Friday, 22 August 2014

Superior Spider-Man Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy (Marvel NOW!) Review


Superior Spider-Man Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy

SUPERIOR creepiness!
Writer: Dan Slott

Artists: Ryan Stegman and Giuseppe Camuncoli

Collects: Superior Spider-Man #1-5

Background Information:

Peter Parker is dead.

And it’s permanent.

No, really, it is.

What?

STOP LAUGHING! He’s dead!

Okay there ends the jest. But even if Peter Parker hadn’t already come back in the retconned Amazing Spider-Man, it would still be ridiculous to suggest that we’d never see the original Spider-Man again. Characters from Marvel’s mainstream universe never stay dead. Captain America came back, Thor came back almost immediately after he died, and it’s almost a guarantee that Wolverine’s upcoming death will, in fact, only be a temporary hiatus. Nonetheless, in a Spider-Man story called Dying Wish, a near-death Doctor Otto Octavius (also known as Doctor Octopus) switched minds with Peter Parker, causing your friendly neighbourhood hero to die in Otto’s old body while Otto began a new life in Parker’s body. With this new body though, came some fragments of Peter’s memories and Otto found himself determined to become a new, yet far superior version of Spider-Man.

Review:

There are plenty of comic stories that, while good, tend to tread ground that’s too familiar, too safe. They’re plenty enjoyable, but their focus on more of that same-old-same old can make the story somewhat stale. Superior Spider-Man, thankfully, isn’t one of those stories. In fact, it’s become the biggest game-changer for Marvel’s status quo in decades and though the series gained it share of controversy (including alleged death threats from die-hard fans to writer Dan Slott), the change pays off like nothing you’ve seen in years.

SUPERIOR cuddles!
It’s hard to say that there’s a real story to My Own Worst Enemy. Sure, there’s a few different arcs at play here, but that’s not really the point of the collection. My Own Worst Enemy is really about establishing the new Spider-Man’s status quo. In that way, it reminds me of the first issue of Scarlet Spider, only a change to a different status quo instead of establishing a new one.

And what a different status-quo it is!

Otto’s Peter is clearly cut from a different cloth than the Peter we all grew up with. Right from the get-go Otto is fighting crimes the way a supervillain would do. The first issue sees Otto reprogram a robot criminal to be his butler/assistant/minion and help him create new tools. Later, he develops an army of small robots to watch the city. Even the way he fights criminals is far more brutal and rage-fuelled than most superheroes out there.

More than that, the way Otto relates to Peter’s previous supporting cast is totally different too. Otto doesn’t play as well with others. He thinks his boss at Horizon labs beneath him, chooses to distance himself from Mary Jane (even though there are a few problems before that, which I’ll address later), and even makes peace with Mayer J. Jonah Jameson. What’s more, he’s haunted by the remaining memories of Peter Parker, who tries to steer Otto right.

I know, right?

All of this makes for a truly compelling collection and I can see it being a truly compelling series. It is, however, hardly a perfect book. There is one really quite disturbing scene, and people who have read this trade know exactly what I’m talking about.

See, Otto spends an issue trying his best to court Mary Jane Watson. I won’t go too far into it, but suffice to say that Octavius only has one thing on his mind. Thankfully, Otto changes his mind later on in the volume, but that doesn’t make the experience of reading his admittedly sick mind any more pleasant. I have to imagine that Slott thought this was something that we could all relate to, Mary Jane being continually regarded as very attractive, but it comes off as nothing more than perverted and gross. There is nothing entertaining about dirty old men trying to be taken seriously.

SUPERIOR "wooo!"
The art duties are taken by Ryan Stegman in the first few issues and his work is totally on point. Stegman did work on Scarlet Spider and he just seems to get how to draw spider-characters. His artwork is light and his colours are the perfect tonic for those who have grown tired of constantly reading comics that are designed to be “dark and gritty”. I can’t say the same for Camuncoli’s work. It comes off as dirty and not as interesting as Stegman’s. Still passable, but it’s a pity that Stegman couldn’t draw the whole book.

Superior Spider-Man may have a deeply disturbing bit of perversion, but My Own Worst Enemy is still a highly entertaining book that sets up one of the most interesting series Marvel has done for a long time. It gets a four and a half out of five dirty old men.

**** ½

+ Great new status quo.

+ Stegman’s art is great.

- Otto can be kinda’ pervy sometimes.

Alternate Option: Scarlet Spider: Life After Death

It’s another bad-boy Spider, but if a new Peter Parker rubs you the wrong way, this may make up for it.