In terms of functioning as an engaging set-up for the upcoming “Spider-Verse” storyline, Superior Spider-Man #33 is a very effective comic book. But now, the question remains whether or not Dan Slott’s “Spider-Verse” is actually a story I want to read.
Which is not say I’m debating skipping the arc. I’m in this for the long haul and outside of my prolonged absence from comics in general in the mid/late 90s/early aughts, I have followed the adventures of Spider-Man regardless of whether or not I truly “enjoyed” the writing and the art. And truth be told, regardless of my thoughts on the most recent batch of Amazing Spider-Man issues, I don’t think it’s possible for Slott to ever pen something that is as remotely bad as some of the more infamous Spider-Man stories of all time (you know the usual suspects – no sense dragging them through the mud again).
But after reading Superior #33 it’s also become increasingly clear to me why, as has been reported on a few different outlets, Slott’s initial conception of “Spider-Verse” was for it to be a Spider-Ock-centric story rather than something with Peter Parker as the focal point. Granted, that’s an easy conclusion to draw when the first two chapters of storyline are based in Spider-Ock’s universe, but there are certain themes and conflicts that are being referenced in both the Superior issues and the Edge of Spider-Verse mini that make this story feel more at home in Otto’s world rather than Peter’s.
Of course, the next question is why I would think that’s a potentially bad thing for “Spider-Verse.” And maybe it’s not. But as I read Superior #33 and I watched Otto puff out his chest and bemoan the mental/physical/emotional weaknesses of his predecessor Peter Parker rather than take responsibility for his own shortcomings against the forces of Morlun, I couldn’t help but think that this was a story that probably should have been told a year ago. By that I mean, while I completely understand that the past two issues of Superior were set in the past, based on Otto’s characterization in these comics and the fact that per the solicitations he’s going to appear in the present day “Spider-Verse” arc, this also feels like a backwards step for Otto. Maybe “Spider-Verse” should have replaced “Goblin Nation” as the final arc of Superior because, based on the information being presented in the prologue, it feels like a more powerful story about Otto’s hubris getting the better of him and then him yielding to Peter as the one “true” Spider-Man could be told via “Spider-Verse” when compared to what we actually got.
So while “Spider-Verse,” in isolation, could be an entertaining story, I don’t know how I feel about the fact that it’s narratively moving in reverse. This could also help explain why the first arc of the new ASM was such a brainfart. Based on how fleshed out this story has been so far for Slott and Marvel, “Spider-Verse” was clearly developed well before the end of Superior and ASM #1-6. This is purely speculation on my part, but if Marvel let the politics of timing Peter’s return in comics with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 film interfere with the natural flow of the larger story Slott is/was trying to tell, I don’t think anyone ends up winning in the short or long term. “Spider-Verse” could very well be one of the stronger pieces Slott has ever written, but if the tone of it becomes muddied by something as silly as the sequencing of its release, the arc is going to ultimately fall short in terms of my overall enjoyment.
Beyond sequencing, there are other little bits and pieces from Superior #33 that give me some pause about the broader direction of “Spider-Verse.” Now that Spider-Ock has his team of alternative Spidey’s assembled, there definitely appears to be some lines in the sand being drawn in terms of how each individual Spider-Man would prefer to deal with the threat of Karn, Morlun and the rest of the Inheritors who are hunting Spider-Totems. Otto, Assassin Spider-Man (from the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine What If?) and Spider-Gir,l (from, I believe “Old Man Logan”) are coming from the school of using lethal force because it’s the “only way,” while the rest of the Spidey’s, those “analogues of Peter Parker” as Otto dismisses them, want to find another way.
This is a theme that I feel gets touched on quite a bit in Spidey comics. It was a major component of the first half of Slott’s Superior run, and was one of the prevailing dynamics in one of my least favorite storylines of all time, “Maximum Carnage.” As such, this is just a narrative beat that I can do without at this point in time unless Slott really thinks he can come up with something new to say about about it.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Superior Spider-Man #33, because I did. The opening reveal of Cyborg Spider-Man psyching out Karn was terrific fun, and I think it’s great that Slott and Gage are working in a bunch of other moments – albeit small ones – with some of these other alternative Spidey’s, whether it’s the Spider-Monkey or the six-armed monstrosity. Plus, either Nick Lowe listened to complainers like me or he just realized his folly from Superior #32 and he went ahead and listed out who was who and what parallel Earth they come from. When I mentioned the necessity to do think for “Spider-Verse” some thought it would clutter up the page with text, but I don’t think that was the case.
And I really can’t find any fault in the Gage-scripted backup story regarding some Karn’s origins. It’s a short and effective piece that goes out of its ways to provide some context for why the Inheritors are currently in the midst of their big hunt. Considering some of the less-than-satisfying characterization we’ve been getting for long-term characters like Black Cat and Electro as of late, it’s great to see the creative team get their hands dirty by crafting an engrossing and logical origin story for Karn that doesn’t ask the reader to reserve judgment and “just go with it.” Again, there are certain things about “Spider-Verse” that make me quite anxious about what this story hopes to accomplish, but one thing that is not on my list of concerns is it featuring a compelling villain that is properly motivated.