Oh ho ho… won’t the Parker fan-boys be in a tizzy. Spoiler Alert: this Snarky Synopsis is gonna dive deep into the recesses of Superior Spider-Man #9. If you don’t want to be spoiled, let me give you the skinny: It’s a great book. You should be reading it. If you’re not, I don’t know how we can ever be friends again. It’s awesome. So there. OK. Everyone else ready? Good. Let’s dig in.
For those not in-the-know, but don’t care if I get detailed… the book is crazy simple to pick up. Otto Octavious in a last-ditch effort, swapped brains with Peter Parker right before his lumpy body kicked the bucket. A smidgen of Parkers memories stowed away though, and since the Superior Spider-Man has been taking New York by storm, Memory Parker was trying to figure out a way to return to control of his body. Last issue, Otto-Spidey figured it out. In issue #9, he attempts to perform a memory-ectomy. Perhaps he should have watched “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. But I digress. The issue itself is the astral plane smackdown we’ve been waiting for. In the balance? Control of Peter Parker’s body for all time. And hence the mental war begins!
Slott’s scripting is as melodramatic as about any comic I’ve ever read. Married to loose and energetic artists like Ryan Stegman, Guiseppe Camuncoli, and Humberto Ramos though, means that the words match the pictures perfectly. Such that if the scripts were any less hammy, I might find it distracting. Slott this time around, spares us nothing short of a knock-down brawl, ala the Matrix. Within the New York of Peter’s mind, Otto (who begins his mental tete-a-tete in an old familiar costume) wages war on Peter with all the tropes you’d expect. Peter calls forth an army of his friends and family to help fight his battles. Otto counters with Parker’s fears and guilt (made into an army of familiar villains). And when that waste of time concludes… Slott proves why this may be the best book I’m reading these days.
Otto finds a way to win.
Truly there are those out there who were awaiting Peter to topple Otto and all the scheming and “Un-Spideyness” that Superior Spider-Man has utilized in the previous 8 chapters. But Slott bucks the system and has Otto deliver yet-another brilliant monologue. If ever there were a proponent of “the means justifying the ends”, Otto is the first subscriber. Since donning the red and black tights, Otto’s Spider-Man has decreased crime. He’s aligned himself with the Police and Mayors office, instead of wasting their time chasing him down like a vigilante. He’s even helped rectify crimes he committed as Octopus—performing life-saving surgery on a victim of his “Ends of the Earth” scheme. Slott’s point here is simple; Otto by way of the hard numbers is doing the better job. His methodology is skewed at best… but results are results. Are they not?
It’s this debate within the pages of Superior Spider-Man that has made it such a strong book since it’s debut. We’ve seen this kind of nefarious plot hundreds of times. Never before though, has the villain actually won. Or if they did, the status quo was right back towards the side of the angels before you could sneeze. Here, we’re given the chance to see just how things might play out. 9 issues in, and we’re no closer to a Parker comeback. Make no mistake… I have little doubt Otto will eventually lose control. But as I stated on my review of issue 1, so long as Octavious is driving the book, so too will I be picking it up. It’s rare that an action-packed tights romp like Spider-Man would concern itself with weightier issues of morality. Slott’s run on the series though (both Superior, and his previous run on Amazing) wants to take it all head-on. It’s refreshing, and truly paramount to the greater message of a Spider-Man book; where we care more about our protagonist and his mindset than we do with the minutiae of super-fights and super-powers.
As stated before, the art matches the words just fine. While I’m not necessarily going out of my way to snag original Ryan Stegman art… he delivers visuals with plenty of verve and vigor. In a book that takes place much in the mind, Ryan’s layouts help drive home all the points Slott calls for in his script. When Peter employs his friends and family, Stegman’s expressive figures contort and twist and flail with grace. And when Otto and Peter start fighting in their Spider-Jammies? Well, it’s just pure action fueled by dozens of issues worth of rage. Special tip of the hat to Edward Delgado, whose color palate harkens back to the aforementioned Matrix finale with it’s washes of murkey browns and greens. Simply put? For the morose ending by issues end? The art compliments it fully.
Ultimately Superior Spider-Man is a polarizing book. For those looking for a whimsical romp with witty repartee and a happy ending? Find another Spider. If instead you seek a book that is anchored by a moral debate, and takes the chance to push it to the utter limits? I can’t recommend the book enough. By book’s end, Otto has seemingly rid himself of Peter’s id. For as long as that is the case… this book is truly superior. The best heroes tend to have the best villains. Finally a book that attempts to give us one in the same.