superior_spider-man_31_cover_2014Editor’s Note: Yeah. That sounds just spoilery enough to be right. Let’s go.

It’s been about 16 months since Doc Ock took over as Spider-Man, which has been just enough time to forget that Spider-Man is supposed to be fun, dammit.

Spider-Man’s supposed to be a wisecrack and an acrobatic move and a triumphant battle against insurmountable odds, while simultaneously Peter Parker’s a self-defeating complaint, an overdue bill he can’t afford to pay and a ruinous relationship that disintegrates against, well, predictable odds. Is it a formula? Sure. Is it soap operatic? Hell, yeah. But it’s a thing that works, and which has been working for 52 years. And it seems like a simple enough formula that we’ve seen so often over the years that we wouldn’t miss it if it was gone for a while… but I did, dammit.

Doc Ock as Spider-Man has been an interesting thought experiment to help reinforce that it’s the character of Peter Parker that makes the comic and not just a power set and a red and blue leotard, but nobody falls in love with a thought experiment unless it’s the Milgram Experiment, and even then it’s only if the enthralled already had a closet full of jackboots. So while it’s been a kinda cool distraction to watch a darker, more obsessed version of Spider-Man, I was ready for it to be over since I already have Batman.

So not only is it just plain good to see Peter back in the saddle in The Superior Spider-Man #31, writer Dan Slott clearly knows it. Because throughout this issue, characters react to Peter being back in costume (despite ostensibly not really knowing that he ever wasn’t the guy in the costume) with a general sense of relief and a sense of return to normal.

And so did I.

tmp_superior_spider-man_25_cover_20141062414147Editor’s Note: Ah, but my dear Spider-Woman… I so want to spoil you. And I can no longer think of a reason not to.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

I’ve been pretty vocal recently that, while I’m generally enjoying Dan Slott’s tale of Doc Ock as Spider-Man in The Superior Spider-Man, it’s felt like it’s been dragging along for a while to me. With the foregone conclusion that Peter Parker would eventually be returning as Spider-Man – a foregone conclusion that has been bourne out by recent news (spoilers at that link, by the way) – I had passed the point where I was fully engaged in seeing how Doc Ock would operate as Spider-Man and had reached the point where I wanted to see how things turned out to put Peter back into the suit. Picture it like sex: foreplay is fun and all, but as a wise man once said, eventually you gotta go into the trenches and bump uglies. So to speak.

Well, we are now on the 25th issue of The Superior Spider-Man – an impressive feat, considering the first issue was only a year ago – and now we’ve got some solid rising action moving toward a denouement of this whole Otto situation. Writers Dan Slott and Christos Gage take a solid step in this issue toward yanking the rug out from under Otto, showing cracks in his public image, suspicion from Spider-Man’s allies, and some real opposition from someone who can actually get to the bottom of this whole Ock / Spider-Man situation.

After months of foreplay, characters are finally starting to bump Editor’s Note: Rob, this metaphor is a dicey pile of shit. Move along. -Amanda

Ahem. Anyway.

tmp_amazing_spider-man_1_variant_cover_2014962603996Editor’s Note: Look, this entire article is loaded with spoilers about upcoming events related to Spider-Man and Marvel’s and Dan Slott’s plans for the character in the coming months. And while none of those events are particularly hard to guess, if you want to remain pure and unspoiled about things, you should probably move along. And try not to think about the most likely actions a corporation might take to maximize profit via cross-platform synergy. And if you don’t have to think about what “cross-platform synergy” means because it is a part of your job, you should move along before I call you something I can’t take back. 

I wrote not too long ago that, despite generally enjoying Dan Slott’s The Superior Spider-Man, that I was ready for the whole Doc Ock as Spider-Man storyline to start coming in for a landing. While it’s been an interesting storytelling experiment, in the sense that it explores a different and darker angle on the concept of “with great power comes great responsibility” that’s at the core of Spider-Man’s character, it’s grown a little long in the tooth for me, since I knew full Goddamned well that eventually, Peter Parker was gonna come back. When? Well, sometime before The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens in theaters in May, at the very least… no matter what Dan Slott said about Peter Parker staying dead.

Well, Slott and Marvel have finally gone on record about their long-term plans for Peter Parker. And while the broad strokes might be pretty much what one would expect, they amount to pretty big spoilers, so if you want to know what’s up, you can find out after the jump.

tmp_superior_spider-man_22_cover_20131746222442I haven’t written about The Superior Spider-Man in a while, even though I am still reading it and still generally enjoying it, because it is beginning to succumb to The Walking Dead disease.

