In celebration of everyone’s favorite web-head, July is Spectacular Spider-Month at AiPT! We have a series of amazing articles in store for the month. Movies, television, gaming, and of course comics will all be covered with great responsibility as we honor one of comics’ greatest heroes.
Writer Christos Gage and artist Mike Hawthorne’s Superior Spider-Man has featured a monster-of-the-week with each and every issue. This one is no different, and in fact it features a deep cut of a villain that I would be remiss not to mention, but the true villain here is Otto Octavius. That might sound relatively normal for a Spider-Man comic, until you realize the only person he’s hurting is himself.
What’s it about? Marvel’s preview reads:
After saving the citizens of San Francisco from the worst of THE WAR OF THE REALMS, the Superior Spider-Man is the toast of the town! The key to the city! A ticker-tape parade! Adoration of the masses! That should make him feel good, right? Whatever he’s feeling, he should treasure it, because someone very dangerous is coming for him…
There’s a lot to love about that direction for a book that has admittedly struggled with finding its footing post Spider-Geddon, and there’s even more to love in the execution itself. Across an issue that encapsulates all that’s good about this series — complex intersections between heroism and villainy, silly pulpy monster of the week fights, and the one man show that is Otto’s ego — Gage finally hits at a question that I’ve been wondering since Slott first introduced the Superior Spider-Man: “how long can he keep this up?”
The answer, fittingly, is here and no further. Beset by questions from Anna Maria and Spider-Man, burdened with public events and platitudes he would find annoying on a normal day, and struggling with the death of innocents, Otto breaks. While he may not be beholden to Spider-Man’s famous motto, he still struggles with power and responsibility, and he, for the first time since this series started, seems breakable, human, and less-than-superior. It’s a complete tonal 180 that I didn’t expect in an issue following several event tie-ins, and even from the fight with a dorky hipster hater earlier in the issue, but one that works fantastically for the slow kettle boil that this series has been.
That we’re about to see the full brunt of his Spider-Geddon oversights come tumbling down on top of him in the form of villains Norman Osborn and Spiders-Man feels all the more suitable and fitting, too. Gage oversaw that event to its uneven, but ultimately interesting conclusion that felt ready to go in any direction, and this one seems the most vital and important not only to the Spider-Verse, but Otto himself. I might be constantly thrown by the cliffhangers that turnaround quickly or disappear entirely (where’s Mephisto?), but this feels much weightier and more immediate in a great way — like the series is really finding its footing and having something to say about Otto and his ongoing search for himself despite all that ego.
Similarly, Hawthorne delivers an impacting array of visuals that touches on the high highs and low lows of the issue very well. There’s that goofy lead-in fight that feels as kooky and as weird as Master Pandemonium and flows well (as all the fight scenes in the previous issues have) but, man, when it all melts away it does so amazingly. Otto fluctuates between sobbing and screaming at the drop of a pin, and Hawthorne hits the emotional impact out of the park — tears in his eyes, spit coming from gritted teeth. It’s a shame the same attention isn’t given to the other characters here, as Anna Maria looks like a sort of Funko doll early on and significantly better later, but the most important parts of the story and issue are delivered exceptionally well regardless.
All said and done, this isn’t the direction I expected Superior Spider-Man to take, tearing down its seemingly impenetrable central figure, but it’s most definitely the right one. Will Otto be able to overcome his own issues to fight off those beset on him from the shadows? Only time will tell, but I’ll definitely be there to read it regardless.
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