Pickinng up immediately after the events of writer Christos Gage and artist Mike Hawthorne’s Superior Spider-Man #5, Otto (Elliot, Spidey, Superior? He’s got as many confused identities as Gwen at this point) has not only to contend with a potential love knowing his secret too soon, but also a literal demon in the form of Master Pandemonium. Does he succeed? Yes! He would be aghast if you expected any less. Does the issue? Less so.
First of all, it’s obvious that Gage and Hawthorne are having fun, and it’s infectious. Few write Octavius this funny, quick-witted, and snide (a necessity for the character) and lines like “your bedside manner is atrocious” and “narrate your biography later! Do it!” are not only laugh out loud funny, but also indicative of just how different a Spidey this is than your Peters and Mileses. Different, too is the antagonistic affair here: Master Pandemonium is rendered in a much more authentically creepy and galling depiction than most Spider-Man villains, and this is certainly his best appearance yet as a massive man made of flesh and agony, rather than weird-hand-dude in red coat all due to Hawthorne’s great knack for momentum, scale, and expression. The quick back and forth of the central fight, with few sensible and scientifically inclined twists and turns, as well as magical thanks to Strange’s influence, also works well. It’s a perfect microcosm of everything I like about these creator’s take on Superior. Against Anna Maria, or opposite Dr. Strange, even a giant demon man, Otto shines.
However, when left to his own devices, Otto is, for lack of a better word, uninteresting here. There’s been little in the way of authentic character development since ‘Geddon, and as threats like Pandemonium are built up and then dispatch with blinding quickness, the narrative itself is struggling to make a case for its longevity. Sure, the cliffhanger here is immediately interesting, and I won’t dismiss out of pocket, but I have concerns about how far it will go, or when this book will hit a real stride given that everything thus far, this issue in particular, is very flighty. I don’t want to see Otto become a good person overnight, and the struggle over wiping his identity or owning who he is in this issue alone accentuates a great angle, but it is surprisingly glazed over. It is, in essence, a microcosm of the things going awry thus far.
That is to say that both the strengths and faults of the Superior Spider-Man title since spinning out of Spider-Geddon have never been more exposed than here in a fun, but somewhat content deficient Monster of the Week affair. Is it worth it? Ultimately, yes, but the momentum needs to pick up sooner than later.