Thursday, December 18, 2014

Superior Spider-Man, #20 & 21

Greetings, citizens! It’s time for the final look at Superior Spider-Man for the year! We’ve gotten through about two-thirds of the series in the four months I’ve been doing this, which isn’t bad, considering my detours to other things every few weeks. I hadn’t planned it out this way, but thinking on it, these issues are an excellent way to close out the year, so let’s get started.

The cover of issue #20 is… good and bad. It’s well drawn, with a great composition. The scene is très romantique, with candles, champagne, an implausibly enormous moon, and of course the ever-lovely Felicia Hardy giving our hero a gentle caress. When I saw this, I immediately thought “oh man, Anna Maria is not going to be pleased about this.” I may not have been reading Spider-Man prior to this, but his relationship with Hardy is well known. Given Peter’s previous behavior in regards to lovely women…

I did not have high hopes for his actions in this issue. So why is the cover bad? Well, I’ll get to that in a bit.

The issue begins with a flashback to “Doc Ock’s” “death.” Across town at a hospital, we see that a coma patient is apparently waking up, but her condition isn’t good so she’s sent to the OR. We also see another patient who also seems to be in a coma come to for a moment to spout a prophecy.

The prophecy doesn’t have any bearing on the series, I only mention it because it ties in to Spider-Verse, and I can’t recommend that series enough. I also like that there was foreshadowing for it more than year beforehand, unlike other events.

Back with the plot, the first woman’s surgery goes well, and as soon as she’s able to, she asks about Doc Ock. She’s informed he has just died, and she lets forth a big, dramatic, “NO!”

Fast forward to now, we see Spidey swinging towards a date with Anna Maria, but he gets side-tracked when he spots none other than Felicia Hardy hard at work in her chosen profession. She sees him and activates her flirtation mode, which causes Peter to respond in a slightly unexpected way.

Uh, Pete, pretty sure that’s not how you’re supposed to respond to someone flirting with you. The two fight for a moment, and Peter webs her up and contacts the cops to come pick her up. Eyup, the scene on the cover is over and done with in a mere three pages, and had all the romance of just about every other fight we’ve seen Peter in throughout the series. This is the problem that I have with the cover. A cover is supposed to give you an idea of what to look forward to in a given issue, so that people who aren’t reading it can see it, and maybe decide “hey, this looks like it might be good.” Misleading covers are a bald-faced lie to try and get people to read when they otherwise wouldn’t. Black Cat is a popular character, and she hasn’t been seen in the Spider-Man books for a while, so seeing her would entice people to buy. But she’s barely in the damn thing! Why not just have Spidey fighting dinosaurs while we’re at it?

Moving on, we get to see Peter on his date with Anna Maria. They have a pretty romantic picnic out on a giant web that Peter made. This is a side of this Peter that we’ve not really seen before, and it’s kind of nice seeing it. Likewise, it was interesting to see that Peter didn’t take the opportunity to try and get some side-action with Hardy. I had never really thought of Otto Octavius as a romantic, monogamous individual, especially considering his behavior right after getting into Peter’s body. It lends some depth and sympathy to the character, for me at least. At the end of the date (or at least of what we see), Peter tells Anna Maria that he’s going to be starting his own company and would like her to be involved, which she accepts.

The next day, we see Aunt May and her husband Jay at the hospital for May’s physical therapy. They talk about how they’re going to be investing a lot of their money into Peter’s business. We also get to see the mysterious coma woman coming out of physical therapy, saying that she’s made such progress because she’s been well motivated. Later, we see May and Jay at the bank, signing the papers along with Peter and Sajani, who is going to serve as vice president in Parker Industries. Peter muses about how he’s putting up just about all of his assets, except for his old accounts from when he was still Otto.

And speaking of those accounts, we see Carlie Cooper and Yuri Watanabe, discussing how they finally have the proof that they need. Carlie’s not planning to arrest “Peter” though, since the info was obtained under duress and from a questionable source. No, she’s going to take the proof to The Avengers.

Wonder how many people will get that.

She also gives MJ a call, and tells her to stay away from Peter and to pass the message along to everyone else. Speaking of MJ, we get a scene where she goes to see the fireman who saved her at her club’s fire. I’m skipping it because the only real takeaway from it is that they’re in a relationship now.

Back with Peter, we see him getting a pep talk from Anna Maria before presenting his thesis to the board. He does his presentation, which goes over very well, with everyone on the board being quite impressed. Everyone, that is, except for Dr. Lamaze, who claims that all of this is plagiarized from the work of his friend and colleague, Otto Octavius. Peter is taken by surprise by this, and realizes that he can’t actually deny it, nor can he tell the board the truth. Lamaze says that there is no way that Peter will receive his doctorate, and Peter can do little else but give Lamaze a menacing stare. Personally, I feel that this would’ve made a better ending for the issue than what we got, especially since the final panel has that sort of “until next time” kind of feel to it.

The actual end of the issue is focused on mysterious coma woman, who goes into a secret lab of one Caroline Trainer. We also learn that the woman’s name is Angelina Brancale. She activates some equipment and swears vengeance upon Spider-Man in the name of the man whom she loved, Otto Octavius. The teaser for the next issue reads “The return of Stunner!” which confused me at first, because I had never heard of Stunner. It’s not surprising, in retrospect, since she wasn’t that big of a character and was pretty much only around during the Clone Saga. Stunner was a young woman who was seduced into a life of villainy by Doc Ock, who she fell in love with. After Ock was killed by Kaine (yeah, the whole mind swap thing with Peter isn’t the first time Otto’s cheated death), she took part in a ritual to bring him back to life. The ritual destroyed her virtual body and put her into a coma though, which brings us back to the present.

