Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 13, originally released July 10th, 2013.
“What we leave behind is something we each determine, through the way we live our lives. Whether we achieve something we can be proud of, or fall short, we have only ourselves to blame.”
—The Superior Spider-Man, Otto Octavius
Spencer: From Ghost-Peter’s laments about how Otto was tarnishing his good name to Otto’s annoyance over his future inventions all being credited to Peter, legacy has been a reoccurring concern in the Superior Spider-Man since its very beginning. After the events of this issue Otto is ready to create a new legacy, free from the influence of Peter Parker, but without Peter’s guidance and memories, can he truly live up to the high moral standards of Spider-Man? Otto said it himself: if he leaves behind a legacy of failure or terror, he’s only got himself to blame.
The hostage situation inside the Raft rages, but Spider-Man is far more concerned with his mission to slay the Spider-Slayer. Otto drives one of Smythe’s own tentacles through his chest, and with Smythe dead, the cybernetics powering his underlings shut down too. As Otto leads the hostages to safety, one of the Slayer’s drones attacks, fueled by the quickly-fading remnants of Smythe’s psyche. He attempts to upload himself into Spider-Man’s brain, but Otto is wearing a metal casing for protection. As Smythe dies for good, shocked at how Spider-Man could have predicted his plan, Otto smugly reveals that it’s because “I’ve already done it.” With Smythe dead and the Raft shut-down, Otto blackmails Jameson into giving him the Raft as a new base of operations, and begins plans to create a new legacy for himself.
Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with wanting to be remembered fondly by future generations, but since purging himself of Peter’s memories, this need to create a legacy seems to have become an overwhelming motivation in Otto’s life. It’s worrisome, because Otto isn’t a naturally altruistic individual. I do believe that Otto still wants to help people and save lives, but instead of doing so because of the great power and responsibility he wields, his primary motivation now seems to be to gain glory for himself. It’s not very heroic, that’s for sure.
You know what else isn’t heroic? This entire last page:
Alright, let’s see: Otto’s got an island stronghold, is filling it with “minions” and weapons, is dreaming of a new age—“the age of the Superior Spider-Man”—and even ends his monologue with a threat. This scene reads straight out of the super-villain handbook. We’ve spent a lot of time debating whether Otto can truly stay a hero, but more than the savage beatings and more than his killing villains, this feels like the beginning of Otto’s backslide to me.
Another thing I wonder about is whom the Superior Spider-Man’s legacy is truly going to belong to. In the outset of this article I mentioned how Otto has often acted annoyed that Peter is receiving all the credit for his actions. Now, as he forges ahead, he mentions that he is no longer bound to Peter’s life. Does this mean that Otto is leaving the guise of Peter Parker behind for good? Is he going to be Spider-Man full-time, or become someone new entirely?
Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing, though, because it looks like Otto might be crafting a legacy that Peter wouldn’t want in a million years. Things started out well enough: Otto became more efficient than Peter ever was, stopped more crime, and even managed to ingratiate himself to Jameson and the police force. Inside the Raft, though, we also saw a much darker side to Otto’s legacy in the form of his beaten, mangled enemies (Jester and Screwball, Boomerang, Scorpion, and the Vulture), as well as the corpses of Massacre and the Spider-Slayer. Otto even managed to lose the trust of Jameson thanks to his little blackmail scheme. Is a legacy of brutality and fear worth it if it means a safer city? Is that even still the primary goal in Otto’s mind? Only time will tell.
Of course, this issue was concerned with the legacies of plenty of other characters beyond Otto. There’s Smythe, there’s Warden Shipley, but the character I’m most interested in is the Lizard. I haven’t been keeping up with him too much lately, but it appears that he’s stuck permanently in his mindless animal form and imprisoned on the Raft for killing a child. That’s pretty grim, but Curt Connors isn’t letting his situation stop him from doing what’s right.
Connors has regained control of his mind and has dedicated himself to fighting monsters (and presumably never becoming a monster again), and even humbly lets himself be restrained to help ensure the safety of the hostages. In terms of Connors’ image, it’s possible that this is all useless; it’s possible that the public at large will forever remember Connors only as a killer monster. Still, it doesn’t look like that’s got Connors down. He’s still selflessly helping others, and he’s doing it because he knows it’s the right thing to do. No matter what legacy Connors leaves behind, he’ll always know that he fought back against the monster inside him and made the right choices when it counted.
