A Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Imperial Machine Review – Year One, Day One

TITLE: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine
AUTHOR: 
Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Giuseppe Camuncoli. Cover by Jim Cheung and Matthew Wilson.
COLLECTS: Darth Vader #16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: 
November 22, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Can we talk about the lightsaber for a minute? Because to be honest, I’m getting sick of them. Specifically, their overblown importance.

I’ve talked previously about how I subscribe to what I’ll call the Red Letter Media theory on lightsaber use. Generally, the less we see of them, the more impactful it is when someone finally ignites one. This becomes apparent when watching the prequel trilogy. But in recent years, lightsabers have been getting a strange in-universe reverence. Not just as cool or dangerous weapons, but artifacts with an increasing amount of personal and spiritual symbolism. They’re almost characters unto themselves. I understand this from a marketing standpoint, as a lightsaber is a fanboy’s wet dream. But to me it makes little sense from an in-story perspective.

Mind you, there is a certain precedent for it. Lightsabers act as an instantly recognizable symbol for the Jedi Order. Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsaber, which later plays a prominent role in The Force Awakens. Luke builds his own lightsaber, which we see in Return of the Jedi. General Grievous collected lightsabers like trophies from fallen Jedi. So let’s not go so far as to say they have no significance at all.

But while I appreciated the use of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens as a link to the past, and a sort of symbol of for the Skywalker family, the notion that the weapon itself “calls to” Rey was a little much for me. What the weapon symbolizes is one thing. Giving it special powers is another.

Rarely will you find a better example of this strange lightsaber reverence than in Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine. Immediately after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine sends Vader on a mission to obtain a new lightsaber for himself. “I have very high hopes for what we might achieve together,” the Emperor says. “But first…you will need your lightsaber.” Vader must take a lightsaber from a surviving Jedi and use the dark side to corrupt the kyber crystal inside. Make it “bleed.” Obtaining this new weapon won’t be easy. But it is the first trial the former Anakin Skywalker must now face as a dark lord of the Sith.

So because the kyber crystals are “alive” in their own way, Sith lords use their anger to make them “bleed,” thus the red lightsaber. The idea itself is actually pretty neat. But did it merit an entire story based around it? Did Darth Vader’s lightsaber really need an origin story?  I don’t think so.

This strikes me as the kind of thing they could have explained in a scene before Vader goes off on his first big mission. Or maybe a one-shot where Palpatine gives Vader a kyber crystal, and shows him how to corrupt it. At first Vader has trouble, but he conjures up images of Obi-Wan and Padme and gets the job done. It didn’t need to be the motivation for an entire story arc.

More interesting than Vader’s quest to steal a lightsaber is the surviving Jedi he’s tasked with taking it from. Kirak Infil’a has taken the “Barash Vow.” Under said vow, the individual in question must cut themselves off from Jedi affairs, living only for the Force. It sounds suspiciously like what Luke is doing when Rey finds him on Ahch-To. Kirak also has his hair pulled back in two braids, just as Rey’s is in the Last Jedi footage we’ve seen. Coincidence? Probably. But you never know…

It’s almost always interesting to see Vader’s agony at the loss of Padme, the state of his body, and all that’s come as a result of his actions. It’s a glimpse into the hellish reality his existence has become. We see surprisingly little of that in Imperial Machine, given how soon this is after Revenge of the Sith. It is touched on effectively, however, in issue #5. As Vader is trying to bend the crystal to his will, a scenario plays out in his mind in which he turns on Palpatine and re-unites with Obi-Wan. He’s fantasizing about making things right, and perhaps atoning for his actions. In theory, that’s a path he can take. But of course, he doesn’t. Not yet, at least.

I spent a good amount of time ragging on Salvador Larroca for some of the work he did on the previous Darth Vader book. Namely drawing certain characters based off still shots from the various movies. The upside to this approach, however, is that Larroca draws a picture-perfect Vader. For me, if you can get that mask right then half the battle is won.

Giuseppe Camuncoli gives us a different kind of Darth Vader. It’s hardly picture-perfect. For instance, I’m not a fan of the panel at left. But I nevertheless find Camuncoli’s version more artistically pure. He’s creating of his own mind, and at no point do I feel taken out of this book when I see a familiar image of Vader or Palpatine, pulled from a movie still. That’s a trade I’m willing to make.

