Thursday, October 16, 2014

Superior Spider-Man #6-8

Greetings once again, citizens! This week, we continue our look at Superior Spider-Man, starting with issue #6!

Wait… that’s not right…

So, funny story. When I went to the comic shop to grab issue #6 of the series, I saw this with the #6 on it, and just assumed that it was the correct issue. But alas, it was not. As the cover indicates, this is a tie-in to the big event that was going on at the time, Age of Ultron (and event I wasn’t reading because I don’t really care about Ultron). Now, I figured that this would tie in to the events of the event, but still have something to do with the plots that were going on in the main book. I was mistaken. I read the issue and felt gipped. It had nothing to do with the plots that were going on, and ultimately nothing really happened in it. I shouldn’t be surprised, given that Dan Slott wasn’t the writer on this, so of course it’s not gonna be the same. But I at least expected some similarities.

This is actually one of the great frustrations I have with comics; the numbering. It’s something that by all rights should be simple, but becomes entirely more complicated than it needs to be. They decide to throw in decimals, fractions, letters, zeroes, I’ve even heard of them doing roman numerals. An issue 0 I can almost understand, but all of that other stuff is just confusing. Why not just use integers? Everyone understands them, and there’s a real obvious sequencing with them. Why not have this thing just be “Superior Spider-Man: Age of Ultron #1”? Are they trying to deceive people into picking up the thing out of confusion? I’ll admit that it worked, but man, if your event can’t stand on it’s own, why do you expect me to look at other issues for it? Hell, I was considering getting an issue of the Age of Ultron comic until I picked this up and just felt betrayed. But enough about asinine numbering, let’s get to the actual issues at hand. And by that I mean issues 6-8.

Issue 6 opens with a shot of New York’s city hall with a couple of confusing tweets, and Jameson giving a speech, where he states that he will be closing down the Raft. The Raft is a jail for super powered criminals that sits out in the harbor. He says he’s shutting it down due to the obscene number of breakouts. Honestly, this makes a lot of sense. It’s not exactly a good idea to house criminals so close to such a large population center, especially when some of those criminals have the ability to melt steel and cause earthquakes.

Anyway, after getting plot points for future issues established, we find out what the weird tweets were about. A duo calling themselves Screwball and Jester crashes the press conference and shoves a cake straight into Jameson’s face, pantsing him, and then blasting him with seltzer. They capture the whole thing on camera, posting it on a website that they run. We get s few shots of people laughing at Jameson’s humiliation, including Ock-Pete who is straight up doing a supervillain laugh.

He gets a message from Jameson and heads off to city hall, where Jameson asks him to take care of Screwball and Jester. Ock-Spidey initially declines, saying it’s not worth his time, but relents after he briefly reflects on the times he’s been bullied.

We cut over to the Avengers, who have picked up on their teammate not acting quite right and are discussing what to do about him. Captain America suggests that he might no longer be fit for the team, to which Thor and Black Widow agree. Wolverine however, points out that every member on the team has a few red marks on their record, and he doesn’t like the idea of abandoning Spidey when he needs them. My only complaint with this scene is how Black Widow is drawn. She looks to be significantly younger than she should. Like “still in high school” young.

Anyway, while the Spider-Bots sweep the city for Screwball and Jester, Ock-Spidey’s got other business to attend to regarding his PhD. He arrives on campus and sees that Anna Maria has also just arrived, and is being teased by a couple of jerks about her being a little person. He flashes back to a moment he was bullied in his childhood, bringing Ghost-Pete along for the ride. Ock-Pete offers to take care of the creeps that were teasing her, but Anna Maria just says it’s not worth dwelling on. Anna Maria set up coffee with Dr. Lamaze, in order for Ock-Pete to try making a better impression on him. Meanwhile, Screwball and Jester are going over the results of their latest video. It turns out that they use the videos in a phishing scheme, getting people’s passwords and credit card info after they’ve checked out the duo’s videos. However, they’re spotted by one of the Spider-Bots. Ock-Pete excuses himself from the meeting, much to Anna Maria’s exasperation, and changes into his Spidey costume. He’s about to head off, when he catches sight of the two jerks who were making fun of Anna Maria earlier, and thinks to himself that he has “time  for one extra thing.”

Back over to Screwball and Jester, they’re trying to find another person to prank when Ock-Spidey shows up. They figure that he’s a perfect target and the fight begins. They try and get him to do some funny banter, but to no avail, and he finally manages to land a hit on Screwball, who claims that he hit her in the boob. Not sure if it was intentional or not, but it instantly makes me think of Scott Pilgrim. Ock-Spidey gets kinda flustered at this, which gives Jester the opportunity to perform a classic piece of slapstick comedy.