The cover for issue #21 is really dynamic. It shows Stunner hefting a car over a battered looking Spidey lying amidst debris and looking quite desperate. One of Spidey’s eye lenses has been smashed, and the pleading look we can see in his eye is a really nice touch by the penciler, Giuseppe Camuncoli. Camuncoli is probably my favorite penciler they’ve had for the series, so it’s always nice to see more of his work.

The issue opens with Stunner smashing her way into the Daily Bugle, demanding where Spider-Man is. I love how much a part of the Bugle experience this stuff is. Betty Brant, who hasn’t been at the Bugle in awhile, says that it doesn’t feel quite right until Stunner busts in. They explain to her that the Bugle isn’t on friendly terms with Spidey anymore, but if she wants to get to him, it’s not that hard.

Speaking of Spidey, we see Peter and Anna Maria storming out of the meeting with the board. Peter is understandably upset, in spite of Anna’s offers to talk with Lamaze and try and smooth things over. Peter’s too busy reliving his supervillainy days, and starts coming up with a scheme to get his way, possibly including a kraken or a robot double. Anna Maria of course thinks he’s joking, but when she looks back at him, he’s vanished. Peter is quickly donning his Spider-Man suit, when he gets a call from Spider Island, informing him of the Stunner situation. He goes to try and talk to Stunner, but the only thing she wants to hear are Spider-Man’s screams of agony, so he has little luck.

Before we can get too invested in the fight, however, we cut over to Carlie who’s visiting the grave of Otto Octavius. She does a bit of grieving for the real Peter and also swears that she’ll show the world the truth, at which point the grave collapses. I had actually forgotten this part, but it would seem that Otto’s body is missing. It’s a pretty strange detail, and it doesn’t get any kind of explanation during the series, but I’ve got some suspicions about it. Anyway, before Carlie can wonder too much about what this means, she gets abducted.

Back with Spidey, the two fight for a bit, with Peter reluctant to do much to her, even though he’s just fighting a hologram. He has his Spider-bots pick up the signal that’s sending out the hologram, and track it back to it’s source. But that’s going to take some time, so they continue to fight. Eventually, Stunner is able to surprise Spidey by throwing a whole freaking bus at him. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Spider-Man comic if his love interest wasn’t in peril from acts of superviallins, the bus ends up nearly crushing Anna Maria and Dr. Lamaze, but Spidey manages to catch it. We have a tense couple of pages where Spidey is just barely holding the bus over Anna, and Stunner draws out delivering a final blow. You’d think after so many years, supervillains would just stop doing it, because once again, stalling ends up screwing the villain over. The Spider-bots have finally tracked down the secret lab that Stunner’s been using, and shut down the machine, causing a kind of feedback which knocks her out. Anna Maria also manages to get over her shock and crawl out from under the bus before Spidey lets it down. He quickly heads off to the secret lab to make sure that the hologram projection machine isn’t anywhere near Stunner when she awakens.

When she does awaken, she sees Otto before her, and we get to see that he’s moved the system to Spider Island, and is using it to talk to Stunner. Stunner is so incredibly overjoyed to see him, that they can be together again, but Otto has to turn her down. He tells her that he still cares for her, but that he has moved on with his life. It’s actually a pretty sad scene, in my eyes, though it is short and we don’t get to see what Stunner has to say in response, only that she’s in tears.

Since he’s got himself a handy Otto hologram that he can use, he decides to pay Lamaze a visit, and tell him that Peter Parker was a child prodigy who was responsible for all of Otto’s greatest inventions. The next day, Lamaze recants his accusations of theft for Peter, and congratulates him on earning his doctorate. Hooray! Side-quest completed!

But we can’t end on a happy note, no sir. Nope, instead we cut to the Goblin Underground where we see Menace has a gift for the Green Goblin. That gift of course being Menace’s sister, Carlie, who she’s been keeping tabs on. She also hands over the journal with a complete account of her investigations into who really inhabits Peter’s body, which makes Gobby incredibly giddy. Now, I said that I like Camuncoli’s pencils, but there are some problem spots, including our final panel here.

Jeez, just look at that. What in the heck is going on? His eyelashes look like they belong in a mascara commercial, and he has the mouth of a particularly creepy sex doll.

All in all, I thought that these two issues were pretty good. They are a bit slower, and have very little action, but they advance several of the subplots of the series rather well, and have some good character spots. We get to see this Peter being romantic and showing how devoted he is to Anna. He not only blew off one of Peter’s romantic interests, but he also passed up one of his own, even though he could’ve had some fun with either or both of them. Monogamy was not exactly something I was expecting out of this Peter. But that also makes him more relatable, and helps to illustrate that he’s not doing what he does out of malice, but because he feels that he is doing the right thing. We also get some resolution to Peter earning his degree, and advancement of Carlie’s plotline, plus a big, foreboding bombshell with the Green Goblin learning that Spidey is not what he seems. The slower pace is also a nice reprieve from the intense and fast-paced nature of the previous three issue arc, giving us a bit of a rest before the next plotline.

Next week I had planned on reviewing the Teen Titans cartoon, but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to re-watch it. So, next week will be a special, surprise review! Until then, farewell and happy Hanukkah!


  1. Just stopping from my small quest of read everything you put out so far to say that I got the British Avengers reference. But I regret getting it since I am more familiar with the boring movie version than the TV show.

    1. If it helps, I've never seen either. I just have a passing familiarity with the character of Steed.