Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Superior Spider-Man #14 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Another issue, another status quo change.

Thanks to yet another great example of the intro page spoiling a plot twist before it actually happens (pet peeve #1), we learn that Spidey uses his blackmail of JJJ, Jr. to include retroactive sanction for his crime-fighting activities.  Under normal circumstances, JJJ, Jr. might be able to live with that arrangement, claiming credit for Spidey capturing Morbius or killing Hobgoblin.  But, as we saw previewed at the end of last issue, Otto has turned Spider-Man into the general of his own private army, full of Arach-naught personnel-carriers and Spiderling foot-soldiers.  (Spidey’s even got an updated suit to boot, with a pretty wicked set of arms that are reminiscent of Otto’s.)  Spidey takes down Shadowland in this issue and, although Spidey manages not to harm any civilians in the process, JJJ, Jr. clearly sees what Otto’s arrogance blinds him from seeing:  one day, it’s not going to go according to plan and civilians are going to get hurt.

Although the Spider army is cool, I have to say that this issue didn’t really feel like a Spider-Man issue.  One of the problems of Slott pushing Spidey further and further into advanced crime-fighting is that we’re losing the things that make Spidey who he is.  When was the last time that we saw Otto try to juggle his personal life and his vigilante activities?  Where is Peter trying to hustle for money for Web-Fluid?  Even though Peter got over some of his money problems by working at Horizon Labs, he never could’ve afforded what Otto does here.  In fact, it’s unclear how Otto affords what he does here.  Is he really spending his personal fortune on fighting crime?  Moreover, speaking of Horizon, it’s pretty clear, if we ever return to focus on Pete’s personal life, that Max Modell is going to have to fire him, since Otto has ignored his warning not to use Horizon Labs as a weapons-building workshop.  Even if Otto built the Arach-naughts off-site, Peter’s obvious connection to Spider-Man is going to make it hard for Max to buy that.

In other words, this series suddenly became “Iron Man,” all about gizmos and toys and not really about the man.  In fact, the only insight into Spider-Man that we get this issue is when the Kingpin himself figures out that he’s not dealing with the same Spider-Man.  It makes you wonder how Carlie’s investigation is going.  (I’d mention MJ, but, honestly, I can’t remember how we last left her.  Is she still waiting for Peter to save her from the Vulture at her club?)  Slott needs to still include aspects of Spider-Man's previous reality if this series is going to feel like a Spider-Man story.  The return of the Green Goblin is a start, but it has to be Norman Osborn (if it is Norman Osborn) realizing that Spidey isn’t Spidey.  It has to be Norman wanting to fight his old enemy, not an interloper, and helping to bring back Peter Parker.  Otherwise, it’s just going to be more explosions with a different antagonist, and I can get that in any number of series that I'm reading right now.

(Along these lines, I'm in the process of reading old "Amazing Spider-Man" issues and I just re-read issue #200.  To review, Peter thinks that Aunt May is dead at the hands of Uncle Ben's killer and, despite losing his powers temporarily due to Mysterio, stalks the killer.  It's a fascinating issue, in part because Peter is totally and completely unhinged.  He unmasks himself to the burglar and then proceeds to scare him to death, something that he questionably claims isn't his fault.  To Peter, the burglar only died because he truly believed that Spider-Man would kill him, a reflection of his own murderous tendencies and not of Peter's relentless stalking.  I think it stands to reason that the burglar would think that Spidey would kill him, since he had just revealed his identity to him.  But, Peter's take on the situation is a reminder of how Peter hasn't always been the virtuous paragon of good that Slott and others have portrayed him as being; see, for example, issue #700, where Peter decides that he would have to give up being Spider-Man if he survived pushing Otto out a window, since he would've killed Otto.  I have to wonder if we needed to have Otto take over Spider-Man for Peter if Slott would've remembered that Pete was capable of some self-delusional morally ambiguous behavior.  Moreover, the issue was replete with familiar hallmarks of the Spider-Man mythos:  Aunt May, Aunt Anna, Spider-Man losing his powers, Uncle Ben.  It reminded me just how devoid of a connection to his past we are now, something that backed up the conclusions that I drew in this review, which I wrote before I read issue #200.  I'm not saying that we need to be having tea with Aunt Anna every issue, but, again, this series needs something familiar if it's going to keep feeling like a Spider-Man story.)

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