Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Superior Spider-Man, #14-16

Greetings once again, citizens! This week, we continue our look at Superior Spider-Man, with issues 14-16. The series was only 31 issues long (technically 33, but I don’t know if I’ll do the last two or not), so this marks the half-way point in the overall review!

Let’s start with the cover. This cover isn’t especially good, but it’s still better than some of the early ones. It’s just Spidey swinging from some webs with a bunch of guys in a matching uniform in the background. Actually, the goggles that everyone’s wearing make them remind me of the Monarch’s henchmen from Venture Bros.

The only other noteworthy thing to point is that this is the first time we see Spidey’s new outfit. I kinda glossed over it in the last review, but while Spidey was on the phone with Goons R Us, he also ordered a new outfit for himself. I like this one more actually. There’s less red to it, making the parts that are red stand out even more, like the small touches on his hands and feet. The larger spider symbol is also neat. Not sure if it’s intentional or not, but it makes me think of Eddie Brock as Venom, who was supposed to be kind of an evil opposite of Spider-Man, which works giving Ock’s own inclination to darkness. The black eyes finish off the suit, once again adding to the darker tone of the suit, but also keeping the color scheme down to two colors, making it more consistent.

Anyway, the issue opens with a man narrating to himself. He lives in Hell’s Kitchen, in the same neighborhood as the Kingpin’s fortress, Shadowland. The Kingpin, for anyone unfamiliar with him, is one of the major lords of organized crime in New York. He’s run afoul of a few different heroes, most notably Spidey and Daredevil. I find it kind of odd just how many superheroes there are in New York, and yet so few seem to give a damn about gangs.

We jump to what’s going on inside of Shadowland, where Kingpin is going over the situation in New York with his minions. If you recall, back in issue #10, we saw that Spider-Man took down the heads of three different crime families. Kingpin’s talking about taking over their territory, in order to expand his empire. And then Spidey’s voice is heard, saying that Kingpin’s going down. Kingpin throws open his giant door to see what in the hell Spider-Man is doing, and he sees this:

Yyyyep. Spidey’s piloting a mech and has an army of minions with him. Now’s probably the time to talk about this, the whole minions and mechs thing. Spidey is displaying behavior much more in line with a supervillain. And honestly… I like this idea. Sure, it’s not traditional superheroing, but so what? It’s a good idea. The heavy hardware like the spider tank things is good for situations like this, taking down an evil lair or other suitably large thing. The minions themselves can be utilized for crowd control with civilians, countering the villain’s goons, operations that require a wide area to be covered, etc etc. I can understand why other heroes don’t do that, since equipping underlings and paying them to do all this crazy stuff is prohibitively expensive, and there’s also a high level of cooperation with local authorities required. Spidey’s still got access to his accounts from back when he was Doc Ock, so the money is taken care of. Jameson’s being blackmailed to more or less give Spidey free license to do as he pleases, so the “cooperation” is taken care of.

Anyway, the two sides fight, with Kingpin and Hobgoblin trying to escape. We also get to see a new addition to the Spider suit: cybernetic appendages. I personally think they’re really neat, not to mention useful. It’s strange that nobody seems to think that this is odd though. I mean, Spidey was fighting Doc Ock for years and never bothered getting his own, but now that Ock is “dead” he gets a set of his own? This should stick out as weird. Or maybe everyone just thinks Spidey was afraid that Ock would sue him for infringing on his shtick.

But back with Kingpin and Hobgoblin, they head deep into the base in spite of the danger, and we see… the Kingpin?

Well, sort of. Turns out Kingpin took a guy, turned him into a genetic duplicate, and also altered his teeth to match Kingpin’s. Y’know, so that he could kill him and fake his own death, like he does here. After making sure his double is dead, he makes his way to a one-man sub. Hobgoblin realizes that he’s on his own and clears out. On his way out though, he runs into a Spider-bot. He’s about to destroy the thing, when he notices that it just ignores him. Turns out that Hobgoblin’s mask lets him take advantage of the Goblin protocol that the Green Goblin installed in the Spider-bots.

So Shadowland is utterly destroyed, and Spidey goes out to make a grand display for the citizens of the neighborhood, talking about how awesome he is, and also how awesome Jameson is. We see the man who was narrating at the beginning talking to Spidey, and thanking him.

However, things aren’t as rosy as they seem. The next day, we see a drug dealer in the neighborhood, bearing the mark of the Goblin that we’ve seen back in issue #10. We also see an assembly of a bunch of the Goblin’s minions, now including some of the ones that Kingpin had among them. Gobby declares that 52% of organized crime in the city is now run by him, making him the new kingpin of crime. The issue ends with a splash page showing the Goblin laughing over a shot of the city.

