The sensational Spider-Ock continues to masquerade as Peter Parker in the second issue of Superior Spider-Man. Writer Dan Slott and artist Ryan Stegman have turned the book’s primary focus away from the typical superheroics the web-slinger tends to involve himself in to the greatest adventure of all… romance (in case you are wondering, I did vomit as I typed that). His target: Mary Jane Watson.
Otto Octavius is not an attractive man and, when he realizes he has the opportunity to have sex with a beautiful supermodel in a young attractive body, he does what any red-blooded man would do: he breaks out the whiteboard and calculates. He attempts to crack the algorithm that ends with him successfully seducing Mary Jane, but all of his efforts come up short as a series of dates between the two results in nothing more than pecks on the cheek. All the while, Ock continues to add technological advancements to Spider-Man’s arsenal and the specter of Peter Parker continues to show exasperation at the ignorance of his friends, coworkers, and former lovers.
This issue puts the final nail in the coffin behind the façade that this change in status quo will be something other than temporary. The ghost-like consciousness of Peter Parker is on essentially every page of this comic book, he comments on every word said, every gadget built, and every lewd idea thought. Superior Spider-Man was always going to be about Peter Parker in most regards, it was his body and his identity that Dr. Octopus took over after all, but this isn’t the story of Otto Octavius’ redemption by following Peter’s example, this is the story of Peter reclaiming his life from the petty man who took it from him. Which is fine, and possibly even preferable, but having the lead character in a book be its primary villain is a very slippery slope.
Stegman’s work continues to impress, though the art here it isn’t quite as crisp or strong as it was in the first issue of the title and tends to feel a bit cluttered at times. His two Peter Parkers each possess the same features, as they should, but facial expressions and body language differentiate the two enough that they feel like completely different characters, which they are. Stegman’s style also seems to match the darker tone of this particular Spider-Man rather well, much like it did in fitting with Kaine in Scarlet Spider.
Dan Slott’s writing for the two Peters felt a little bit off in this issue. Ock continues to talk like a 1950’s B-Movie villain, though that fits his personality well enough, and the reactions of the people he is speaking seem to be rather forced. Mary Jane continues to be in the dark about any changes to Peter, aside from her recognizing that his more nonchalant and technology-based approach to crime-fighting is quite different from his past methods, despite the overt super-villainous manner in which he has been behaving. Real-Peter, channeling his best Swayze from Ghost, doesn’t seem to be treated seriously enough; he grows increasingly frustrated and flabbergasted at the behavior of Dr. Octopus, but he is treated as the comic relief in the story about one of his worst defeats, which is not good.
Slott also continues his use of Carlie Cooper, who may have finally shown why she was such a frequent presence in The Amazing Spider-Man despite her years of apparent superfluity. Carlie has been staying with Mary Jane as she recovers from the gunshot-wound she received in an encounter with Peter in Dr. Octopus’ body in The Amazing Spider-Man 700, and the issue ends with her apparently ready get back to work and to solve the mystery of just what is going on with Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Norah Winters also makes her second appearance in as many issues, so she may have a larger role to play in Superior Spider-Man than she typically did in The Amazing Spider-Man.
The manner in which Slott handles the rape-centric elephant in the room regarding Superior Spider-Man is tactful enough for it to not be offensive, and just creepy enough for it to still feel like Doc Ock. As spectral-Peter points out, however, just because the issue of Octavius sleeping with Mary Jane has been resolved (for now), it does not mean that other people he sets his sights on are not also at risk from his attentions (he hits on one of Peter’s coworkers, Sajani, in the issue), so this issue is probably not the last we will see of this aspect of the storyline.
This second issue possesses what can only be described as a thin plot, especially for a standalone story. Some subplots are forwarded (J. Jonah Jameson likes Spider-Man a little bit more, Peter’s coworkers are starting to dislike him, the Vulture will be appearing soon, etc.), but, on the whole, not much of substance happens in this issue. In general, I am a fan of issues that focus more on character development rather than fights and explosions, but there needs to be at least some element of plot-progression occurring, especially when the story, like Superior Spider-Man, is serialized.
Superior Spider-Man’s second issue is above average, but only just. It managed to confront and, apparently resolve, the issue of Ock’s relationship with Mary Jane, but little else of consequence occurs, just leaving the reader with the promise of future consequential occurrences. Thus far, the Superior experiment has been mildly entertaining, but, if the title continues to underwhelm, the shtick will grow tired quick (the rhyme is intentional). Fans of Spider-Man should read this issue, but I wouldn’t recommend the title for those who don’t typically read the character, at least not at this point in the story.