The third issue of Superior Spider-Man turns the tables on Otto Octavius as he must confront an old friend in the body of their greatest enemy. Writer Dan Slott and artist Ryan Stegman remain the creative team for the third straight issue of the new title. The new and supposedly Superior Spider-Man must team up with a doubtful Carlie Cooper in order to bring down one of old cohorts from his Sinister Six days: Adrian Toomes, the Vulture.
J. Jonah Jameson finally accepts that Spider-Man is a heroic figure, so he does what any self-respecting man with the ear of a superhero would do: spider-signal. After something of a misunderstanding, in which Otto manipulates Jameson’s vanity and pride, he is tasked to rein in the criminal doings of the Vulture with Carlie Cooper, the real Peter’s ex-girlfriend. Otto has a history with the man, being the sole scientist members of many incarnations of the Sinister Six, and he has developed both the means to track him, and a surprising method to deal with him. Meanwhile, the consciousness of Peter Parker continues to be flabbergasted, and also discovers that he can delve into Otto’s memories, and traumas. Up until this point Otto has (somehow) been able to fool just about everybody, but Carlie Cooper may be seeing through his ruse.
This issue moves the overall story arc of Superior Spider-Man forward quite a bit, and finally has some actual character development for Otto Octavius. There is another one-and-done villain in this issue, but the most important aspects of the story are the character moments for Otto and Peter. The overall plot of this issue is rather weak in terms of the mystery and the climactic fight scene, but the plot progression makes up for that. Having Peter see Otto’s childhood trauma was a good way to flesh out Doctor Octopus, who is still a very clichéd villain for the most part so the development is sorely needed, while also clarifying some of the specifics of what Peter can and cannot do within the confines of their shared mind.
It is somewhat ironic that the first person Octavius offers mercy to as a “hero” is a particularly nasty villain, but it also makes sense. The past friendship, or least the friendly acquaintanceship, between Otto and Adrian Toomes is logical, so it makes Otto’s disgust with the man more poignant towards the end. Having Otto be disturbed by the harming of children in the Vulture’s criminal schemes makes sense within the confines of this issue, but seems very contradictory considering his last villainous plan would have killed most of the children on the earth, but I guess it can’t be helped when trying to humanize someone as bad as Otto. I also liked that Otto seems to now realize that Spider-Man always held back when fighting just about anyone who wasn’t immortal, even if that reflects poorly on the “unparalleled genius” of Otto Octavius.
This issue, thankfully, does not use Peter Parker as the comic relief for Superior Spider-Man, and sees him taking a more proactive stance despite his incorporeal form, seeing him looking within the mind the Otto more and having him attempt to temper Otto’s more extreme approach. Peter is used less in this issue than the last; his appearance is much more effective here, with this issue having Peter be an actual character, instead of a quipping Greek chorus.
The character of the Vulture revamped for the second time in a year, with another power upgrade long overdue. The Vulture always seemed to be a ridiculous villain to me. I like the power-set, the appearance, and the character, but he was just never strong enough to believably be more than a minor nuisance for the wall-crawler (not something unique to the Vulture), but in this issue his abilities are amped up considerably, so he seems a legitimate threat. Carlie Cooper also continues to be used well, which is refreshing after an extended period where presence in the Spider-Man world could only be described as shoehorned.
The art of Superior Spider-Man continues to be strong, and Stegman still appears to be a perfect fit for the title. His pencils seem a little rough in this issue, but they are still excellent and quite evocative of the slightly darker tone of this title, despite the inherently silly premise (mind swaps are silly). Stegman’s Spider-Man is better than his Peter Parker, but this issue sees a lot more of Spider-Ock in costume rather than out of it. I will be disappointed when Stegman’s turn in the rotation is up; I believe Ramos (ugh) is next.
This the best issue of Superior Spider-Man thus far, and probably Dan Slott’ best issue since Spider-Island, and it is the first that I feel actually bodes well for the story on the whole. The concept of Superior Spider-Man will undoubtedly get old before too long (six months to a year), so it good that the story is moving at a brisk pace, even if the core concept is still dubious to the say the least. I enjoyed this issue, and I hope Dan Slott can keep it up, but my reservations are far from gone.