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.

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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.

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First Impressions: Scarlet Spider #1Whispers

Scarlet Spider #1, 2012TITLE: Scarlet Spider #1
AUTHOR: Christopher Yost
PENCILLER: Ryan Stegman
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: January 11, 2012

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I suspect The Scarlet Spider #1 is a more fulfilling read if you have an understanding of the Kaine character, and what he’s gone through since his debut over 15 years ago. If you do have that knowledge, congratulations! You have more patience for unraveling tangled plot threads than I do! Either way, this book is alright.

A spinoff from Marvel’s recent Spider-Island storyline (which was then briefly continued in Marvel Point One), this new series tells the story of Kaine, a clone of Peter Parker who was deemed a failure by his creator, The Jackal. Kaine subsequently became a villain, but was ultimately redeemed. We’ve seen a few characters take on this Scarlet Spider identity, most notably Ben Reilly (also a Parker clone), but this is Kaine’s first crack at it. It’s also his first crack at being a hero. He’s got some lessons to learn, and he’ll need to curb his murderous instincts, but ultimately it looks like Kaine’s heart is in the right place.

This issue is more or less what I expected it to be: Anti-hero Spider-Man. He goes through the usual “I’m not a hero, this isn’t who I am, I’m not like [insert hero’s name]” sort of thing, but predictably starts to come around at the end. The story is fine, and the character is fine. It was just rather predictable.

Scarlet Spider #1, 2012, Ryan Stegman, interiorI do have to take my hat off to Ryan Stegman, and whomever else was involved with the layouts on this issue. A few of the early pages in this issue have spiders pencilled on top of the art work, so it looks like we’re literally looking into a comic book that’s got spiders crawling all over it. I’ve never seen this done before, and it’s a really nice touch! Other than that, Stegman’s art can be a bit on the cartoony side sometimes, but all in all he does a good job.

Amidst the predictable stuff, we did get a lovely moment where Kaine saves an old woman from being run down by a semi, and then screams at her about what the &@#$ she was doing in the middle of the street. Yost and Stegman also do a nice job of summing up Kaine’s often convoluted history in only two pages.

All in all, I wasn’t blown away. But I’ve certainly seen worse.

***

Whispers #1, 2012, coverTITLE: Whispers #1
AUTHOR/PENCILLER: Joshua Luna
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: January 11, 2012

This issue has one of the better first pages that I’ve read in the last several months. The first panel of our first page introduces us to Sam Webber, an obsessive compulsive, socially awkward young man who’s terrified at the prospect of touching the handle on the door into a coffee shop. He’s frantically arguing with himself about it. “All I have to do is go through the door. No–it’s not that simple. I have to make sure the door handle is safe before I can touch it. Please don’t let there be a spot, a stain, a blemish…” It may seem like an extreme scenario to some, but if you’ve ever dealt with any kind of mental illness, or know someone who has, you know it’s very much based in reality. It’s a fantastic hook, though how it will factor into the rest of Whispers, if at all, remains to be seen.

Shortly after breaking up with his girlfriend Lily, Sam discovers that his consciousness can somehow travel through space in a “ghostly” state, visiting people he knows, or has known over the course of his life. Though he can’t be seen while in his ghost state, he can apparently influence the thoughts of the people connected to him. For instance, when he sees an ex-girlfriend in trouble, he influences her actions, and thus the outcome. But now that Sam has discovered his gift, the question becomes: How will he use it?

Whispers #1, 2012, interior, Joshua LunaI’ve always wanted to see a story like this. I’m not sure exactly how old Sam and his friends are, but the idea of a young person being able to see into the thoughts of others is such an intriguing concept, because the younger you are, the less developed your perspective on life is, and the more emotional and irrational you can be at times. Sam certainly seems to possess those qualities to an extent. His psychological disorder can send him to pieces in public, and as we see a couple of times in this issue, he’s prone to the occasional outburst. I’m definitely interested to see how some of these ghostly interactions effect him.

Depending on where Joshua Luna takes this story, it could really become a gem. I’m anxiously awaiting what’s next.

Interior image 1 from chasingamazingblog.com. Interior image 2 from ifanboy.com.

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