Thursday, September 18, 2014

Superior Spider-Man Issues 3-5

Greetings once again citizens! It is now time to review the continuation of Superior Spider-Man, with issues 3 and 4!

When last we left the Superior Spider-Man, he had just ended things with MJ, and police officer Carlie Cooper had ominously stated she had a mystery to solve. Sadly, she’d have to do it without the rest of the Scooby Gang, since she’s the only one who knows that Peter Parker is not really Peter Parker, but Doctor Octopus in Peter’s body!

The issue opens on… Gotham?

Okay, seriously Jonah? That’s what you’re going with? You’re ripping off the bat signal? That has got to be one of the worst ideas Jonah’s ever had! To which Ock-Spidey agrees, though he doesn’t say it to Jonah’s face. He instead decides to shmooz Jameson, and try to get some support and trust with him. Which while manipulative, does make sense considering how anti-Spider-Man Jameson has been in the past.

Anyhow, Jameson tells Ock-Spidey that the reason he summoned him here is to inform him of the problem of Vulture’s little minions that we saw in the last issue. He’s told to work with Carlie on the case, since they had so much success last time they worked together. Yes, that went well. It ended up with a supervillain’s mind inside of the body of one of New York’s greatest heroes. Clearly the case was a smashing success! But they begin doing some work in the lab, and the ghost of Spider-Mans Past (aka Ghost-Pete) is talking to himself, wondering how Ock is doing a better job at being Spidey than he ever did. And surprisingly, it seems like Ock hears him. But Carlie begins talking and Pete doesn’t test out if Ock can hear him any more. Ock adjusts the lenses in his mask to be able to pick up the trail of the Vulture’s flight mechanism, and is off to deal with him.

They’ve changed artists since the previous issue, with Ryan Stegman as the artist for this one. The artwork is pretty good, but there are a couple of odd spots like in this flashback of Ock with fish lips.

Back to the story, Ock is reminiscing on the first time he met with the Vulture, back when he first founded the Sinister Six. It seems that Ghost-Pete gets sucked along on Ock’s little trip down memory lane, and can get a first hand viewing of Ock’s memories. It seems like Vulture and Ock were at least somewhat close, sharing a love for science and a hatred of Spidey. So it’s not surprising that when Ock-Spidey breaks into the Vulture’s lair, he wants to try and talk things out with him first. Unfortunately, Vulture thinks he’s just making another one of his jokes, and sends his minions at him.

Ock tries to fend off the minions without hurting them too much, but he does land a good hit one one of them, knocking its helmet off and revealing it to be a kid. He has a moment of surprise before we see Ghost-Pete get sucked into another memory of Ock’s, and we learn that Ock’s father was an abusive dick (and a drunk judging from the beer cans and liquor bottle on the table). We also learn that he looks like Kraven.

Back to the present and HOLY CRAP! Ock-Spidey looks like he’s about to lunge at Vulture and try to rip his throat out.

I can understand the sentiment, since he feels like Vulture is the same sort of sick son of a bitch his dad was, but man, talk about mood swings. Ock-Spidey startles Vulture enough that it actually makes him flee in terror. Ock-Spidey is having none of that though and chases after him, only to have his web shooters run out of ammo at the wrong time. Vulture’s got Spidey dead to rights, when Ock-Spidey implements an emergency plan. Vulture just happened to fly over the police headquarters, and the defunct spider-signal suddenly activates, sending out a blinding beam of light right into the Vulture’s eyes, blinding and disorienting him enough for Ock-Spidey to break loose and control their fall enough to send Vulture plummeting straight into the signal.

Carlie happened to be on the roof when this happened, because shut up. She sees the damage done to Vulture, and is even more convinced of her suspicions regarding brain-swapping, in spite of Ock’s attempt to gloss it over as a harsh but necessary villain foiling.

Issue #4 opens with a shot of Ock-Spidey on top of a building, talking about how it’s been a month since he became Peter Parker, and realizing that Pete had no plans for the future and just sort of blundered about in his life, a criticism that I’ve heard from several people regarding the Spider-Man books. Oh, and also he has 8000 Spider-Bots now. We also see Ock-Spidey looking a lot buffer than he did in the previous three issues, which can be chalked up to the new penciler on the book, Giuseppe Camuncoli. Overall, everything seems to be drawn well, and accented with sharp lines by inker John Dell. However, my only real complaint is that Spidey looks too bulky to me. I always picture him being more lithe and nimble looking, like a gymnast, but here he’s got more of body builder look, which just seems off model for Spidey.