It was that same kind of attitude that allowed Peter Parker to sacrifice his own happiness time after time for the sake of others, and it’s an attitude Otto could definitely use a little of himself, lest he find himself undone by his own rapidly growing hubris. So Patrick, do you think Otto’s losing his grip on heroics, or does he still have time to turn things around? What kind of legacy do you think the Superior Spider-Man is going to leave behind? And isn’t “Spider-Island 2” is the best name for an island ever?!
I’m not convinced that Otto ever meant to be more heroic than Peter. Do you guys remember what the buzz around the internet was like when the title of this new series was announced? There’s a goofy air of self-satisfied smugness to the word “Superior,” and we all sorta chuckled about it being a weirdly arrogant spin on the “Amazing,” “Fantastic” and “Uncanny” modifiers that Marvel loves to put in the titles of their books. The word is dripping with misplaced, unsavory optimism, and it perfectly captures how Otto wants to be better than his predecessor: quantitatively. He wants to be even more Spider-Man than Spider-man.
I love that this theme of legacies is so pervasive that it appears to spill over the fourth wall. The letters section has more than a few messages from angry Spider-Man fans — this isn’t new, Parker-fans have been calling foul on this Superior concept since the get-go — and editor extraordinaire Simperin’ Steve Wacker is sure to stand his ground on the creative team’s decisions, but he does veer a tiny bit defensive in one response:
It should be pretty obvious by now that no one “hated” Peter Parker. Our job on Spidey for 50 years was to put him through the wringer…just like Stan, Steve and John did back in the early days.
(When people say WE’RE tough on Pete, I always wonder if they forget that in the VERY FIRST Spidey story, Stan and Steve killed his uncle! And made him sort of responsible for it!)
But there were fans even in 1962 who swore that those guys hated Spidey too. That’s what happens, I guess, when you create a character everyone loves.
Our job now is to put our new Spidey through those same kinds of troubles and follow him as he makes decisions both good and bad…and lives with the repercussions. It’s a challenging story — and definitely not for everyone — but I hope you’ll keep reading to see how we do.
I usually try to keep the letters out of our discussion, as I prefer to let the comic speak for itself — but this is a theme stated so clearly within the actual work, it would be incredible if it weren’t weighing on the minds of the Slott, Christos Gage and the editors. Wacker lists a pretty hefty list of comic book icons, and they all made Spider-Man something special by making big decisions and believing in them. When Wacker says this story is “not for everyone,” I read that as code for “for anyone that’s willing to trust us.” Slott and Gage and Wacker are working on their own legacies right now.
But back to the comic itself. You know how most comics have these traumatic moments in the hero’s life that are routinely revisited? Hal’s father dying in the plane crash, Wolverine in the Weapon X lab, Uncle Ben, The Monarch Theatre – I still don’t know how these moments become as emotionally loaded as they are, but I suspect it’s by sheer repetition. When you see the pearls around Martha Wayne’s neck break and scatter, your emotional experiences from every other time you’ve read or watched that scene come flooding back. Slott has developed his own iconic moment in that last conversation between Otto and Peter. We’ve gotten that perspective — of Spider-Man standing confident over Doc Ock in an iron lung — a couple of times in the 8 months since it actually happened. Artist Guiseppe Camuncoli and colorist Antonio Fabela deliver this scene right up top, as a sepia-toned memory.
This scene is starting to become that iconic formative moment for whatever this Superior Spider-Man character is becoming.
I liked the art in this issue, pretty much throughout. Camuncoli has a gift for making drawing all of these villains with a little extra sinister flair. Vulture’s a pretty dumb looking character, right? I believe Deadpool recently described him as “Larry David bitten by a radioactive parakeet.” But a few Slayer-upgrades, and a much grislier face, and it’s not that much of a leap that he’s able to terrorize these people.
We’ve got all the time in the world to discuss Otto taking on more villainous methods. Indeed, we’ve debated the merits of his “murder sometimes” policy on a number of occasions. I like seeing the line between superhero and supervillain blurred. Spencer’s totally right to say that it sure sounds like Otto is building a secret lair on Skullcrusher Mountain, but like: maybe it makes sense to have a staff. Right?
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?