I’ll admit, I laughed at that. I normally just wince at nut shots, but man of man, something about it being Spider-Man made me chuckle. Anyway, while Ock-Spidey is stunned, Jester and Screwball begin pelting him with paint balloons, making him unable to see through the lenses of his suit. He tears them off and Jester promptly crushes them, echoing the memory we saw earlier. It’s at this point that Ock is no longer in a playful mood.

However, we check back on Anna Maria, who’s trying to get a hold of Ock-Pete, when she comes across a wrecked car in the parking lot, and she hears the voice of one of the jerks from earlier. She’s sickened, and immediately calls 911.

Back to the fight, Ock-Spidey webs up Jester and slams him into Screwball. He then proceeds to beat the ever-loving crap out of them. We get some shots of people’s reactions to the beating instead of actually seeing the violence. Jameson is ecstatic, the Avengers all agree to bring Spidey in and have a chat, and MJ is aghast. Ghost-Pete shows up, trying to find out what’s going on since he was apparently being dragged into a bunch of memories of Ock’s, and the last page is a splash page showing off Ock’s handiwork.

Issue 7 starts off at the reopening of what was once a combination homeless shelter/criminal empire HQ. Now, it’s going to be an emergency care facility, run by Dr. Elias Wirtham. Dr. Wirtham is secretly a vigilante known as Cardiac, who I’d never heard of prior to this (I find myself saying that WAY too often lately). He’s using the remaining hidden parts of the building to run… another hospital. This one seems to use treatments that aren’t exactly approved, and uses equipment that may or may not be legally obtained. A little girl is in desperate need of treatment, but there’s apparently only one piece of equipment that can help her, and Cardiac has to go “procure” it.

But enough of altruism, what’s Ock up to? Ah, sleeping, such a noble pursuit for our hero. I kid, of course. Everyone needs to sleep, in spite of that whole “no rest for the wicked” thing. But while Ock-Pete is sleeping, Ghost-Pete attempts to exert some control over his old body. He succeeds in almost scribbling a note, but it ends up as gibberish. Ock-Pete is woken up by an alert from the police regarding a break-in at The Boneyard, the storage facility for items confiscated in super-crimes. Cardiac is there trying to find the previously mentioned MacGuffin and stunning the guards with his elctro-staff. Ock-Spidey shows up, rousing some of the guards and getting their assistance. Ghost-Pete muses that he never would’ve bothered trying to work with the guards, and would’ve just gone on ahead. It’s things like this that actually make me feel that there’s something to the whole “Superior Spider-Man” thing, but I digress. Ock-Spidey manages to get the drop on Cardiac, and just as he’s about to deliver one of his patented Spider-Beatings, Ghost-Pete manages to make himself heard, which distracts Ock long enough for Cardiac to try and blast him. They fight for a bit, until Ock-Spidey knocks Cardiac into a stack of crates, which conveniently lets him find the MacGuffin. Cardiac attempts to flee, but Ock webs the MacGuffin, yanking it away and discovering that the item is the Neurolitic Scanner, confiscated from Ock himself. Ock gets pissed off and indignant that somebody would dare try and steal one of his inventions. He grabs Cardiac by the throat and is about to punch his lights out, when Ghost-Pete once again interferes, this time forcing Ock-Spidey to let go of Cardiac’s throat, allowing him to dodge. Ock is understandably confused, and this gives Cardiac an opportunity to deliver a powerful blast to Ock-Spidey and make his getaway, though Ock did manage to get him with a tracer. The guards show some concern for Ock-Spidey, but he just shouts about them being dolts and how it’s their fault Cardiac got away before heading back to his lab for… y’know, it’s not really stated why he needs to go back to his lab. I sorta feel like Ock's way of relieving stress is to build stuff.

While in his lab, he gets a call from The Avengers, saying it’s a top priority emergency and they need him. When he shows up however, Wolverine tells him that there’s no actual emergency, that this is an intervention. I don’t know if this has any basis or not, but to me it’s head-canon that Wolverine’s had to go through an intervention or two. I get the impression he’s gone through points in his life, where he’s struggled with things like alcoholism, anger control, and muttonchops where friends have had to get involved. This is also the point where I started noticing some really wonky stuff going on with the artwork. There were a couple problems with the art elsewhere, but man, these last few pages every panel’s got something going on in it. Wolverine’s face looks more befitting a hawk, Black Widow looks like she stepped right out of an anime except for her eyes being smaller, and Cap’s face looks completely flat with only a suggestion of features.

The next page isn’t any better. Thor looks alright, and Cap actually has a face, but Spidey’s neck has become absurdly long, and I think Spider Woman’s having a stroke.

