Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Superior Spider-Man #11-13

Greetings once again, citizens! Well, it’s that time again. Time for us to continue looking back on Superior Spider-Man. This time we’re examining issues 11 – 13, so let’s get to it!

I’m going to be endeavoring to talk about covers more, since I’ve been thinking about their importance more lately. This one isn’t as boring as some of the others, but it’s also not great. Spidey trapped in a cage made of webbing is interesting, but the black void that he’s suspended in makes it seem more like it’s supposed to represent his mind or soul or something metaphysical. That would be an interesting sort of cover, if Spidey was dealing with identity issues or something along those lines. How are the webs staying that rigid anyway? Wouldn’t they form more of a net? And some of those gaps look large enough for him to slip through. This cage sucks.

The issue starts off with Peter in class, bored half to death and day dreaming, before getting stirred from his reverie by Dr. Lamaze. Anna Marie asks Peter why he even bothers to show up when he can ace the class just by showing up to take the tests, but he says he does get something out of it, giving her a look. He gets a call from Mayor Jameson, asking Spidey to be present for the execution of Alistair Smythe, the Spider Slayer. Smythe’s been a recurring Spider-Man villain for decades, and during a scheme a few years ago he killed Jameson’s wife. Jameson is understandably still quite upset at this, since real time and comic time are completely different. Even if they weren’t, I don’t think I’d stop being upset at a man who had killed my wife even after a few decades. Anyway, Jameson wants Spidey there in order to foil any escape plan Smythe might have. After getting off the phone, Jameson goes to the Raft in order to inspect the place, since it’s being shut down. We see some prisoners being loaded onto a boat for transport elsewhere, and we also see… Zerglings?

Oh my god, Smythe has formed and alliance with the zerg! No, they’re actually just robots Smythe created, infiltrating the Raft for Smythe’s daring escape plan, which he’s going to enact tomorrow. Um, Smythe, if you have your little bots here right now, then why not just enact your escape plan now? Do really want your last meal that badly?

Anyway, we see that while most of the prisoners have been transported to elsewhere, there are a few other prisoners still around. Specifically, they’re the ones who have been severely injured by Spidey. Vulture’s there, with bandages over what used to be his eyes. Boomerang is also there, lying around in a full body cast. Scorpion’s also there, which confused me at first. It turns out that Scorpion was actually injured before Ock did the whole mind-swap thing by the real Peter, who punched off Scorpion’s jaw.

Let’s check back in on Peter, who’s overseeing a bunch of equipment from Horizon Labs being transported. Max Modell once again gets into it with Pete about how he’s a loose cannon who’s not playing by the rules, why Peter mentally talks about how frustrating it is having his genius shackled by the restraints others place on him. He also gets into how the real Pete’s masochistic tendencies always led him to going about his work as Spider-Man the hard way, which seems like a fair criticism, actually. While he’s doing this, we see him sending a bunch of his Spider-bots to the Raft, where the equipment from Horizon was being sent, followed by his own arrival as Spider-Man. He oversees some of the work that his bots and technicians are doing with the equipment he had delivered before going to see Smythe. And by “see Smythe” I mean “go see his old cell and completely undercut the drama that Smythe was trying to build between them by ignoring him.” I’m serious, Smythe keeps trying to taunt him, but Spidey just kinda ignores him while taking a trip down memory lane. Oh, and we see Lizard there too. Why hasn’t Lizard been moved yet? Good question. The other guys were all in critical condition, requiring specialized transports, but Lizard seems fine. I’ll grant that he’s not exactly your average prisoner, but this is the Raft! They damn well ought to have transports designed for super powered criminals, since holding such individuals is their primary job!

The following day, it’s time for the execution. Jameson is there, of course, along with his secretary Glory Grant, and Norah Winters, a reporter from The Daily Bugle. In addition to the mayor’s entourage, Spidey is of course there, along with Smythe’s lawyer who tries to have Jameson removed. Smythe tells them to stop fighting, that he’s a man of God now and all that jazz. Spidey expresses his skepticism that a criminal like that would ever become redeemed, but stops himself as he realizes the hypocrisy of his statement. I actually really like this, because it’s one of the first times we’ve actually seen the new Peter express doubt over what he’s been doing. It’s a short little character moment that really works with the overall narrative.

