The newest issue of The Superior Spider-Man has a grim conclusion, causing one Major Spoilers reviewer to reflect on a commonly employed comic book cliché. As a new Spider-Man swings into action against a murderous villain, Major Spoilers reviews The Superior Spider-Man #5.
THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #5
Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inkers: John Dell & Giuseppe Camuncoli
Color Art: Edgar Delgado & Antonio Fabella
Letterer: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
Assistant Editor: Ellie Pyle
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Previously, in The Superior Spider-Man: Otto Octavius has taken over Peter Parker’s body, and with it, the role of Spider-Man. Sociopathic spree-killer Massacre is on the loose, but the new Spider-Man has a few tricks up his sleeve.
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I imagine this will be a controversial issue, as that cover ain’t just for show. This issue takes the Massacre storyline to its logical conclusion, as Otto Octavius shows just how different he is from Peter Parker. I feel conflicted in my response to Octavius’s choice. The action proceeds as follows. Massacre is living up to his name as he shoots up Grand Central Station, clearly killing several police officers and bystanders. Octavius first rescues some hostages Massacre has wired up with bombs for leverage, then levels the madman with a punch to the jaw and a bullet to the shoulder. As Massacre reaches for his fallen gun, Octavius stomps on the grasping hand, picking up the gun himself. Massacre begins to weep, claiming he is experiencing emotion (fear) for the first time in years. A member of the crowd calls for Massacre’s execution as Octavius weighs the likelihood of the killer escaping from custody once again to commit more murders. Then Octavius pulls the trigger. So the crux is that Octavius killed Massacre in cold blood, something which a hero does not do. For as Peter Parker’s ghost says, “That’s why we don’t kill! ‘Cause there’s always hope.” But that doesn’t really wash.
You can look forward to an editorial about the feelings this scenario engendered in me, because the topic of how Dan Slott introduced real world violence into The Superior Spider-Man #4 and #5 is a complex one, which requires a deeper exploration outside the purview of this review.
That said, Slott still writes an interesting issue, and none of the story elements are treated in a cavalier manner even as I may not agree with their employment. Killing aside, I like how Octavius’s ruthlessness also manifests as a peculiar efficiency. His willingness to implement creative technological solutions allows him to be a better Peter Parker, and in some ways, a better Spider-Man. He is more attentive to Aunt May, more proactive in his romantic life and more inventive as an inventor. So even if his arrogant attitude still causes problems when it comes to small talk and collateral damage, it would be interesting to see what Spider-Octopus could achieve over the long haul. Under Slott’s pen, this character is complex and rewarding. I almost wish the Peter Parker personality fragment wasn’t still lingering. His presence keeps me from diving fully into Octavius’s character as I keep looking around for the source of the inevitable reversal.
A GOOD FIT
With issue #4, The Superior Spider-Man switched artists from Ryan Stegman to Giuseppe Camuncoli. And to be honest, I couldn’t tell much of a difference. And that’s actually a compliment. These Spider-books come out so fast that a rotating cast of artists with wildly differing styles would be tremendously distracting. Camuncoli, Stegman and the upcoming Ramos are all migrating over from Amazing Spider-Man and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Camuncoli has a lively, fluid style that works well with the web-slinging action. My only complaint is that in the climactic scene, the guns are sometimes seem a little off-model in their size and perspective. But I’m glad that this team of writer and artists did not get the (re)boot during Marvel NOW!
BOTTOM LINE: OF TWO MINDS
This is a weird comic for me to rate. I love some parts of it and hate others. A resulting issue of my ambivalence is that I keep thinking about The Superior Spider-Man #5, and how it fits into a larger discussion of violence and media portrayals. Few comics can spark that sort of reflection. Dan Slott is evidencing proof that he is thinking deeply about these issues and the characterizations at the core of the story. If he weren’t, I would rate this issue as exploitative trash. But it definitely is not that. The Superior Spider-Man #5 is thorny and complex and problematic, even as it takes the form of a typical capes and spandex super adventure. So… having to pick a number, I’ll say that The Superior Spider-Man #5 rates a three and a half out of five stars. Check it out.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!