Camuncoli, along with inker Cam Smith and colorist David Curiel, waste little time in ripping up Vader’s iconic suit. It’s already in tatters by issue #2. Things only get worse when we get into the fight with Kirak Infil’a. We end up with a partially skeletonized version of Vader’s suit, which he pieces together using droid parts after being incapacitated and effectively broken in combat. In the opening pages of issue #4 we see him using the Force to put all the little pieces into place so he can haul himself to his feet. It’s an awesome visual, and a fun callback to Anakin’s expertise with machines. It’s later followed up on in issue #6, when Vader gets to repair the suit to his liking.

Issue #6 takes us into the next arc, which will feature the Inquisitors we saw in Star Wars: Rebels. We get a confrontation between Vader and the Grand Inquisitor in the Jedi Temple, which is pretty decent. Fittingly, Vader’s next target will be someone Star Wars fans recognize as a face from the Jedi Temple…

I maintain there was no need to end the previous Darth Vader book. We all knew Marvel would come back to the character eventually. There’s no shortage of creators to work on the life and times of the dark lord. While I have a major gripe with a lightsaber being Vader’s motivation in this story, Imperial Machine is still a solid read with mostly good art. Star Wars fans who aren’t as finicky as I am will enjoy it.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Advertisements

A Suicide Squad: Going Sane Review – The Harley Quinn Show

TITLE: Suicide Squad, Vol. 2: Going Sane
AUTHOR: Rob Williams
PENCILLER:
Jim Lee, Riley Rossmo, Sean Galloway, Stephen Byrne, Carlos D’Anda, Giuseppe Gamuncoli
COLLECTS: Suicide Squad #58Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad April Fool’s Day Special #1
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
June 7, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Suicide Squad, Vol. 2 should really be called The Harley Quinn Show. The story doesn’t revolve around her, but she’s clearly the star. We even learn that one of the characters is a Harley fangirl. DC obviously knows what side its bread gets buttered on…

Our main story picks up from where The Black Vault left off, with General Zod and the vault being held in Belle Reeve Penitentiary. But the vault, a gateway into the Phantom Zone, is effecting everyone in the prison. It’s pushing them to the brink of insanity, enticing them to kill. But it’s having the opposite effect on Harley Quinn. Her sanity is restored. Thus she may be the only one capable of saving the world from Zod.

Oddly enough, several years ago there was a Batman story called “Going Sane” that shares a similar concept with this book. The Joker thinks Batman is dead, so his sanity recedes and he tries to live a normal life. It’s not a great story. But the whole sanity reversal thing has a little more depth to it than what we get here, which is essentially the flick of a light switch.

I actually don’t have a problem with how they handle the whole sanity/insanity turn. But whenever Suicide Squad gets too Harley heavy, I have the same reaction to when a Justice League story lays it on too thick with Batman. “Over-Baturation,” if you will. That’s how Going Sane left me feeling. A team story where a specific character has an arc is one thing. Laying it on too thick is another.

What puts it over the top is that the one-shot Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad April Fool’s Special is collected in this volume. I imagine they put it here, as opposed to Vol. 1, because the story goes with the whole going sane theme. It sees Harley trying to use her skills as a psychotherapist to redeem other supervillains, Most notably Man-Bat. It’s mostly fine on its own. But when paired with our main story, it’s too much Harley. To some, I’m sure that notion is blasphemous. I don’t care. Too much of anything is a drawback.

Going Sane is more or less a superpowered prison riot popcorn flick. I can get behind that. In a lot of ways, that’s what Suicide Squad should be. Aiding in the proceedings is that it’s all pencilled by Jim Lee. Thus, it’s got an added sense of epicness and gravitas. Lee, inkers Richard Friend and Sandra Hope, and colorist Jeremiah Skipper obviously make everybody look good. Harley in particular (see above). Skipper gets to have some fun with the lighting at various points. Most of this takes place in Belle Reeve. But they shake the scenery up with red and yellow sunlight generators, the purple glow that surrounds the Black Vault, the power going out, etc.

