The Superior Spider-Man 19

superior spider-man 19Today, Shelby and Ethan are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 19, originally released October 16th, 2013.

Shelby:  Self-awareness is a very important strength to have. You need to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, to exist in the world with other people. Sometimes you need to put your head down and push through a situation, and sometimes (more importantly, I think) you need to know when you can’t do something and ask for the help you need. The problem comes in when the help you need is in the form of erased memories of a man who used to be in the body you currently occupy.

Things are going…poorly at Horizon Labs. The place has got 15 minutes until timesplosion, opening the door for total control by Alchemex in 2099. Our ragtag group of scientists has assembled something to stop the explosion, but it requires a formula known only to Peter Parker. Considering he’s so superior and all, Otto assumes he can figure it out; unfortunately he is mistaken, and the building implodes with him inside. Everything else plays out as you would expect; Miguel saved Tiberius at the last second, concerned for his friends in 2099, Tyler Stone destroyed the time machine in the future, stranding Miguel in the past, and Model et al managed to save Spider-Man from wherever he was. Now he’s got to deal with the fallout from being “dead,” including a phone call from MJ, stating she wanted to make sure he was alive and that she’s over him. Oh, and Carlie and Wraith have been following the paper trail on all the purchases for Spider Island II, and have traced them to one Dr. Otto Octavius.

Saying a lot happens in this issue would be an understatement. Ticking time-bombs (literally!), implosions, politics, drama: it was jam-packed. But I find myself most drawn to a spread of Otto drying desperately to access Peter’s memories for that formula.

otto remembers

The top half of this image is amazing; Otto is scrambling through the web of Peter’s memories, trying frantically to see if he’s already accessed the one he needs, or if it’s gone forever. Ryan Stegman displays this beautifully by recreating classic Spider-Man moments starring Otto Octavius. But it’s that bottom strip that most intrigues me: four panels of an unknown man digging himself out of some rubble. I think Otto’s attempts to find the memory he needed may have awakened Peter Parker. This is an exciting prospect for me; last month both Ethan and I mentioned that, while we think Dan Slott is doing some really interesting things here, we just plain miss Peter. The fact that we could soon be seeing another mental showdown between Otto and Peter is awesome. Oh, and Peter is going to be pissed when he sees the mess Otto has made of his life. This time around, though, Peter has got allies; Carlie and Wraith can probably talk MJ into helping out, once they tell her what they’ve discovered. I think even Miguel knows something is up, and could probably be convinced to rescue Peter from his own brain as well.

Not only will Peter potentially have friends to count on where Otto will be alone, Peter also has the advantage in Otto’s sudden realization of his inferiority.

inferior spider-man

To Otto, Peter could figure out the formula, Otto is superior to Peter, ergo Otto can figure out the formula. It’s a basic logical conclusion based on Otto’s wholly objective opinion of his superiority, and it backfires in a very predictable way. I’m sure there will be plenty of excuses from Otto, paired with the point that, since no one got hurt, it all worked out in the end anyway. The most important point to me is that Otto admitted he was inferior to Peter.

This realization coincides with the way Otto’s empire has begun crumbling around the edges. There was a time not too many issues ago when it would have been easy to argue that Otto was, in fact, superior. He was handling NYC’s crime more efficiently, giving him more time to grow his personal relationships and work on his own goals. It’s no stretch to say work/life balance was never one of Peter’s strong suits. But now, the public is beginning to question Spider-Man’s police-state-style of crime fighting, Otto has wholly neglected both his relationships (his and Peter’s) and his schoolwork, and now this sobering realization that he might actually not be the best. I think Otto is about to lose a lot, if not all, of what he has worked for as Spider-Man, and I can’t wait to see what that will mean for him. From a developmental stance, what will Otto take away from this experience? Will he actually be able to admit he made a mistake and learn from it? From logistical standpoint, we’ve got two guys in one body; how’s that going to work? Ethan, what do you think, is this the beginning of the end for Otto’s run as the Superior Spider-Man? How is it going to work with two Spideys in town, one kind of a villain and one from the future? Is Peter ever going to be able to work things out with MJ?

Ethan: I don’t know, Shelby — my predictive powers are notoriously awful, but it does seem like Slott is tightening the screws on Otto in preparation for some good crisis-y transformative times. I’m glad you commented on the silhouette digging itself out of the rubble when Otto is wracking his brain for the equation, because I honestly actually missed that. I didn’t quite complete the gestalt of seeing a figure in those panels, I actually read it as some kind of abstract representation of Otto’s brain lighting up as he pushed himself to find the answer, so I’m glad you pulled us back to those panels so I could get the real message. I agree that it looks like Peter is digging himself back up to the surface. Hopefully this time he’ll be a bit less Jiminy Cricket and a bit more grounded or something.

