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Waiting for the Trade Superior Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

Superior Spider-man (1): My Own Worst Enemy
By Dan Slott, Ryam Stegman and Giuseppe Camumcoli
Collects Superior Spider-man 1 -5.

Why I bought this: The last trade (ASM 698-700) was epic and I needed to read the follow up.

The Plot: Doc Ock switched brains with Peter Parker and then Ock’s body with Parker in it died leaving Ock as the new Spider-man. This trade is Ock’s first days in his new role.
Spoilers after the break

Chapter 1 – Ock finds a new Sinister Six made up of C-listers and takes them on but after taking a few hits decides it isn’t worth taking a beating and attempts to flee. When a civilian is endangered he turns around and saves the day but the Six escape. In his day job Ock is doing Peter’s science job better than Peter but frets how he will never get credit for it. He then goes on a date with MJ. Later he tracks down the Six and takes them down hard. He is about to kill one of them when we see Peter’s ghost arrive and subliminally makes Ock stop.

Chapter 2 – Ghost Peter is horrified that JJJ has finally endorsed Spidey and that MJ is dating him and does not notice he is a different person. Later MJ is attacked by mini-Vultures. Ock saves her and breaks up with her. MJ relates the failed dates to Carlie Cooper, who begins to suspect the truth. (Peter in Ock’s body had told Cooper the truth in the last trade but she didn’t believe him at the time).

Chapter 3 – Ock traces the mini-Vultures back to the real deal and is horrified to learn Vulture is using children as his underlings. Their fight gets violent and ends with Spidey hospitalizing Vulture in front of Cooper furthering her suspicions.

Chapter 4 – In a stunning splash page Spidey releases little spider-bots across the city so Ock can monitor everything. He makes a few arrests and then accompanies Aunt May to a doctor’s office. When he learns May needs a cane to walk so he decides to invent a cure for all spinal injuries, which horrifies Ghost Peter and the Horizon employees for some reason. We also get a funny moment when Ock releaizes that as Peter he is no longer a doctor as Peter never even got his master’s degree. This prompts Ock to enroll in college again. Meanwhile Massacre escapes from Ravencroft killing 90s’ supporting character Dr. Kafka in the process. Jameson and Spidey are called to the scene and Jameson makes Spidey promise to kill Massacre next time they meet. Massacre meanwhile lives up to his name in a diner full of civilians. In the cliffhanger we see the Green Goblin is back in NYC.

Chapter 5 – Massacre blackmails a Cola CEO into funding him to kill her competitors. As Peter, Ock meets his new tutor for school: a female midget named Anna Marconi and they have an enjoyable dinner. Massacre begins killing cops in the subway until Spidey arrives, disarms him and fatally shoots him much to Ghost Peter’s horror. He then uses his spiderbots to expose the CEO from the start of the chapter vowing to watch over and take responsibility for everything in the city.

Critical Thoughts: Overall this is very good. The concept alone is one of the most original things I’ve ever seen in comics which is saying something when you consider has 50 years of history spread out over 1,000 individual issues. We’ve seen heroes replaced before (Cap, Thor and Iron Man come to mind) but usually it is by other heroes and the key supporting cast know a switch has been made. Here we have a villain taking up the hero’s mantle and on top of that no one knows Peter is gone including his loved ones. It is a strong concept and Ock is in many ways the perfect villain to execute it with. 1) he’s always been show to be driven by ego even in his most villainous moments (threatening to blow up NYC so everyone would know he was superior to them or the recent Ends of the Earth arc) yet he has also had moments of altruism over the years (trying to cure AIDS, helping Sue Richards during childbirth, curing Peter when he was poisoned during the Clone Saga). Thus the idea that once he finished off Peter and had Peter’s powers he would try to take advantage of his fresh start and prove he could be a better hero than Peter ever was fits very nicely into past continuity.

I also like Ock’s initial reactions to his new life. I like him running away in that first fight and thinking Peter had to be insane to fight the kind of odds he often did. I love his outrage at not being a doctor anymore and his disappointment that his name won’t be the one to get credit for any science accomplishments he makes at Horizon. It all just rings true in a character sense.

I also thought the villains are well portrayed, particularly Vulture. I like the art a lot. I like the pacing in terms of setting up future events (Carlie’s suspicions, the Goblin’s return). I also thought the ending was very strong, with Ock taking Peter’s responsibility  catchphrase and spinning into an NSA/Orewellian style nightmare as a natural extension of what an egomaniacal mad scientist would do if he was trying to be a responsible hero. 

However, there is a big con and that is Ghost Peter arrives way too soon and brings little to the table. Look we all knew from day one Peter was coming back but we didn’t need to see him this soon. Chapter 2 is by far the weakest entry in this trade with the Peter’s constant narration on Ock’s actions just irritating. Worse it over simplifies the story. We all know Ock is going to fail at being Spider-man. But for the story to have meaning Ock’s failures and successes need to be his own and not caused by the subliminal influence of Peter.

The Mary Jane subplot is also kind of weak, but in that case I’ll give Slott a pass because it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. If Ock beds Mary Jane there are going to be cries of rape. If he ignores her she would know something is up and fans would complain she’s being marginalized in a story where she should have a presence. This way Ock rids himself of her in a way that sidesteps the first issue, but also keeps her loyal to Peter on a subconscious level and contributes to the Cooper subplot. Overall probably the best that could be done in terms of service to a long-term story with Ock as Peter.

Grade B+.  There is a lot more good than bad here, and even more promising is seeds are being set to let the concept grow and improve in the future.