We see Ock going over his accomplishments over the past month, and how much better he’s doing than Peter. Ghost-Pete (looking even more ghostly, which I rather like) is incredulous when Ock ignores something that one of the bots alerted him to, saying he has other responsibilities, which Ghost-Pete finds absurd. Until the next page where we see that the other responsibility he was talking about was being there for Aunt May. I understand that saving people is certainly important. However, Peter would frequently abandon his responsibilities to his loved ones in order to fulfill his ones as Spider-Man. Personal responsibilities are important, there are people in our lives who count on us. It feels like Peter never understood that responsibility as well as it seems that Ock does. Even though May isn’t Ock’s aunt, he is trying to assume Peter’s life, including his responsibilities to her in a way he feels that he should.

To that end, he goes back to his lab at Horizon, and begins sciencing. Several hours later, he summons Max Modell to show him what he’s been working on, “a new lightweight exo-limb. With a neuro-interface grafted to the spine and brain, the injured will walk again.” Ock-Pete is very arrogant about all of this, acting like he’s Max Modell’s superior, until Max points out that Peter doesn’t have his doctorate. Ock goes through Peter’s memories and discovers that Max is right, and storms off to go and attempt to rectify the situation.

The scene changes to the Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane, where Dr. Ashley Kafka is going to check on a patient known as Massacre. Massacre is a villain who can no longer connect with humans or seemingly feel any emotion, due to a brain injury. Kafka enters Massacre’s room only to find that Massacre has killed the guard and replaced him. Kafka tries reasoning with Massacre, saying that he needs her to get him past the retinal scanners, but he says he only needs part of her.

We come back to Ock-Pete, who’s now on the campus of Empire State University, where he’s re-enrolling. Ghost-Pete is very much against this, because he says it’ll cut into his time as Spider-Man. But, I’m kinda with Ock on this one. Again, Spider-Man and what he does are both very important, but it’s also important for a person to take care of their own life. Getting his doctorate will give him more ability to find a good job to pay the bills (which has been a source of great stress for Peter in the past), and he can also potentially have to devote less time to his day job to earn an equal amount of money, meaning he’ll have more time for being Spider-Man. There’s also the fact that if he –does- get his degree, it will lend legitimacy to any discoveries or inventions of his. But I digress. Ock-Peter is re-enrolling at ESU, and the professor of the class he has to take (who will also be on the board reviewing his thesis) is an old acquaintance of Ock’s, Doctor Lamaze. Ock-Pete immediately ingratiates himself to Lamaze by calling him an old, insulting nickname while mentally groaning that he has to be in this buffoon’s class. After Lamaze storms off in a huff, Ock-Pete gets a call from the mayor on Spider-Man business.

Ock-Spidey arrives at Ravencroft, and is briefed on the situation while Jameson chews him out. Jameson goes on about how there’s been 3 breakouts recently, and how this wouldn’t have happened if Spidey hadn’t saved Massacre. Ock-Spidey makes a vow to Jameson that he’ll take care of Massacre.

Meanwhile, we see Massacre sitting in a fast-food restaurant holding the patrons and employees at gunpoint while he enjoys his meal, except that he’d “kill for a Mocha Cola” since apparently the restaurant is owned by Mocha Cola’s rival, Phizzy Co. Unfortunately, the cashier presses the silent alarm button, and “forces” Massacre to kill everyone except for a woman and her child who he says he needs for hostages.

We cut back to Ock-Spidey, who has gone to a colleague of his at Horizon labs, Uatu Jackson. Wait… the Watcher works at Horizon Labs?

Anyway, Jackson helps Ock-Spidey to install his facial recognition software into the Spider-Bots in order to help find Massacre. Speaking of Massacre, we see him arriving downtown, and letting the woman go now that he’s gotten where he’s going. Where did he need a lift to? No clue! The last page of the comic shows two of the Vulture’s child minions talking to each other and saying they’re not sure what to do before they are spotted by a Spider-Bot. The Spider-Bot is promptly crushed by the Green Goblin, who says that he has a solution to the Spider problem.

Issue #5 begins in the apartment of Miranda Pullman, the CEO of Phizzy Cola Industries. She’s watching the news, and discussing the shooting, complaining about how terrible this is making her company look, when suddenly Massacre appears in the shadows. He starts talking to her about how he’s damaged her company’s image more than their recent ad campaign where they altered old photos to show iconic people drinking Phizzy Cola. He then proposes a thought; what if they had decided to make it seem like history’s greatest monsters liked Mocha Cola?

Those eyes will haunt me. Anyway, he offers to go into downtown and shoot everyone he sees, all while wearing a Mocha Cola shirt, for only $12 million. But before we can see her response, switch over to Ock-Spidey, still with Uatu getting the facial recognition software uploaded. Once it is, his Spider-Bots immediately start recognizing criminals. Uatu voices his concern at one man having such power, but Ock-Spidey just tells him it’s all just a “friendly neighborhood watch.” Except that it’s all just one guy and 8000 tiny robots. But hey, at least Ock’s not going to rest until he finds Massacre.

