He’s been referred to as the “Master Planner,” but never before has Otto Octavius earned the eminence attached with this title until he performed the greatest act of villainy yet, shifting his consciousness into Spider-Man. Using his gold octobot, Doctor Octopus traded minds with Spidey, gaining the webslinger’s body while leaving Peter Parker to die away in his. What Otto didn’t count on were the memories of Parker, ideals that convinced him to carry on the legacy, but by different standards, thus paving the origins of Superior Spider-Man. Written by Dan Slott with art by Ryan Stegman and Edgar Delgado, Superior Spider-Man examines the exploits of Otto’s days as the loveable wall-crawler, or in his case, not so loveable.
Though he allegedly perished in Otto’s body (Amazing Spider-Man #700), Peter has existed throughout this series as an unseen, unheard Jiminy Cricket, observing Doc Ock live out his life and trying to steer him towards good (Otto needs a reality check with his harsh sense of justice as I’ll explain later). Through the pulled punches and spared innocents, Peter is slowly crawling his way back in. His progress continues while Superior Spidey sleeps; he is able to move his right hand and write a note, but it fails to transcribe well since he’s got no access to that portion of his brain.
Unfortunately, Peter will have a ton of fences to mend by the time he regains control, including his teammates, the Avengers. In Superior Spider-Man #8, the Webhead is apprehended by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes due to his uncharacteristically brutal style of heroics (I love that Wolverine is the last to sign off on this even though his loyalty to the arachnid is misplaced under these circumstances).
“Spidey” has reduced Boomerang, Vulture, Jester and Screwball to barely breathing bloody pulps. Worst yet, he killed Massacre, a mass-murdering sociopath (Superior Spider-Man #5). While it’s true Massacre was a monumental threat to humanity, ending his life overstepped on a line the real Spider-Man swore to never cross. I predict this will weigh heavily on Peter’s heart when he returns. He will blame himself for quite sometime even though it was out of his hands. Getting back on topic, with all the evidence, you’d think the Avengers would have detected the villain in superhero clothing, but you’d be wrong. After a series of conclusive tests, the only parcel of truth discerned is that the webspinner is not a Skrull. However, Captain America does channel his inner Donald Trump. “We’re watching you Spider-Man,” he said. “Step out of line, and you’re fired (Superior Spider-Man #8).”
Being discharged from the Avengers is the least of his worries; when Peter hops back in the driver’s seat, one of his top priorities must be restoring peaceful relations with his co-workers at Horizon Labs. I pride myself on being a huge Spidey fan, but I must admit my expertise dwells with his earlier adventures. Apparently, Peter has put his photography on the back-burner to focus on his true passion, science. It’s always been his greatest subject and now that knowledge is paying off. Hopefully, that career will not be thrashed by Otto. Doc Ock, with arrogance to match his intelligence, has made Parker appear like a snob who doesn’t need help from anyone.
During the early years of the Amazing Spider-Man, there was a time when Peter seemed like a highbrow. It was his first day at Empire State University (Amazing Spider-Man #31). Fellow students tried conversing with him to no avail. Little did they know the immense grief the caring young man shouldered for his ill aunt. For Parker, there is always a reason behind the angst. Peter is respectful whereas Otto is entitled. This is one of the core differences between the Amazing Spider-Man and the Superior Spider-Man. Otto calls his co-workers “dolts” and dismisses them without a thought. He also starts requesting lethal equipment be sent to his lab, arousing the suspicions of his boss, Max Modell.
This new invention enables the Webhead to survey the city without web-swinging. With spider-bots dispersed throughout the Big Apple, all the wall-crawler has to do is monitor his cellphone. Yes, there’s an app for that! Of course, the surveillance power does prove intoxicating. Superior Spider-Man can spy on anyone at anytime. He catches a co-conspirator with Massacre and reprimands her on live-television (Superior Spider-Man #5).
Not all of Otto’s innovations stem from the lab. He has the foresight to call the police for back-up while in route to the crime. This is a grey area though because while it may neutralize the threat, it puts the lives of cops in danger. Combatting low-level thugs is one thing, but tackling supervillains could spell instant death for officers on-duty. The real Spider-Man would never risk the mortality of those he’s vowed to protect.
Octavius yearns to have the same credentials his former body had. After instructing his co-workers to refer to him as “Doctor Peter Parker,” Otto gets a bitter reality check from Modell. College grad school is the last entry of education in Pete’s resume (Superior Spider-Man #4). Sending Peter back to college is good and bad. It’s good in the sense that it gives our selfless hero a better chance to really flourish in life. It’s bad because it drains Parker’s meager funds.
On a lighter note, some things never change. The wall-crawler still enjoys busting J. Jonah Jameson’s chops. Mayor Jameson installed a spider-signal similar to Batman’s. Suffice to say, it didn’t click well with Spidey. The webslinger shows up and hurls a spider-bomb at the luminescent beacon.
Jameson loses his temper right on que and we are treated to another classic exchange of snarky dialogue. Superior Spider-Man asks Jameson if he passed the test. “A giant beacon in the sky, announcing to all my enemies where they can find me,” Spider-Man said. “Only an idiot would put that into effect (Superior Spider-Man #3).”
I laughed pretty hard reading this. It’s good to know the arachnid is still his wise-cracking self. I just wish the man inside was himself. I’m ready for Peter Parker to assert control of his body, mentally and physically. I fear the aftermath he must contend with when he returns, but it’s a necessary evil to overcome. What he has to remember is that Doc Ock is the manipulator. Octavius was the killer and the one causing unnecessary bloodshed.
Peter Parker has lived his entire life trying to atone for his original sin, failing to prevent the death of his Uncle Ben when the killer was in his midst hours earlier. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter hasn’t forgotten the value behind these words nor will he ever.