Issue #15’s cover’s actually not bad. It’s an action scene, showing Spidey and Hobgoblin fighting. My only real complaint is that the setting seems more like the fight from the last issue, instead of what actually happens in this one. But it’s still pretty good looking, making the issue seem exciting.

We open with Hobgoblin, still on the run from the previous issue entering an antique shop, run by the Tinkerer. The Tinkerer is one of those guys who supplies gadgetry to supervillains who aren’t technological geniuses. Hobby’s come in to get maintenance on his stuff, and some more bombs. Tinkerer passes the job off to a guy working for him, Tiberius Stone. There’s a backstory about Tiberius Stone, but unfortunately I couldn’t find any info about it. He was apparently hiding from Kingpin, but with Kingpin gone he can leave. However, he’s also got a beef with Hobgoblin, so he decides to do this last job for the Tinkerer, and also work on a little revenge while he’s got a chance. He’s got a few more people on his revenge list too, but I’ll get into that another time.

So what’s Spidey up to? He and his men are digging through the wreckage of Shadowland, trying to find the bodies of Kingpin and Hobgoblin. Because the ninjas that Kingpin had don’t actually leave remains, they just need to find some remains. Carlie Cooper and Captain Watanabe are also there, incredulous that Spidey did this. They argue a bit about whether this was right or not, with Captain Watanabe using the “might makes right” quote, but Spidey countering with the whole “great power” one, showing a gross misunderstanding of what that actually means. It doesn’t just mean using your power for the benefit of others, but also using the power in a responsible manner, showing restraint. That’s an underlying conflict of the whole series, and one that I really like. I could go on about it for another thousand words or so, but I think I’d lose half my audience if I started acting like I was Alan Shore.

Anyway, they find a body, and declare that it’s Kingpin. From what we get to see of it though, it looks like it could be either. Maybe the characters can get a better look, but it’s too morbid to actually have in the comic. After that’s found, Spidey swings off. Captain Watanabe and Carlie talk, discussing their investigation into Spidey not being the real Spidey.

We cut back to the Hobgoblin, or rather his alter ego, Phil Urich. Phil Urich’s had something of a weird history as a character. He started out as a heroic version of the Green Goblin back in the mid 90’s. He unfortunately later became a villain, killing the guy going by Hobgoblin at the time. He’s currently renting the name of Hobgoblin from the original one, an idea that I believe I talked about before. He’s also currently working at the Daily Bugle, where we see him selling the footage of the Shadowland battle. Afterwards, we see him in his kitchen, where he gets a call from the original Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley. Kingsley’s wondering where the rent for this month is, but Urich says he’s short. Kingsley points out the obvious, and says that Urich can rob a freaking bank if he needs money.

We get a splash page, showing off Urich’s one-man crime spree along the top of the page, and Spidey being unable to catch him, since his Spider-bots don’t recognize Hobgoblin. Urich complains about how being a criminal has become a job, and not even a pleasant one, which I just find kind of funny.

Stepping away from recapping for a moment, I want to talk about the artwork. Most of the comments I’ve made about Humberto Ramos’ artwork have not been positive, which I feel kind of bad about. While the stylization that Ramos has in his artwork is not exactly my cup of tea, he is a good artist. He’s certainly a lot better than some of the other artists I’ve seen who still get work. I bring this up because after the splash page, we get a scene of Peter brooding within Spider Island, and it is really well done.

Peter’s expression is an excellent mixture of frustration, weariness and introspection, perfectly reflecting Peter’s thoughts in this scene. His chair also has a bunch of cables attached to it, really making it seem like he’s sitting at the center of a web. In addition to the pencils, I’ve got to give credit to Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado, the inker and colorist respectively. The heavy shadows and red tint to everything lends to the thoughts that Peter’s having.

What thoughts are those? Well, frustration at not being able to catch Hobgoblin, of course. He muses about how he feels that perhaps the reason he’s not had success is because of his dual lifestyle. He ponders maybe devoting himself fully to being Spider-Man, and abandoning the life of Peter Parker. He asks himself if anything of value would truly be lost, when Anna Maria calls, wondering where he’s been.

We cut away from the potentially tender moment to some more plot advancement. Underneath of New York, we see the Green Goblin talking with someone about the Hobgoblin situation. Interesting thing to note is that Gobby’s not in costume when we first see him, but we don’t get to see his face, so it’s not clear exactly which Green Goblin we’re dealing with. Anyway, he gives an order to have his people lie low for a bit, so that he can deactivate the Goblin protocols. He’s deactivating them because he’s worried that Urich’s exploits might cause Spidey to take a look at the Spider-bots, meaning he might notice the additional programming.