Or he can get side-tracked…

Something I didn’t mention in the previous issue is that when Ock-Peter went to meet Dr. Lamaze, someone handed him a card reading “A. Marconi: Tutor. Chemistry and Physics.” Of course, Ock feels that he doesn’t need a tutor (which is reasonable), and has gone to the tutor’s apartment to tell them he will not require their services. He knocks, and is greeted by Anna Maria Marconi.

He tries telling her he’ll be fine without her, but she doesn’t just let him dismiss her, and the dinner she made catches his eye. He decides to stay and as they go over Anna Maria’s notes from the last class, he manages to impress her with his intellect and earns himself some dessert. He leaves and goes web-swinging while Ghost-Pete grumbles about how Ock is ruining his girlish figure, and then the patrol app goes off, alerting him that Massacre’s been found.

Ock-Spidey calls the police, letting them know where Massacre is and saying he’ll be there in ten minutes. Ghost-Pete seems dumbfounded that Ock has called the police, like it’s some sort of alien concept, but he’s wondering why Ock says he’ll be there in ten, when he’s only five minutes away. Fortunately, he does have a good reason, one which Peter should have thought of, since the idea is based off of Pete’s memories. Apparently, Massacre has some hostages rigged to a remote detonator elsewhere. He manages to quickly disarm the device, musing about how not so long ago, the lives of a few people meant nothing to him. Immediately afterwards, a woman hugs him thanking him for ensuring she’ll get to see her son again, and he does seem genuinely moved by it.

Back with Massacre though, he’s in the middle of Grand Central Station, and the police have found him. They try to get him to surrender, but he opens fire. People run for the exits, but they’re rigged with explosives, trapping the civilians inside and the rest of the police outside. How he managed to rig all of the doors with explosives without drawing attention is beyond me, though. Are we sure he doesn’t have super powers?

Ock-Spidey, however, has managed to sneak in through the upper windows. He’s planning on using the element of surprise to end the fight quickly, but Massacre turns his sights on a kid, and Ock-Spidey is forced to act to save the kid, which draws Massacre’s attention. Ock berates himself for giving up his advantage, but manages to dodge the incoming bullets and disarm Massacre handily. Massacre goes for his ace-in-the-hole, the detonator for the hostages. Ock-Spidey calmly tells him he’s wasting his time before picking up a gun and shooting him in the shoulder.

Massacre doesn’t seem too phased, what with his inability to feel emotion, and Ock begins to muse about how he’s never killed someone with a gun before. Meanwhile, Ghost-Pete yells at him to not do it. He begins monologuing (some habits are hard to break) about what he should do with Massacre. And, surprisingly, this seems to affect Massacre. He begins to cry, and says that this is the first time he’s felt anything in years. Ghost-Pete pleads with him, saying that this is why you don’t kill people, because there’s always hope for redemption. However, Ock tells him that people don’t change, that Massacre will always be a killer, and executes him.

Now, this isn’t the first time that the subject of what’s going too far with villains has come up in comics. That issue has been touched on many, many times before. This is, however the first time I’ve encountered it in a comic (not shocking, considering how recently I’ve picked up reading comics), and it did affect me. Personally, I agree with Peter, and that nobody is beyond redemption. I do not think that what Ock did was right, even though he did it with the greater good in mind. I was saddened that Ock had made this choice, and also a little surprised, considering his own recent decision to turn over a new leaf. It’s ironic, yet sad.

Though this would be a good place to end the comic, there’s still two pages. We see Miranda Pullman, once again in her apartment. She’s annoyed that Mocha Cola doesn’t seem to be getting blasted, but is pleased that they’re no longer talking about the previous shooting. Suddenly, we see a bunch of Spider-Bots in her apartment, and Ock-Spidey interrupts her broadcast, while shutting off all the lights in her apartment. He informs her he knows of her little deal with Massacre, and menacingly tells her to fess up to the cops, or she’ll have to answer to him.

Overall, I continue to enjoy this series. The plot moves at a somewhat slow pace, but it’s steady and doesn’t feel like it’s dragging. The artwork is good, though there are a few problems here and there. I enjoy the internal struggle that’s going on within Ock. While he does fall back into old habits with how he deals with his foes, there is a sense that he truly does want to change and be a good guy. The uh… technically external struggle between Ock and Spidey gets a lot more time in these issues than it did in the first two, with Peter doing more than just making snarky comments, and instead actually trying to talk to Ock even though he can’t quite be heard. I also like that the Green Goblin has shown up, clearly intent on causing mayhem further down the line, but that’s for another day.

So, what do you all think? Is Ock going too far? Or is he actually a Superior Spider-Man? Couchman wishes to hear your thoughts!

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