But the next page, I don’t know what is up with Spidey, but he needs to see a chiropractor or something. Cap and Thor don’t look much better, with the shadows on Thor’s face making it look like he’s wearing a domino mask, and Cap’s pose just seems incredibly awkward.

And then Spidey flips Cap, and it seems like there’s some sort of fish-eye effect going on, because Cap’s head is bent too far back, and his torso looks way too long.

But enough about the art. Basically the Avengers tell Ock the stuff we heard them discussing before, and that they’re gonna scan him. Ock’s not gonna submit to that, and on the final page we actually get a good looking shot of the Avengers in their battle stance facing Spidey.

The next issue begins with a page of stuff about Cardiac at his secret hospital, but who cares about that given what we left off on in the last issue? We get a really cramped looking two-page-spread of the fight, but Ghost-Pete distracts Ock, and ends up getting zapped by Spider Woman, and smacked by Cap’s shield, taking him down. I had honestly expected more out of Ock-Spidey, maybe swinging away, trying to evade them and trying to wear them down by making opportunity attacks. I think he could’ve made a decent go of it since, to my knowledge, he’s quicker and more nimble than everyone else there. But nope, Ock just sits there trying to dodge everyone, relying on his spider-sense, and gets his face smashed in. He comes to during the middle of the tests, but I guess he figures that if he tries fighting back now, it’ll end worse for him.

Tangent time! So, something that is encouraged when writing comics is having a sort of mini-cliffhanger at the end of every other page. That way, it builds a little bit of tension, and encourages the reader to flip on and see what happens next. This was very well done at this point, because at the end of these two pages, we have Cap stating “All our tests conclusively prove, with nor margin for error, that you, Spider-Man, are clearly - -“ This was very well done, because it made me want to turn the page and find out what it was the tests had proven. Does Ock get found out? Can he continue his deception? Well, it seems like the editors decided to really mess with people, because the next 2 pages of the book were ads. So the tension built up even more, making me even more eager to flip the page (though I guess it’s bad for the ad people, since I didn’t even look at what the ad was for). So what was the pay off for this?

 I cracked up at that, even more than the nut-shot from before. I mean, it makes sense that they’d be concerned about stuff like that (he also says they didn’t detect any mind control or anything) given all the other times that’s happened, but MAN. The setup was so perfect, I have to give kudos to the people involved, and Cap just looks so serious, it adds another level.

Anyway, looking at the results of the scans, Ock notices an irregularity. He gets them to give him a copy of the data, and is told he’s on probation. Black Widow tries to talk with him about why he’s been acting different, but while she and Ock are preoccupied, Ghost-Pete tries to draw a picture for Widow alerting her to the issue. However, he doesn’t have any fine control, so the picture looks like nothing. Or maybe Pete’s just a really bad artist. I don’t think I’d want him on my team for Pictionary.

Anyway, Ock-Spidey goes back to his lab at Horizon, where he goes over the data, but finds it’s inconclusive. In order to get a better picture, he needs the Neurolitic Scanner that Cardiac stole. So follows his tracer to Cardiac at the secret hospital. They fight for a little bit, with Cardiac shouting about how Spidey’s acting like a maniac, but then Ock sees the scanner on the little girl’s head and he stops. He still wants to get it back, but Cardiac tells him about how the little girl’s condition was caused by one of Ock’s schemes. Ock actually feels guilt for what he did, and says he’ll perform the surgery she needs himself. He gets suited up for surgery… still in his Spider-suit… but Ghost-Pete starts trying to take control of the hand again, to prevent him from starting. However, Ock’s able to exert control.

The surgery goes well, and Cardiac and Ock-Spidey metaphorically pat each other on the back for a job well done, with Ock offering his assistance for the future should Cardiac need it. The little girl thanks Ock, and even gives him her stuffed penguin. I don’t care how sappy anyone else thinks this is, I think it’s sweet and adorable. This is actually something that kept me reading the series. I’m not gonna lie, I was kinda getting turned off on the series at this point. The harshness of how Ock-Spidey was dealing with the criminals wasn’t really something I wanted to read. If I wanted to see harsh “justice” I’d read the Punisher. But I’m a big fan of redemption stories. It’s part of why I love Star Wars so much, and it’s what kept me reading this series. Because moments like this make it clear that while Ock may have been a vile asshole in the past, he really does want to try to make things right, repair some of the damage he caused.

The last page of the issue shows Ock musing about being a hero, and also scanning his brain. Ghost-Pete gets discovered, and Ock ominously says he’s going to perform a Parker-ectomy.

I more or less said my piece about these issues two paragraphs ago, so I suppose that’s it for this week. Join me next week, for issues 9 and 10!

Until next time, citizens!

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