I can’t recall seeing Lee draw Man-Bat prior to the April Fool’s one-shot. But he makes him every bit as detail-rich and monstrous as you’d expect. We also see Batman, Joker, and the Justice League in that issue, bringing back plenty of memories from Hush and Justice League: Origin. Lee’s frequent collaborator Alex Sinclair colors that story, which ups the nostalgia factor in that regard.

One thing I still don’t understand: Why did Zod have to be so damn huge? They explained it by saying it had to do with how he came out of the Black Vaullt. At one point they have him clamped down on this giant contraption like he’s Doomsday or Bane. Later, he nearly crushes Captain Boomerang by simply falling on him. Was this an artistic choice so he’d look more imposing? I suppose it fits with the tone of the book. But you know what’s really imposing? A guy who can bend steel with his fists and melt flesh with heat vision. Take that into account, and it doesn’t really matter how tall you are, does it?

Also, Killer Croc and June Moon (Enchantress) apparently have sex in this book (shown above). So, there’s that. Their romance is actually a nice little addition to the book. In issue #5, Croc has what I would guess is his most romantic line ever: “I…want to eat everyone. I don’t want to eat you.” But much like with Hulk and Viv Vision, I can’t help getting caught up in the physical “mechanics” of it all. How does it even work? Do I even want to know? Probably not.

As was the case in Vol. 1, we get a bunch of character-centric back-up stories. This time we focus on a new character called Hack, as well as Killer Croc, and Enchantress. We also get a look at Killer Frost in preparation for Justice League vs. Suicide Squad.

The best of the bunch is the Killer Croc story, pencilled by Carlos D’Anda (shown below). We see Waylon Jones as a vulnerable young boy with a tragic skin condition. Rob Williams plays the sympathy card with Croc, as we often see with other Batman villains. But it’s as effective as always, especially with the big expressive eyes D’Anda gives Waylon.

Hack, a young woman who can transform herself into digital data, found herself inspired by Harley Quinn as she grew up impoverished in Africa. Like Harley with the Joker, Hack’s choice of role model was to her own detriment. The backup, illustrated by Stephen Byrne, is fine. Hack is intriguing, and as this book illustrates, her powers open up some interesting doors. But if you’ve read ahead, you know Suicide Squad doesn’t necessarily use her to her fullest potential.

The series loses a little bit of its momentum here. But Harley Quinn fans and comic art buffs will find something in Suicide Squad, Vol. 2: Going Sane. It’s not a creative highlight, but it’s at least worth a glance.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

A Batman: Europa #1 Review – European Vacation

Batman: Europa #1 cover, Jim LeeTITLE: Batman: Europa #1
AUTHORS: Matteo Casali, Brian Azzarello
PENCILLERS: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jim Lee
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: November 18, 2015

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead for Batman: Europa #1.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Considering how long Batman: Europa has been in development (it was originally announced in 2004), you’d think they’d have taken the time to iron all the kinks out of it.

They didn’t.

Europa brings Batman and The Joker together again. But this time, our arch rivals have a common enemy. Both are infected with a deadly virus that will kill them within a week. But can Batman do the unthinkable and team with The Joker? He may have no choice if he’s to survive.

Batman: Europa #1, page 5, Jim LeeQuick history lesson: Europa is Jim Lee’s brainchild. Having spent a year in Italy with his family, Lee wanted a way to work on DC characters with European creators. Thus, Europa. Since 2004, this four-issue miniseries has had a few false starts. But now all four issues are solicited to hit the stands by January. All four issues have layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli, and each feature a different penciller. Lee drew this issue, and by God, he got me right in the feels.

Batman: Hush is a sentimental favorite of mine. It’s the story that got me to start picking up comic books every week, as opposed to only reading trades. So seeing Lee return to these versions of Batman, Joker, and Alfred is very special. Mind you, this is a scratchier style than we usually see accompany Lee’s pencils. His stuff usually looks very crisp, with an abundance of line work to show. That’s not the case here, and it takes some getting used to. But good art is good art, and Lee is truly one of the masters of the dynamic superhero comic. It’s just a shame this is it for him on this story.

But while the art is marvelous to look at, the writing is where we run into problems.