Here’s what I mean: we all know full well how The Superior Spider-Man is going to end. No matter what writer Dan Slott says on Twitter and at conventions, we all know that Peter Parker will return as Spider-Man at some point before the Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie opens on May 2nd next year. And even if you choose to believe that Marvel’s overlords at Disney will be willing to allow that corporate synergy and mindshare (Christ, I feel dirty just typing that) to pass since the movie’s owned by Sony and Columbia, the signs are all here that Peter Parker will return and Otto Octavius will suffer a fall. Otto’s showing hubris, he’s arrogant, and his sense of superiority is rubbing damn near everyone the wrong way.

All the signs point to Otto falling from grace and Peter returning, and the problem is that every reader knows this. Because we read comic books, and we know full well that dead only means dead in comics if the dead guy is Uncle Ben, Thomas Wayne or Martha Wayne. So we all know that the broad-stroke ending of Otto falls / Peter returns is coming (the same way we’ve known that Negan falls / Rick triumphs is the likely ending of the Walking Dead arc that’s been going on since 2012)… but it seems it has been going on forever.

And the events of The Superior Spider-Man #22 continues with the long, slow arc of Otto blindly heading toward a bad end, with yet another instance of Otto interacting badly with someone who would expect Peter to know and be friendly with him. And it’s certainly enjoyable enough, particularly in seeing J. Jonah Jameson’s reaction to some of the events of the issue… but it is also still more of the same interminable setup for a story for which I’m becoming damned impatient to see the punchline.

nova_7_cover_2013-1202879855There are bigger comic books this week than Nova #7, written by Zeb Wells with art by Paco Medina, but you’re not gonna find too many that are more fun. Not in the sense that there’s a lot of big action or spectacular demolition or exciting team-ups (although we see Nova meet Spider-Man, which was a nice bit of nostalgia for a guy who fondly remembers the original Nova’s first crossover with Spider-Man back in 1977 – to this day, I remember the reveal that the murder victim fingered his killer from beyond the grave by tearing out the last pages of a calendar to spell JASOND), but in the sense that the issue asks the question: if you were a teenager from the sticks who had powers and you wanted to become a superhero… how exactly would you go about it?

I mean, I’m an adult who lives in a major American city, who has been known to drink heavy in questionable bars, and I can count the number of actual crimes I’ve personally witnessed in the last decade on one hand. The last house fire I saw was a rural chimney fire I saw right around when I was reading that 1977 Nova / Spider-Man crossover (despite all of my friends’ predictions that I would eventually see a house fire thanks to years of reckless chain smoking while drinking whiskey), and I see my high-speed police chases on TruTV at 2 a.m., the way God intended. Even if I had the power of Superman, I wouldn’t know where to find a crime to fight if I had to, and I’m someone old enough to know what a Bearcat Scanner is and what it’s for.

So what would you do if you were a 15-year-old from the middle of nowhere, imbued with the power of a cosmic hero, looking to make himself a superhero?

And the answer is: apparently, fuck up all over the place.

scarlet_spider_20_cover_2013superior_spider-man_team_up_2_cover_2013Clones. I hate those guys.

Ever since Doctor Octopus took over Peter Parker’s body, started calling himself the Superior Spider-Man and violented himself up, it was only a matter of time before somebody put him face to face with Kaine, the Scarlet Spider – the version of Spider-Man who was already violented up. After all, the comic reading public has since proven that they will pay to see different versions of Spider-Man tuning each other up. It started with The Amazing Spider-Man #149, back in October, 1975, the first time Spider-Man fought a cloned version of himself, and continued, on and on, through the creation of Venom, and then Carnage, and then the return of that original Spider-Clone. And then the Clone Saga.

The Goddamned, everfucking Clone Saga.

Anyway, there wasn’t a hope in hell of getting through this Doc Ock incarnation of Spider-Man without someone spending some time having him knock around, and get knocked around by, Scarlet Spider. And frankly, I wasn’t looking all that forward to it; again, only 15 years ago, Marvel had one Spider-Man punch another, and they spent the next year and a half dragging it out until they all but knocked the title’s dick in the dirt. So in my mind’s eye, I was expecting a multi-issue extravaganza, dragged out over weeks if not months with big fights and constant wondering who the real Spider-Man was at any given time.

So imagine my surprise when the inevitable fight between these two guys was done in just two issues, both available on the same day, with some decent believable interplay between the two, and a common enemy to fight.

Of course, that enemy is The Jackal, who started the whole damn clone business in the first place. Oh: and a bunch of other clones.

Dirty, stinking clones.

superior_spider-man_7_cover_2013The Superior Spider-Man is not sustainable. It has never been sustainable. We have known this from the beginning.

Let’s face it: The Superior Spider-Man only works for as long as you accept that there’s a megamaniacal supervillain who talks like Ming The Merciless on a coke bender and kills more people as Spider-Man than he did with his pre-body switch Death Satellites pretending to be Peter Parker… without anyone noticing. Including the readers. I have been able to suspend my disbelief on my that plot point for a while, but the entire time I have been reading this book, I have known in the back of my mind that if I called someone a “dolt” more than three times in a month, my friends would demand to know what was wrong… and if I used the term “pilfering parasite” more than once in, well, ever, my own parents would hold me at pitchfork-point until the DNA results came back clean.

