Everything is just falling into place now, isn’t it?
Last week, an image of the cover to a new (and rebooted) version of Amazing Spider-Man leaks on the internet. A few days later, Marvel comes clean, as Dan Slott kicks off his, “ah, you caught me … yep, Peter is coming back but with a twist,” tour. A super spoilery batch of April solicitations all but seal the deal. And then Superior Spider-Man #25 is released featuring plot developments that unashamedly scream that the end of the “Superior” era is nigh.
Superior Spider-Man #25 is Slott (and Chistos Gage) doing what Slott does best: high drama designed to leave the reader furiously turning the pages in alternating fits of joy, horror and frustration. It isn’t a perfect comic – it rarely ever is when it comes to Slott’s run on Spider-Man. But damn if it’s not entertaining, gripping stuff.
I think anyone who has read an Alan Moore, Warren Ellis or Grant Morrison-penned comic (among many other writers), should believe that the medium has evolved to the point where comic books are well beyond just being “kid’s stuff.” I love the fact that comic books are no longer a silly little diversion and that there are people out there who teach college courses about Watchmen or Sandman. There are so many intellectual things to talk about in comics these days, I’m not even remotely embarrassed anymore to talk with other academics about the medium.
But what I adore so much about Slott’s run on Spider-Man is how unpretentious the reading experience can be. I’m not saying Slott’s Spider-Man isn’t smart, but issues like Superior #25 embrace the old-school level of joy and – dare I say – fun that the medium offers. Sure, it’s great to talk about Moore’s use of nihilism, or Ellis’s examination of man vs. technology, but sometimes, I just want to watch Doctor Octopus, inside of Peter Parker’s body, being possessed by the symbiote, fighting the Avengers in the middle of New York City.
Regarding the Spider Ock/Avengers confrontation in this issue, while following the Superior Venom’s path of destruction, Slott/Gage slip in some little kernels of truth for us to think about, making us potentially sympathize with the “bad guy.” As the Avengers attack him, Spider Ock tells the superteam how he’s “done more for this city” than the rest of them, and yet they still “persecute” him. Sure, those are unquestionably the words of a supervillain and not your “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man,” but that doesn’t make them less true. Why aren’t the Avengers giving Spider-Man the benefit of the doubt? I know I’ve raised this question on Chasing Amazing more times than I can count, but what does Spider-Man have to do to get some respect from these guys?
In another wonderfully clever character moment, Spider Ock fights back against the Venom symbiote, not because he feels bad about the fact that he’s been kicking the Avengers’ tails all over New York City, but because he’s Otto Octavius and he’s furious that the alien has asserted some semblance of control over him. As has been the case since Doctor Octopus was first introduced more than 50 years ago, it’s always been about Otto and his high opinion of himself. Nobody is allowed to the alpha male in the room when he’s around, not even a sociopathic alien that needs to bond to a living host in order to survive.
Of course, I’m burying the lede of this issue – the return of “Ghost Peter” (or as I liked to call him for a while, Astral Peter). There has been a sense of inevitability about this reunion with Peter’s astral side since Superior #19 when we saw his silhouette emerging from the rubble of Spider Ock’s memories. But Slott/Gage and artist Humberto Ramos give us more than a bottom of the page teaser in Superior #25. When he provides the final push that separates Otto from the symbiote, it is the most assertive Ghost Peter has been since Doc Ock discovered him lurking around in his brain and performed his Parker-echtomy.
With six issues of this series remaining, it’s only fitting that Slott brings us back full circle and reintroduces Ghost Peter. I’m assuming this time around he’s here to stay until he somehow finds a way back to his physical body, thus kicking off ASM volume three. I’ll readily admit that the Ghost Peter device grew a little tiring during the first act of the Superior saga since there was always something a little forced about his appearances (the fact that Marvel’s editor-in-chief, Axel Alonso, pushed the idea of Slott probably had a lot to do with it). Superior #25 marks exactly how I hope Slott uses Peter until the very end of this series – in short bursts that keep the plot and narration moving forward.
Despite my excitement to see Peter again, I also thought all the rumor-mill stirring from the past week made the reveal a little anti-climatic for me. The sequence in Superior #19 was a legitimate surprise, but this most recent issue almost feels more obligatory. It’s so strange that a story can build and build to a specific moment but still be… predictable? Maybe. It’s not that I opened up my comic this week KNOWING we were going to see Ghost Peter again, but after everything that’s gone on both in the story and in the press, I wasn’t surprised. I’m sure Slott still has plenty of shocking moments up his sleeve before this thing is over.
The one storyline I’m still having a hard time being sold on is this Green Goblin subplot. We’ve now learned that everyone’s favorite slow-moving police detective Carlie Cooper is a Goblin. Could she be playing whoever it is under the Green Goblin mask? Of course, but if all things remain the same (which they never do in a Slott book), it does smack of a disproportionately unfair turn of events for Carlie. I’ve never been in love with the character, and her relationship with Peter was probably always doomed in the eyes of fans because she was the first serious girlfriend for him after the “One More Day” MJ-marriage annulment. But is this character really going to be a Goblin now? Really, really?
Additionally, we have the Green Goblin telling her that he’s Norman Osborn, which sets off every bell and whistle in my head. Perhaps what’s long looked like the obvious answer to this mystery is clearly not. A scene like that seems to open the playing field wide open again, which at this point, is more of a source of frustration than joyful gamesmanship. If solicitations are to be believed, we’re going to learn this information by Superior #31, so why is there a red herring being introduced as we near the finish line?
It’s some important (potential) misdirection because it also impacts the lingering subplot with Roderick Kingsley/Hobgoblin that is set to come to a head in two weeks. I love the fact that Kingsley is in my comic book again as much as the next guy, but this beef between he and the Goblin at this point doesn’t make a ton of sense, especially if it’s not actually Norman (or Norman with some kind of twist). Then again, maybe Slott/Gage just revealed the mystery to us as simple as that, and THAT’S the twist. Sigh … this is tiring.
Which brings me to my final point. I know this is going to make me a bad internet-dwelling comic book fan, but I’m officially declaring Chasing Amazing a speculation free web site until Superior ends and ASM kicks off. Slott keeps promising “shocking moments,” which he is wont to do, and to be honest, trying to play guessing games with his grand ideas has grown exhausting, so I would rather just sit back and enjoy the rest of this ride as a fan. If you guys want to speculate in the comments section, or send me your ideas on Twitter, it’s a free country, but I’ll probably refrain from engaging in any advancement of your theories. With reports that we’re now getting this digital series in April that’s going to feature Peter as an amnesiac, I really feel like I have no business trying to guess how we get there, if “there” even ever ends up being “there.”
All images from Superior Spider-Man #25: Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado, Antonio Fabela & Veronia Gandini