Just before the lethal injection is administered to Smythe, the witnesses get to experience a zerg rush.

The zerglings cause a bit of havoc, attacking everyone and also swarming over Smythe, transforming into armor. Spidey initiates his counter-plan, having the Spider-bots come out and start fighting the zerglings, while he goes after Smythe. Smythe doesn’t really bother with trying to fight Spidey, instead attempting to flee. Smart thinking, but it proves pointless, as Spidey has turned the Raft into the Tomb of Horrors, with all possible escape routes being booby-trapped. Smythe realizes that his only way out is to fight Spidey, which he has planned for. We cut over to the medical area, where Vulture, Boomerang and Scorpion are still, and they’re being swarmed by the zerglings as well. The zerglings do what they did with Smythe, forming cybernetic armor over them, making them well enough to get in on the action, which is where the issue ends.

The cover for issue #12 is better than most of the other ones for the series up to this point, featuring an action scene of Scorpion, Boomerang, and Vulture are all attacking Spidey. Or rather, Scorpion is attacking Spidey, Boomerang is about to throw a comically oversized boomerang at him, and Vulture’s just kinda flying around in the back. Way to contribute, Vulture.

The issue opens on a flashback by Jameson of his wife’s death, while he muses about how he should have been the one to die, and how he’ll make sure Smythe gets what he is due. We see the aftermath of Smythe’s attack on Jameson and the others, with the room wrecked, and people injured but mostly fine. Smythe’s lawyer starts on about how this is Jameson’s fault, but good ol’ J.J just punches him out. The Spider-bots then surround everyone and project a hologram of Spidey, saying that the bots will form a force field around everyone to keep them safe. Jameson’s not interested in sitting on his ass, so he runs off just before the field goes up. We see Jameson picking up a gun from one of the fallen guards, swearing that Smythe will pay.

But enough of Jameson’s badassness for the moment, what’s Spidey up to? Fighting with Smythe of course. The action’s not bad, nor is the dialogue, though Spidey does slip up and let Smythe in on the fact that all of the countermeasures that he created are being powered by the Raft’s own power grid, meaning they can be shut down if Smythe takes out the generators. He gets the upper hand on Spidey for a moment, and is about to kill him, when Jameson arrives to save the day, clad in the armor of one of the fallen guards. Smythe uses Spidey as a projectile, allowing him to flee. Jameson helps Spidey regain his senses, and then explicitly tells him that he wants Smythe dead. Spidey says he’ll make sure that Smythe’s sentence is carried out, and advises Jameson to go back to the others, while he chases after Smythe.

The chase doesn’t last long though, as the other three villains ambush Spidey. They go on about how they hate Spidey, and how the toys Smythe gave them are so cool, and Smythe takes out the power. This has the side effect of freeing Lizard. Why didn’t Smythe try recruiting him? He was desperate enough for help to get Vulture and Boomerang, why not also try and get Lizard? Does he have some kind of thing against reptilians? Anyway, with the power gone, Smythe attempts to flee, only to find the traps are still active. Spidey played Smythe, knowing that the Raft has multiple backups that can’t be sabotaged nearly so easily. Smythe gets really pissed, sending Scorpion off to take care of Jameson, and Vulture to take out the others, leaving Boomerang to take on Spidey on his own. Spidey’s able to make quick work of Boomerang by webbing up some “bomb-a-rangs” to Boomerang’s hands before he can finish throwing them. Smythe’s unimpressed, saying that Spidey’s still too busy to be able to recapture him, but Spidey just scoffs saying that the only thing that matters is taking him down, ending the issue.

Issue #13’s cover is also better than average, with Spidey and Lizard back to back, and the Three Stooges more or less in silhouette behind them. It does hint at what’s to look forward to in the comic, and also has a “what in the…?” sort of feel, because Lizard is a villain. Sort of. He flip-flops, from what I’ve read. He looks pretty monstrous though, so even a new reader unfamiliar with the character would be intrigued as to why Spidey’s not fighting him.

We begin with Spidey still hunting down Smythe, while Smythe tries to bargain with him. Spidey’s not having any of it though, finding Smythe and once again attacking him.