Back to Peter, who’s in a meeting with Dr. Lamaze, the school’s chancellor, and Anna Maria. He’s told that, in spite of his frequent absences, he’ll be receiving full credit for his class, meaning that the only thing he has left to do for his PhD is his thesis. He gets out of the meeting, saying that it went better than usual. Anna Maria points out that it went better because his phone didn’t go off during it. Or rather it did, but Anna Maria picked his pocket for it earlier. He actually doesn’t seem too upset by this, but that could just be because it’s Anna Maria. But he still needs to attend to the alert he’s getting, and thus runs off.

Back to the Hobgoblin, we see him robbing a check-cashing place, saying that this job will finally pay the rest of his bills. We also see Tiberius Stone watching, while looking at- is that a Pokédex?

No time to dwell on that, because Spidey swings in! He and Hobgoblin begin to fight, but Stone uses his Pokédex to screw with Hobgoblin’s equipment. Hobgoblin decides to run like hell, getting away from Spidey long enough to ditch most of his gear, which had tracers on it. Urich then rushes to the Bugle, trying to get an advance for more Hobgoblin footage. He’s clearly not thinking straight, since he needs the money in order to replace the gear he lost, which is probably going to cost a hell of a lot more than he’ll get for any footage. Spidey’s using the tracers to listen in on him, but can’t quite pinpoint his location. So what does he do?

He announces to the people of New York who Hobgoblin is, showing a picture of him, and asking for them to call a tip line if they see him, and the issue ends with everyone in the Bugle staring at Urich

We yet again have a decent, if misleading cover. Hobgoblin run through with his energy sword is pretty neat looking, though he never actually ends up getting aerated like that. Though if he did, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising, given how Spidey dealt with Massacre and Smythe.

The issue opens where we left off in the previous one; Inside the Bugle with people staring at Urich, and Spidey on the TV. The people Urich is closest to at the Bugle start talking to him, and trying to keep the situation under control. Urich is definitely feeling the pressure though, and he develops a case of the giggles as the cops show up outside.

Meanwhile, Spidey’s able to pinpoint where Urich’s hiding out and orders his nearest team of minions to the spot, but we see one of them getting abducted by some purple ribbons. While that’s happening, Spidey slips into the Bugle through a window. Urich, being a desperate fool, decides to whip out his energy sword and hold Norah Winters hostage. Norah’s is Urich’s girlfriend, by the way. What a class act, our Hobgoblin.

We cut away from that in order to build tension- I mean, to see what’s going on with that minion who got abducted. The vigilante The Wraith, secretly Captain Watanabe, is questioning him. She interrogates him about how he’s being paid and such, giving her and Carlie a lead to continue their investigation.

Back at the hostage situation, Norah proves that she’s something of a badass by rescuing herself from her dick of a boyfriend. Before Spidey can apprehend him though, Urich lets loose a sonic scream, hurting everyone in the area. He stops however, when he sees his uncle being harmed. Spidey then tackles him through a window, and out into the streets where Urich sees his face on every TV screen in view, realizing his life is ruined.

And back to the Green Goblin. He’s intrigued by how much Hobgoblin’s gotten under Spidey’s skin, so he sends a minion out to get him, a woman called Menace.

But enough of that, back to the action! Urich’s surrounded by police, and we see some of Spidey’s mechs hanging around in the background. Urich knows he’s beaten, so he drops the sword. Spidey is still “worried” about the sonic scream, so he picks up the sword, musing that there must be some way he could prevent the scream from escaping Urich’s throat. But before he can act on that, he gets a call from Captain America. Cap is concerned by his overtly villainous behavior, saying that they need to have a chat. Spidey deactivates the sword, and takes this opportunity to defuse all the questions about his personal army, by congratulating the citizens of New York on their vigilance and what not. Urich is taken into custody, looking exceptionally haggard by the experience.

He’s not in custody for long though. Before his transport gets very far, it’s taken out by Menace, who takes her back to the tunnels beneath New York. He’s given the opportunity to join up with Gobby, being given new gear, a new costume, and even a new name. The issue ends with us being introduced to the Goblin Knight.

Overall, these issues are pretty good. We get a lot more advancement of some of the background plots that have been going on up to this point, like Carlie’s investigation and the Green Goblin’s criminal empire. Now that Spidey’s no longer burdened by Ghost-Pete hanging around, he’s indulging more in some of his old habits. It’s an interesting way of approaching the business of being a superhero, and not necessarily a bad one. I actually think that it’s pretty cool, not to mention useful for some situations. The problem lies in Spidey not showing restraint. I would’ve liked to see more of a struggle with him trying to restrain himself, but at the same time, his arrogance is one of the reasons I like reading the character. I find arrogance to be an entertaining trait for characters to have, possibly because it’s something so very different from how I act.

So, that's all for this week! Join me next week, as I take a look at something much less pleasant. Until then, fare thee well!

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