Casali and Azzarello try and start the issue on an intense note, with Batman and Joker both bleeding and on the verge of death. The implication is they’ve just been in a fight. But while I hate to come off childish about this, the narration from Batman comes off as downright homoerotic (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I’ll give you some of the dialogue here. Tell me it doesn’t sound like there’s a certain subtext…

Batman: Europa #1, page 2, Jim Lee“I never thought it would end like this. Him. Me. Our blood on each others lips. … Believing he could go this far is easy. Me, though? I’m another story. But this time I’m ready to go all the way. And do it.”

Throw in the fact that on the cover The Joker’s hand appears to be over Batman’s crotch, and you’re giving a lot of ammunition for the less mature fanboys to use. What I’m wondering is how this didn’t occur to anyone involved in the creative process. I’m looking at you, editors!

Taking Batman to actual locations outside the United States is hardly a new concept. But Europa promises to take him to a variety of European destinations. Issue #1 takes us to Berlin, and future issues will bring us to Prague, Paris, and Rome. Considering our writers spend just a tad too much time romanticizing Berlin, I’m concerned not only about how much time they’ll spend doing that in other locations, but about how contrived all the traveling may seem. I understand the point of this story is to put our main characters in different environments. But keep in mind that Batman and The Joker are supposed to be working together here. This partnership should have a hard time lasting four minutes. The notion that it could last long enough for them to travel across Europe together makes me afraid this is going to come off like a very dark version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Still, even if it does turn out to be a stinker, Europa is an excuse for Jim Lee to get some more time with Batman. It’s tough to complain about that.

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from techtimes.com.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition. 

A Review of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 – Spider-Man Inc.

The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2015)TITLE: The Amazing Spider-Man #1
AUTHOR: Dan Slott
PENCILLER: Giuseppe Camuncoli. Cover by Alex Ross.
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $5.99
RELEASED: October 7, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Toy companies love to put Spider-Man in cars, on motorcycles, vehicles in general. The frustrated fanboy in me really dislikes that. After all, he’s Spider-Man! What does he need a car for?

Low and behold, Dan Slott (who may be the definitive Spidey scribe of the last decade) and Giuseppe Camuncoli answer the question in The Amazing Spider-Man #1. Spider-Man doesn’t need a car. He wants a car. In this issue he gets that and more.

Part of Marvel’s “All New All Different” relaunch, The Amazing Spider-Man #1 shows us that Parker Industries has done rather well for itself. In addition to the new “Webware” smartwatch, Peter Parker’s corporation is developing tech for S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as his own Spider-Man ventures. He’s also got his very own Spidey body double in Hobie Brown, a.k.a. Prowler. But as Peter is spread thinner than ever at the head of Parker Industries, Spider-Man must face attacks from The Zodiac. What’s more, Parker Industries is facing attacks from within.

The Amazing Spider-Man #1, Giuseppe CamuncoliThis issue also comes with a nice little Spidey sampler, pulling from a few other different books in the Spider-Man line. Thanks to the events of Secret Wars, we’ve got no shortage of Spider-Man material out there.

This issue introduces us to Peter Parker’s new global initiative, not just as Spider-Man, but as the head of his own company. It’s a little bit like Batman Incorporated in that with help, Peter is trying to reach his fullest potential as a hero and a humanitarian. He’s got a S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison in Mockingbird, Anna Maria Marconi working on tech stuff at the company’s London branch, his old friends from Horizon Labs running an institute for technology in San Francisco, and he’s got Hobie doing Spidey stuff when he’s not around. He’s also linked to Miguel O’Hara, a.k.a. the Spider-Man of 2099. I can only assume he has ties to Miles Morales, who’s also swinging around New York. As such, the scope of this story is huge.

Screen shot 2015-10-08 at 12.29.59 AMNaturally, there opportunities aplenty for the ol’ Parker luck to strike. I’m particularly interested in Peter using Hobie as an alternate Spider-Man. He flat out tells Peter he’s not comfortably in the role, and that’s demonstrated when he fails to stop The Zodiac at the wedding of Max Modell. Asking Hobie to assume his identity, while Spider-Man is also serving as a mascot of sorts for Parker Industries is a tall task. It’s also a giant risk that Peter may end up regretting.