Meanwhile, Vulture’s arrived at the force field protecting the civilians. He’s able to figure out that it can be taken down, if he takes out the Spider-bots. He starts doing that, but the civilians start trying to bargain with him. Glory Grant, a couple of people from the district attorney’s office, and Smythe’s lawyer all say that they’d be able to get him off for his past infractions, if he can help them out now. The warden for the Raft whispers to his men to blast him as soon as the field goes down though, because he’s kind of a dick (which we’ve been seeing bits of earlier, I just kinda glossed over them because they’re more or less irrelevant).

Also meanwhile, Scorpion finds Jameson, and the two fight for a moment, though Jameson’s gun doesn’t even scratch Scorpion’s shiny new suit. He’s about to kill Jameson, when Lizard arrives, and he seems to be in Dr. Curtis Connors mode, so he’s a good guy.

Back to Spidey and Smythe, Spidey manages to rip off one of Smythe’s stabby-tentacle-things, and Smythe surrenders. He goes on about how there’s innocent lives at stake, and how as the hero, Spidey needs to negotiate with him for their safety, all with a shit-eating-grin on his face. Spidey agrees, and gives him his opening offer.

Spidey drives a hard bargain, but it looks like Smythe accepts! He says that negotiating with Smythe would be stupid, since he’s a treacherous bastard and can’t be trusted half as far as Spidey could kick him. We then see that the suits of the other three villains have all fallen apart with Smythe dead, leaving Scorpion in desperate need of medical attention (which Jameson’s not inclined to give him), Vulture blind again, and Boomerang… surprisingly okay, though Spidey swings past him and webs him up. Vulture gets tased by the warden, Jameson returns and tells everyone how Lizard’s a good guy, and Spidey returns to check up on everyone and open the doors.

Once they get outside, everyone breathes in the fresh air and heaves a sigh of relief. Except the warden, who insists on putting restraints on Lizard. The celebration is cut short though, because Smythe emerges from a grate in the ground! Apparently, though his body is dead, his consciousness still has a few moments left, being contained within the cybernetic armor. He stabs Lizard and kills the warden, but Spidey grapples him before he can do any more harm. But this is exactly what Smythe wanted. He wraps some tentacles around Spidey’s face, saying that he’s going to transfer his consciousness into Spidey’s body. However, the tentacles are foiled by metal plating beneath Spidey’s mask. Spidey tells him how he’s Otto Octavius, and he already did this trick. Smythe barely has time to process this fact before he dies.

On the way back to shore, Spidey takes Jameson aside for a moment to talk about the Raft. Spidey suggests Jameson give it to him, to use as a base of operations. Jameson tells him to piss off, but in more friendly terms. Spidey says that’s a shame, and then has one of his Spider-bots replay the moment when Jameson was telling Spidey to kill Smythe. Yeah… he’s blackmailing Jameson. This is another one of those moments where I don’t really agree with what he’s doing. I really like Superior Spider-Man, and do feel that Ock was a better Spider-Man than Peter is, but I don’t agree with everything he did. I understand why he did those things, but I don’t condone them.

Anyway, Jameson announces that he’s giving Spidey the island in a press conference. Spidey then begins narrating about how he’s building a new legacy for himself, while he’s working on something at the Raft (renamed to Spider Island II). He’s also ordering some minions from someone over the phone. Is there seriously like an agency you can go through to hire henchmen? That’s… kind of weird, and takes some of the mystique out of supervillainy, if they have a job placement agency. Certainly explains where they keep getting those guys though.

Anyway, that wraps up this little storyline, and another chapter in Superior Spider-Man. As I said, I don’t necessarily agree with everything Spidey does in these issues. Killing Smythe I’m not as bothered by, since he was going to be executed anyway, but the blackmail I can’t quite get behind, even if I do like the results of it. The action is all pretty good in these issues, with no outstanding artistic failures or problems with sequencing. The writing is good, as always, though I do wonder why Smythe didn’t enact his escape plan a bit earlier. Spidey does say that only a few of the zerglings got smuggled in, and then replicated themselves using the materials of the Raft, so I guess that’s it. My only real complaint is that we don’t see anything touching on the background plots that are running in the series, but then again, including those might’ve interrupted the flow.

Join me next week, for another look at the Superior Spider-Man! Until then, citizens!

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