TITLE: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 4: Necessary Evil
AUTHOR: Dan Slott
PENCILLERS: Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli
COLLECTS: The Superior Spider-Man #17-21
RELEASED: January 15, 2014
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Necessary Evil doesn’t really pick up steam until we’re past the halfway point, when Otto Octavius (who remember, is in Peter Parker’s body), makes a major change to his status quo, and has an emotional yet confusing reunion with an old flame. But before those things happen, the timestream becomes a tangled web in its own right, as the present and the future become intertwined.
In the year 2099, Tyler Stone, head of the Alchemax corporation, is being erased from the fabric of history. Thus, Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of 2099, and Stone’s biological son, travels through time to find the source of the problem in the year 2013. Low and behold, he finds Peter Parker acting very strangely, and is at odds with his grandfather Tiberius Stone, who has been developing technology for use against the present-day Spider-Man. Thus, to keep his family’s lineage intact, not to mention the fabric of time, Miguel O’Hara must face off against the Superior Spider-Man!
While I have nothing against the 2099 universe, from a plot standpoint, the first three issues in this book represent the low point of The Superior Spider-Man thus far. The time portal at Horizon Labs leads nicely into the creation of Parker Labs, Otto/Peter’s own corporate empire. But the saga of Miguel, his father, and the potential unraveling of the 2099 status quo left me feeling bored.
That being said, the blue costume is still pretty damn cool, as is seeing it in battle against the Superior Spidey outfit. Ryan Stegman gives us an epic two-page spread in issue #17 (shown at left). He also draws the literal “unraveling” of Miguel and Tyler Stone very well. But what takes the cake as far as Stegman is concerned is the creepy memory sequence in issue #19, in which classic Steve Ditko and John Romita panels are used with Otto’s face in place of Peter/Spider-Man’s. It creates a creepy, eerie vibe that meshes wonderfully with the idea that Otto’s villainous impulses are starting to get the better of him. Thus, the art works very well, despite a story that’s somewhat bland overall.
Thankfully, things get back in track in issue #20, when we get the highlight of the book: A scene between Black Cat and Superior Spidey. In the scope of the series as a whole, the scene has no long-term ramifications (at least not yet). But it’s got that great Spider-Man humor/action balance. Spidey encounters Black Cat on a rooftop, and when she comes at him with her “Hello Lover,” routine, he punches her in the goddamn face, and then webs her up for the cops. In the best possible way, it’s exactly what you’d expect from an Otto/Felicia Hardy encounter. What’s more, Giuseppe Camuncoli gives Cat just the right amount of sex appeal, and beautifully turns her from welcoming, to shocked, to enraged within the span of three pages. He’s also excellent with the furry pieces of her costume.
Angelina Brancale, a.k.a Stunner, awakens from a coma. Quick history lesson: Angelina is an obese woman who became a guinea pig for a virtual reality technology created by Doctor Octopus. As such, she was able to become the muscle-bound Stunner. Stunner and Otto eventually fell for each other. Eventually, to save Otto’s life, Angelina takes part in a ritual that places her in a coma. When she wakes up and learns that Otto was “killed” by Spider-Man, she uses Otto’s old virtual reality technology to become Stunner again. The ensuing battle places Otto/Peter’s current flame, Anna Maria Marconi, in harm’s way, and Otto is forced to confront Angelina with the truth. This results in a genuinely sad scene between the two. Surprisingly, Otto doesn’t come out of the situation looking like a heel. He’s simply a man following his heart. You don’t have to do any research on Stunner to get the gist of what her relationship to Otto is, and how impacted and heartbroken she is by his apparent death. From a certain standpoint, she’s a rather sympathetic character.
Speaking of sympathy, poor Anna Maria Marconi still has no idea of the heartbreak she’s (presumably) in for. In addition to the returns of Black Cat and Stunner, issue #20 also sees Otto/Peter take Anna Maria out on a picnic dinner above the city on a sheet of webbing, the life of which has now been elongated indefinitely until “I activate a dissolving agent. I always try to keep improving.” To yours truly, this scene cuts the premise of Peter Parker developing technology for Spider-Man a bit too close. It’s a really nice visual. But during a moment like this, an alarm should be going off in Anna’s head. “Hey, wait a minute. This dude might not just be Spider-Man’s tech guy…”
While the 2099 elements were, from my perspective, a flop, Dan Slott continues to give us good Spider-Man. Necessary Evil just doesn’t represent his best Spider-Man. And as far as The Superior Spider-Man is concerned, hopefully the best is yet to come.
Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from jthenr-comics-vault.tumblr.com. Image 3 from spidermanreviews.com.
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