This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
O, it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
We tend to define power optimistically — we might list the duties of say, the President of the United States, for example, with the expectation that they’ll wield their power responsibly. But there’s another (perhaps more timely) way to define power, not by the amount of good it allows someone to do, but by the amount of harm it allows someone to inflict. Try as we (or Uncle Ben) might to link the two, power and responsibility are independent variables. That is, “With great power must also come great responsibility” isn’t a statement of some inviolable rule of the world, but a goal to strive towards. That’s why the “must also” part is so essential (and so missed from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man) — it makes it clear Uncle Ben isn’t just stating a fact. Indeed, that power can be separated from responsibility is precisely what this first arc of Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s Amazing Spider-Man has focused on, demonstrating the inefficacy of either without the other. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing Secret Wars 1, originally released May 6th, 2015.
“Oh, best war ever…”
-General Nick Fury, Secret Wars 1
Ryan: Secret Wars grabs the baton from Jon Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers beloved/despised/confusing “Time Runs Out” saga chronicling the futile struggle of Earth-616 against the collapse of the multiverse. Hickman dives in by tipping his hat to the concluding plot thread of Doom vs. The Beyonders, the significance of which — aside from helping to shrink the amount of surviving universes down to a baker’s dozen minus a bunch — is still a bit lost on me. The narration of the issue is provided by Reed Richards, and the first installment of this event belongs to him.
Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 12, originally released June 4th, 2014.
Taylor: The excellent blog kottke.org recently brought to my attention a video on visual comedy. In this short feature, Tony Zhou makes a strong case for the lack of visual comedy in your typical comedic film. He also highlights a lot of movies, like Hot Fuzz, which make excellent use of visual comedy. It got me to thinking about how difficult it is to pull off visual comedy in film, much less in comics. Like in writing, something about pulling off a comedic still frame is surprisingly difficult. As with movies, I think we often aren’t treated to great visual comedy. However, Superior Foes of Spider-Man 12 bucks this trend and shows just how funny a comic can be based almost entirely on its visual elements alone.
Today, Taylor and Greg are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 8, originally released February 5th, 2014.
Taylor: Since the dawn of pop-culture, antiheroes have been those ill behaving scallywags we love despite their flaws. They may not act right all the time, but we love them despite, if not explicitly for, their flaws. In the annals of American culture, the antihero has frequently eclipsed their more traditionally heroic counterparts — just look at Han Solo or Walter White. This trend has naturally extended to comic books and while many protagonists of comics are antiheroes, few are outright villains. In case you couldn’t tell by its title, The Superior Foes of Spider Man focuses on a villain, who by virtue of his narrative is an antihero. And while we all enjoy a good antihero, it is a perilous line they walk, and issue eight displays how precarious their position is. It begs the question, just how shitty can a protagonist be before we’ve had enough?
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 3, originally released September 4th, 2013.
Taylor: We all know the origin story of Spider-Man. Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains the sensational powers of a spider. At first, he doesn’t use his powers for good, instead choosing to indulge himself in a world of personal gain and selfishness. An indirect consequence of the path he chooses is that his Uncle Ben is murdered by a thug he previously had failed to apprehend. Because of this, Peter comes to fully understand his uncle’s saying: “with great power comes great responsibility,” which leads him on the path to superherodom. But what if your path is different from Peter’s? What if instead of choosing to be a hero, you choose to be a villain? What creed or mantra would you follow then? What expectations would you have of yourself and those you call your allies? In a surprising change of tone, Superior Foes of Spider-Man 3 explores this question and the result is a deepening of Boomerang’s character that, while unexpected, is a welcome addition to the series.
Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 2, originally released August 7th, 2013.
Taylor: Comics inherently are a silly thing. Now, before you haul off and yell at me about how comics are a legitimate art form, cool your Rocketeer jets and let it be known I agree with you. But just hear me out. The fact that comics primarily deal with people in goofy costumes running around fighting crime can’t be ignored. That in and of itself is pretty damning evidence that comics are a little bit absurd. However, this is but one element of what goes into the makings of a comic book, and as with so many other things, comics are more than the sum of their parts. Still, reducing comics down to some of their most basic elements can have comedic results, just as reducing a basketball game to the idea of giant men throwing around a sphere for an hour or so makes it seem especially silly. While comedic gold can result from the acknowledgment of the pulpy origins of comic books, there remains the question of how lasting this humor can be. Can it go on for an entire series? The Superior Foes of Spider-man has you covered.
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.
Today, Ethan and Drew are discussing The Superior Foes of Spider-Man 1, originally released July 3rd, 2013.
Ethan: It’s easy to make snap judgements about people when you’ve only known them for a short time, whether it’s a new face at a house party or a new coworker or neighbor who’s just moved in. Once you get to know someone better — say you decide to start renting with your partner, or you share a cubicle with the new guy long enough that he’s no longer the new guy — your opinion of them shifts, often for the better and the worse all at once. You learn about their ambitions and family and past experiences, and little things you didn’t even notice at first become pet peeves or endearing quirks. In Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1, writer Nick Spencer is betting the farm on that phenomenon with a more personal look at the day-to-day lives of the latest Sinister Six.
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!
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 11, originally released June 6th, 2013.
Patrick: Spider-Man’s always been one of the most relateable superheroes out there. Whether it’s because he’s a social underdog, or quick with a joke, people just love Spidey. I’ve always assumed it’s because Peter Parker lot of petty baggage that we can all relate too. Tough time making rent? Girls don’t understand you? Homework got you down? Otto seems to think he’s immune to inane distraction, but for every dinner date with MJ he’s blown off, there’s an advanced degree he’s insisted on pursuing. And for what? Bragging rights? He’s already Spider-Man. Otto’s done a pretty good job of making his baggage work for him — thus far it’s mostly motivated him to be an effective crime fighter — but on the eve of the Spider-Slayer’s execution on The Raft, Otto’s hit with a few too many personal attacks to maintain his steely veneer. Continue reading →