The cracks in this whole Doc-Ock-As-Spider-Man conceit are already beginning to show. In the current Marvel crossover event Age of Ultron, which was written by Brian Michael Bendis months ago, Spider-Man is pretty clearly Peter Parker… which caused writer Dan Slott to have to produce last week’s The Superior Spider-Man #6AU (AU for “Age of Ultron”), which tried valiantly to shoehorn Ock’s version of Spider-Man into the event… even though only a reader who uses the cover of an issue of Age of Ultron to roll a fat one would believe that Otto Octavius has a wisecrack in him that doesn’t include the word “pusillanimous.”

Thankfully, Slott seems to know the limitations of the body-switching gag. Because just over three months into the whole deal, he is simultaneously showing Peter beginning to show a modicum of control over his Otto-infested body, and Spider-Man’s teammates on The Avengers are finally convinced that something isn’t right with the guy. And while all this is happening with what feels like a fairly contrived situation just to show the extent of Doc Ock’s newly-found moral relativism, it’s good to finally see the noose tightening on this whole gimmick.

superior_spider_man_2_cover_promoEditor’s Note: Let me go wild, like a spoiler in the sun…

The problem with The Superior Spider-Man #2 is the scene. The scene.

You will know The Scene when you see it. In fact, you will have some difficulty unseeing it. And given that Doc Ock is occupying Peter Parker’s body, and given that Ock, a former ugly duckling, is suddenly in the body of a guy that can allow him to do things that he has never been able to do, while not necessarily understanding how to do those things, the scene makes complete and total sense.

And yet The Scene overpowers almost everything else in the issue, and it does it unnecessarily. Sure, it serves a purpose in furthering a main plot point, but it does it in a way where you almost won’t remember the plot point it furthers. The Scene just about turns this issue into the comics equivalent of Vincent Gallo’s Brown Bunny: do you have any idea what Brown Bunny is about? Of course not, all you know is that Gallo got his cock sucked by Chloe Sevigny on camera.

And we will address The Scene, and how it affects the comic… which, in spite of the scene, gives us more Peter Parker than I would have expected even a month ago, and which finally shows some real signs that maybe, just maybe, Otto Octavius really has some elements to be a superior Spider-Man… and, in some areas, a superior Peter Parker.

You know, if you can get past The Scene.

scarlet_spider_13_cover_2013I’ve kinda lost track of what’s been going on in Scarlet Spider over the past few months, but this week seemed like a good time to jump back in for a couple of reasons, the first being that, with the recent events in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Superior Spider-Man, I had a taste for a story about a Spider-powered hero who isn’t a reincarnated vainglorious blowhard… and it takes a lot to make a story about a spider-clone to seem like a palate-cleanser.

The second reason was that the book’s recent Minimum Carnage event is over. Don’t get me wrong: not having read the event, I really can’t address that there was anything particularly wrong with it per se, but once I heard the title of the event at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I had a problem with half of it. I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t “minimum.” Suffice it to say that, when it comes to Carnage? Yeah, not a fan.

So Scarlet Spider #13 is my first jump back into the title in some time, and my first time back with the character since the closing events of The Amazing Spider-Man. And this is gonna be a strange review because of it, because, coming back into the book immediately after reading those events, I’ll tell you this: if there aren’t plans to cross the Doc Ock version of Spider-Man over, at least briefly, with Kaine? Either The Superior Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, or Scarlet Spider writer Christopher Yost, or both, aren’t thinking things through.

superior_spider_man_1_cover_promoEditor’s Note: I’ve come to say goodbye to my old life. A life wasted on spoilers and ruined plot twists. A man whose sole victory was cheating comic readers… by switching – ah, screw it. This review contains spoilers. Many. many spoilers.

I’m done. Done accepting things the way we are. I swear to you… from now on… whenever I’m around, wherever I am… …No one dies!
– Peter Parker

Okay, that’s one way to end a comic book. But we’ll talk about that later.

So here we are: the first issue of a Spider-Man comic with Otto Octavius riding the peak seat, and our first chance to see how he handles the, well, power and responsibility. And coming out of the events of The Amazing Spider-Man #700, that was a serious question; sure, we’ve known what Doctor Octopus is like for the past fifty years, and it seems unlikely that an arrogant megalomaniac like that is likely to turn over a new leaf just because he can suddenly see his dick for the first time since Eisenhower was President. But still, we’ve seen that Ock obtained access to all of Peter’s memories and experiences, which could have an effect on Otto. So the question is: how does he behave as Spider-Man?

A lot like a supervillain, actually. But not in the way that you’d think.