Speaking of which, what would that actually look like — another confrontation? Peter and Otto already had the epic Battle of Wits inside their shared brain; a repeat of that street brawl wouldn’t be as fun the second time around. I’m hoping for something weird like Ichigo’s confrontations with his inner Hollow in the Bleach manga/anime, or something more symbolic — a kind of echo of the skin-shedding thing that happened last time Peter and Otto fought, but instead of dwelling on their worthiness of the mantle or their motives for being a hero, maybe something that contrasts the way they view the people around them. That’s where I think Peter really shines, and why we (mostly) tend to side with Peter over Otto: Peter sees people as unique, intrinsically valuable beings, while Otto sees a herd of cattle or a cloud of statistics. I don’t think we were ready for Peter to win in their previous fight, because we hadn’t really seen the full effects and downsides of Otto’s brand of superheroism. We might still not be there yet — cue that possible upcoming crisis/turning point Otto seems to be rushing headlong towards.

One more thing on the topic of a possible Peter comeback — assuming Peter ends up back in control of his body, would he shut down Otto for good? Would he give Otto a cell or house or something where he could continue to “live” inside the mind but without executive privileges over the body? Will the battle for control trigger a fusion of their consciousnesses, where both Peter and Otto are gone and we get some kind of hybrid — a guy with a heart of almost-gold who is still able to approach situations in a more objective way? A new person with a few more flaws, maybe even a dash more of arrogance than Peter, who’s able to bend his mind towards the strategy more effectively without losing sight of his love of those around him… it would probably be a bit too much of a departure from the normal Peter Parker As Spider-Man to be long-term, and probably a little too similar to the current Body-Snatcher situation, but it would be fun to see. A little bit like the mental reboot Warren (Angel) went through after he went evil, was killed, and a new version of him was born. Not true rebirth, but the birth of a kind of identical twin who never existed.

Anyway, enough of that. I have one question for you, and one question only: TIMESPLOSION!?!?


Ok, so technically it was a “temporal event,” but I’m still a little duzzy on the fetails, here. Tiberius Stone did some meddling with Horizon Labs’s stuff, which caused a “time-bomb,” which is actually a buildup of “chronotons,” which results in a “controlled implosion.” All of which somehow zaps Horizon and Otto… somewhere/-when else, and stabilizes Alchemax’s iron grip on the future. Future Spider-Man with the incredibly obnoxious 90s-esque future-slang gets stranded in the present, and Max and Hector rescue Otto from wherever he was zapped off to. I’ll admit that the rabbit-out-of-the-hat rescue of Spider-Man grated a bit and left me wondering, what the point was of all of that buildup to the explosion? Titles of all stripes have been playing fast and loose with the physics and logic of time since the beginning, but this instance seemed more throw-away than most. At least it ended up establishing that Future Spidey is stuck in the present, which I’m actually looking forward to, possibly even more than Peter’s return. It would be fun to see Miguel interact with the rest of the superhero community at large, kind of like Rachel Summers — a temporal misfit who can find their own niche in our time. I’m guessing he’ll be hustled back to his own time sooner or later, or else fade out of the spotlight while he keeps an eye on Stone, but at least one can hope that he might get a bit more attention and add some spice to the mix. Provided he can learn to ditch the painfully forced Xtreem vernacular.

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6 comments on “The Superior Spider-Man 19

  1. Now, I haven’t read it yet because I’m woefully behind on my reading, but I assumed Otto’s disappearance in the timesplosion tied into Doc Ock’s/Spidey’s appearance in that All-New X-Men special?

  2. Ethan, I really like the idea that Peter lost the mental fight with Otto because, from a storytelling perspective, it wouldn’t have been as meaningful yet for him to come back. Fan outrage at Otto as Spider-Man aside, you gotta admit it makes for more compelling storytelling to have Otto’s Spider-Man hit rock-bottom before Peter comes back to fix everything.

    It’s a fine line, though; Peter Parker is a well-loved character. If things are too bad for him to resolve when he does inevitably return, that will turn fans away as well.

    • I love the idea that Peter could return at any moment. Like, I don’t think his teeny tiny appearance in this issue was teased at all anywhere, and Dan Slott is holding firm to his HE’S DEAD stance. What’s more, is that is seems like the Marvel universe is starting to collect Spider-Men like crazy – we’ve got 2099 stuck in the present with us, and the good money is on Miles Morales taking refuge on our Earth. So even if Peter returns, the title “Superior Spider-Man” could still be up for grabs.

  3. As much as I generally enjoy this book, this arc wasn’t my favorite. Otto was a million times more obnoxious than usual PLUS we didn’t get to see any of his more redeeming qualities to make up for it, I’m still not all that attached to Miguel, and Tiberius is such a frustrating villain that it’s hard watching him get absolutely no comeuppance. I hope that we get to see at least SOMETHING bad happen to him soon.

    I hope the next arc is from Otto’s POV, because after two issues o Hobgoblin and three issues of Miguel I’m ready to see a little more of what makes Ottotick again.

    • I’m with you on not loving this arc — there are already so many fascinating ideas zipping around this series, it actually feels like a distraction to pile on all of these extra ones. That said, the end of this issue brings us back to Peter’s personal life, which is exactly what I was clamoring for. I’m confident Slott will get back around to all of the concepts I really love about this series, but I get a little impatient when the diversions are less interesting.

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