There’s enough heart in Peter’s strategy with Parker Industries that you want him to succeed, but at the same time know it’s doomed to fail. Slott lets us know that Peter only pays himself a middle-management salary, which certainly makes him look heroic in an era where people love to talk about “the top 1 percent.” We also see him start the Uncle Ben Fondation, which believe it or not isn’t dedicated to rice in some way. But at the same time, lines like: “With great power…comes greater speed, storage, and battery life” feel wrong coming out of his mouth. This is the point, of course. It’s supposed to feel like an ill fit. So in that sense, Slott’s got something here.

The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2015), Peter Parker, fly downGiuseppe Camuncoli and the artistic team add some lighting to the Spider-Man eyes and chest emblem, which again, brings Batman Incorporated to mind. Camuncoli brings his usual blend of stylized realism to the mix. As it turns out, he draws a hell of a Spider-Mobile. And it looks damn good in what was definitely the most suspenseful comic book car chase I’ve seen in quite some time!

And so, the next chapter in Dan Slott’s historic run on Spider-Man continues. He’s been able to stay fairly consistent since he took over in 2010. So the smart bet is he’ll have taken us on quite a ride by the time Parker Industries comes crumbling down.

 Images from author’s collection.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/

A Review of Superior Spider-Man: Necessary Evil – The Future is Back

The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 4: Necessary EvilTITLE: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 4: Necessary Evil
AUTHOR: Dan Slott
PENCILLERS: Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli
COLLECTS: The Superior Spider-Man #17-21
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $17.99
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!

The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 4, Spidey 2099While 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.

014-200x300Thankfully, 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.

The Superior Spider-Man, Anna Maria MarconiSpeaking 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.

RATING: 7/10

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from jthenr-comics-vault.tumblr.com. Image 3 from spidermanreviews.com.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/

A Superior Spider-Man: No Escape Review – A Sinister Spidey

The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 3: No EscapeTITLE: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 3: No Escape

AUTHORS: Dan Slott, Christos Gage
PENCILLERS: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Humberto Ramos
COLLECTS: The Superior Spider-Man #11-16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: November 20, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This book has the wrong title. Instead of No Escape, it should really be No Rules. At this point, with the Superior Spider-Man (who, remember, is Otto Octavius’ mind in Peter Parker’s body) totally free of influence from Peter Parker’s consciousness, he’s free to do things his way. And as we find out in this book, that means most traditional superhero rules are out the window.

When we open No Escape, Alistair Smythe, a.k.a. the Spider-Slayer, and the man who killed Mayor J. Jonah Jameson’s wife, is scheduled to be executed at the Raft maximum security prison. Jameson brings in Spider-Man to ensure Smythe’s sentence is carried out. But of course, as Jameson himself says, “…madmen like Smythe always have some kind of escape plan.” And indeed, he does. It involves the Vulture, Scorpion, Boomerang, and a fight to the death. Later, Spidey takes the fight to both the Kingpin and the Hobgoblin in a manner most definitely not Spidey-like. In effect, it’s villain vs. villain.

Superior Spider-Man #14What I really enjoyed about No Escape is the way Otto, for better or worse, makes the Spider-Man identity his own. In issue #14, the costume changes to incorporate MUCH more black. Also, in a change befitting Doctor Octopus, Spidey now wears a back pack with four retractable arms. To add to his legion of Spider-Bots, our anti-hero has now constructed the much larger Arachnaughts, and has recruited an army of “Spiderlings” to carry out his bidding (“Minions, attend me!”). He marches his new forces straight up to Shadowland, the Kingpin’s fortress in the middle of New York City, and friggin’ tears the damn thing down with the intent to murder the crime boss. Granted, he keeps all the civilians safe via force field. But even so, attempting to murder a supervillain via the destruction of an occupied building is hardly heroic, is it? Nor is the way the Superior Spidey deals with Phil Urich, a.k.a. the Hobgoblin, by “outing” him via a broadcast to all of New York City, creating a hell of a hazard in the offices of The Daily Bugle. Heck, we even see him blackmail Jameson to get him under his thumb! Not to mention what ends up happening to Smythe…

Superior Spider-Man, to the deathObviously, Slott is using Otto to feed some of our innate desires to give supervillains what they really deserve. Superior Spidey is doing things to them that they’d have no problem doing to innocent people. Thus, a darker brand of justice is served. I suspect we’ll eventually get to see all of this come back to bite Spidey, however, whether it’s Peter Parker or Otto Octavius under the mask. This would, of course, illustrate that despite the short-term satisfaction gained from Otto’s methods, they’ve ultimately only created larger problems.

