Meanwhile, Otto and Smythe continue their fight, and just as it looks like Smythe might have the upper hand, Jonah shows up and drives Smythe off with one of the Raft guard’s weapons. Smythe heads to the central power control to shut it down and disable Otto’s booby-traps, and the three villains he’s upgraded show up to slow Otto down. The joke’s on Smythe: Otto’s traps are linked to the Raft’s backup generators, and the only thing knocking out the main power accomplishes is to kill the lights and unlock the cell doors, incidentally freeing one Curt Connors (the Lizard). While the Vulture flies towards the civilians, the scorpion heads towards Jameson’s location, and Otto blows off both innocent targets, instead hunting down Smythe to complete the latter’s execution.
I have to start with the intro we get showing the death of Jameson’s wife.
It’s a skillful blend of story and scene. It sets up the issue by showing us the horror and outrage and helplessness that Jameson still feels every time he thinks about that day. Specifically, it shows the event through the tight focus of his own eyes: the speed blurs the Spider-Slayer’s tentacles, we don’t see how exactly his wife is killed; all we see is her face, a splatter of blood, his grief. And in the background, the man he’s trusting to help him find his revenge – Spider-Man.
With this intimate glimpse into Jameson’s pain, the theme of capital punishment gets a firmer foundation. He’s wracked by anger, pain, guilt, and powerlessness. He couldn’t save his wife, but he CAN use the legal system to find some sense of control and punish the man who’s responsible. As Drew pointed out last time, executions are a touchy topic, no doubt, but at least this flashback gives us more context to work with.
So the terse conversation between Jameson and Otto when they do meet up makes a kind of sense. Jameson tells Otto that the interrupted execution needs to be carried out; Otto asks him to be clear – is he asking Otto to kill? Jameson confirms it.
Jameson’s dark side aside, I’m trying to figure out what this exchange means for Otto. He seems to be champing at the bit to get the O-K to use lethal force. He’s shown some aspirations to heroism along the way, but is this essential violence and desire to kill his foe somehow been hard-coded into him over the years? Now that he has the means to succeed – Peter Parker’s extraordinary abilities – and the official mandate, is he just looking for his next murder-fix? Maybe that’s a gross over-simplification, but the vibes of bloodthirst he’s radiating this issue seem pretty unmistakable.
Then we have his gradual transformation into the Superior Spider-Man. Smarter, more effective, more results-driven. More vicious when the occasion calls for it. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but even while I was being disgusted by Smythe’s elongated claws in this shot, I couldn’t help but once again notice Otto’s own barbs at the tips of his fingers:
The line between Spider-Man and his villains is only becoming more blurred. Otto saw the need for more offensive capibilities, so he added those thorny prongs; sure they might cause more damage in a fight, but what’s important is that they get the job done. When your goal is first and foremost superiority, a few extra lacerations and maimings are just part of the deal.
That said, Otto is stable as a rock compared to this issue’s late cameo – Curt Connors, the Lizard. This guy has flipped back and forth between man and reptile so many times it’s easy to forget which is his original state. He even once bred an alter-ego super-lizard once just by losing his tail and regrowing a separate self, starfish-style. If you want a simple story, Connors isn’t a good place to start. If you want an sweet shot with just a hint of that terror you felt when you first saw a raptor in the first Jurassic Park film, you’re right on target.
For all of his scaly flip-flopping, he does tend to side with the kid in the red and blue jumpsuit, and the cover #13 seems to hint at more of the same in the near future. I for one am psyched: the Lizard never fails to bring that mix of danger and hope all rolled into one that keeps you on your toes.
What do you think Shelby? Pretty easy not to trust the crazy guy in the techno-organic suit whose whole purpose for living is to kill the Spider-Man, but how about the primal lizard-thing that thinks more in terms of prey and food than enemies and allies? Do you think Otto will be able to trust a wild card like Connors, or is the Lizard all part of his plans?
Shelby: Throwing Connors into the mix is definitely going to make things interesting. As the Lizard, Connors is a good man trapped in the body of a supervillain, a delightful counter to Otto Octavius, supervillain, trapped in the body of our favorite neighborhood webslinger. Will Otto be more trusting of the Lizard because he’s a villain, or because Connors was an ally of Spider-Man? The Spider-Man identity crisis is complicated enough on it’s own, adding a similarly complicated villain makes things even more interesting. It seems to me that Slott is just working to further break down the line between good guy and bad. There’s a part of me that hopes next month, when Otto rushes off to commit murder most foul, it’s the Lizard who saves the civilians from the Vulture; that would really take Otto down a peg or two, especially in the eyes of the public.
And Otto needs to be cut down to size. His villainy is starting to get a little out of hand. He blew Boomerang right to hell, and is now going to ignore the safety of civilians simply because someone finally gave him a green light to do some killing. It’s one thing for Jameson to say he doesn’t need/want Spidey looking out for him; he’s a grown-ass man, and can make those sorts of decisions for himself. But to truss up everyone else like the Christmas goose and leave them for whomever wanders past is reprehensible. Otto’s little bots are operating on the back-up generator like everything else on the Raft; if that goes down, so does the the big yellow bubble, and I’m sure the Vulture’s new eyes have no trouble seeing in the dark. There’s something about Otto’s actions in this issue that cross the line for me. We’ve seen him do terrible things before: knock Vulture out of the sky, beat the snot out of Screwball and Jester, shoot Massacre. We’ve also seen him put his own desires above his Spider-Manly responsibilities. But for me, this issue is the first time we’ve seen Otto’s selfish wants put civilians in real danger. His past actions could have been justified by an overzealous desire to protect others, and I suppose his Spider Slayer crusade could be as well, if he hadn’t blatantly admitted not giving a shit about the safety of the others. Otto’s disguise is slipping, and I feel that this confrontation on the Raft could be the thing that pushes Spider-Man into the role of “villain” in the eyes of the public.
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 DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?