We also see a bit more of Anna Maria Marconi, Peter/Otto’s little person love interest, in this book. Slott continues to endear her to us, and quite frankly, she’s become the Ahsoka Tano of the Spider-Man universe. We know something bad is going to happen to her. Either she’s going to have her heart broken when Peter eventually returns to his rightful role as Spider-Man, or Otto’s going to do something dastardly and she’ll be swept up in it. Either way, the more her relationship with Peter/Otto grows, the greater the impact will be when that other shoe finally falls. So kudos to Slott and the creative team for making me care about this character. But man, talk about backing the wrong horse…

No Escape had a tough act to follow. It’s predecessor, A Troubled Mind, gave us a truly epic confrontation between Peter Parker and Otto Octavius. This book doesn’t have anything like that. But make no mistake about it, the magic is still there. From a quality standpoint, The Superior Spider-Man is still one of Marvel’s top books. Call me a blasphemer if you must, but I feel no great need to give Peter Parker his body back any time soon.

RATING: 8/10

Image 1 from twilitdreams.wordpress.com. Image 2 from followingthenerd.com.

A Superior Spider-Man: My Own Worst Enemy Review – Invasion of the Body Switcher

The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 1: My Own Worst EnemyTITLE: The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy
AUTHOR: Dan Slott
PENCILLER: Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli
COLLECTS: The Superior Spider-Man #1-5
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: May 29, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Superior Spider-Man is one of the few superhero titles I’ve ever read that really has the total package. It’s got action, drama, comedy, new characters, classic characters used in new and interesting ways, an agonizing predicament for our hero. In terms of a new Spider-Man series, there’s really not much more you can ask for.

The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 1: My Own Worst EnemyPeter Parker is dead…sort of. In the final issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, a dying Dr. Octopus switched bodies with the wall crawler. A short time later, despite his best efforts, Peter died in his old enemies frail body. But in taking Spider-Man’s body, Otto also gained access to Peter’s memories. After seeing all his old enemy has gone through, Otto is inspired to leave his life as a villain behind and pick up where Peter left off. Vowing to become a superior Spider-Man, he takes to the city streets. But although he has Peter’s memories, Otto hasn’t absorbed all of Parker’s noble resolve. And he certainly isn’t playing by the same rules. In some ways, Otto will indeed improve on what Peter started. But in others he’ll take a decidedly darker, more violent approach. But even the brilliant Otto doesn’t know that a small part of Peter still exists inside his mind…

It’s a lot of fun to read The Superior Spider-Man. More than anything, what impresses me about My Own Worst Enemy is is the way Slott and the creative team use this predicament between Otto and Peter as a tool for both comedy and drama. In some ways, Octavius is very much the mustache-twirling supervillain here. he talks to his colleagues like they’re minions, when he’s in the lab he dresses like a mad scientist, and he lets the creepy supervillain laugh loose in public. He’s also more than a little excited about getting the girl, i.e. Mary Jane Watson. Some of the things Ryan Stegman does with Otto/Peter’s body language is great.

Superior1_04But at the same time, there’s some pretty heavy stuff happening here. We flash back to Otto’s childhood traumas and see how they continue to influence him. He beats a few supervillains half to death, including his old pal the Vulture when they unknowingly hit too close to home. And inevitably, we get the “Why don’t I just kill the bad guys?” question. It’s great character work, and it humanizes Otto very well. We’re rooting for Peter, of course. But we’re also rooting for Otto to learn the correct lessons and do the right thing. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. Such is the way of things, I suppose.

One of my favorite Chicago area comic book writers, Dirk Manning, once wrote that Dan Slott was born to write The Amazing Spider-Man. As it turns out, he may also have been born to write The Superior Spider-ManMy Own Worst Enemy is a story which provides the darkness you’d expect from an in-depth look at a villain like Doc Ock. But it manages to balance it with the action and humor fans come to expect from good Spider-Man stories. And despite the controversy this series sparked, this is good Spider-Man.

RATING: 9/10

Images from comicvine.com.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/