One of the best reasons to revisit a series is because it allows you to see the scope of the project. With serial storytelling, the creators sometimes don’t know where they are going, which becomes more obvious when collected in a trade. If they do have a clear roadmap though, what they accomplished over 15 to 50 issues is ever more present. Superior Spider-Man was one of my favorite series in the last decade and I reviewed every single issue. Since then though, I haven’t reread the series. Until now.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Doctor Octopus claims the ultimate victory over Spider-Man! After years of defeats at the wall-crawler’s hands, Otto Octavius achieves the unthinkable -putting his mind in the body of Peter Parker! As one Amazing era ends, a new one begins for a smarter, stronger, Superior Spider-Man! And he’ll prove it, by donning an upgraded costume – and facing down the all-new Sinister Six! But things aren’t so friendly in the neighborhood with this Spidey – and his more ruthless approach to crimefighting soon concerns his “fellow” heroes. Will his violent actions mean Spider-Man is an Avenger no more? With classic foes including the Vulture and the Green Goblin, and new friends like Anna Maria Marconi, this is Spider-Man like never before – but whatever happened to the real Peter?
Why does this matter?
This comic held such a high standard of excellence all the way through. Most issues were 9.0 or above when I reviewed this series, as Dan Slott was at the top of his game. This is also one of the most unique arcs ever, literally killing Peter Parker and putting one of his most famous villains literally inside his body. That gave the series an incredibly exciting premise that seemed to push readers into believing maybe a villain can be a hero. Or maybe not.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This collection houses the historic Amazing Spider-Man #698 through #700 and Superior Spider-Man #1 through #16. This is the perfect collection to drop yourself into a world where Doc Ock reigns supreme. The first few chapters reveal the final battle between Doc Ock and Peter Parker, only switched, as the transformation has already taken place. This is a great opening, though I’m sure some folks will be curious how the body switch took place. That said, it throws one of the most famous heroes ever into an impossible situation and ends in an incredibly emotional downward spiral that inspires all the issues that come after it. It’s a seriously touching moment that may even have you weeping with issue #700.
The next sixteen issues do a good job showing Doc Ock as Spider-Man and how his interest in being a good guy is slightly twisted but admirable. Superior Spider-Man ran 33 issues, so as far as collections go this gives us almost half of the stories. It’s quite fun to experience this story in one hefty collection in part because you can see how Slott plotted things out long term. The first half of these issues play up the ghost version of Peter Parker. Is it clear Slott had everything figured out from the very first issue? Probably not, but it’s fun to see how Slott gets himself out of this conundrum (and how he crushed our hearts again). Midway through these issues, it becomes quite clear Doc Ock’s ego will never go away, but his dedication to being better than Spider-Man is even stronger.
The second half of these issues delve into some Goblin villainy that helps put a new kind of spin on Spider-Man’s most evil natured foes. The recurring theme of Spider-Man doing terrible things to villains, and creating fear in their hearts, is played around with. You get the impression Slott is attempting to show us Spider-Man always did the right thing and this always works out for the best when compared to a hero who tears out eyes and cripples villains.
The art in this collection stands out and is one of the reasons the series was so enjoyable. This is where I first discovered Giuseppe Camuncoli who was incredibly good at capturing character acting with big action beats. Ryan Stegman was also involved in a number of these chapters, and employs a style that’s darker in a tone which suits the evil underpinnings of the new Spider-Man. Humberto Ramos, who at this point will be remembered as one of the greatest Spider-Man artists of all time, also joins in with some exceptional chapters.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Am I crazy for thinking you shouldn’t call a book “complete” unless it has all the chapters? There’s a good chunk here, but by the end, you’ll want the rest rather than have to wait.
That said, I almost think they should have ended this trade paperback when Doc Ock gets rid of ghost Peter Parker. From there on Slott builds on elements that are still in the comics today, like Peter’s new budding romantic relationship, Jameson’s career, and developments with the Goblin characters. This section isn’t bad by any means, but it just starts getting good in its complexities by the time this book finishes.
Is It Good?
I loved this series back when it was released in its issue by issue installments and I still enjoy it today. This story holds up due to the strong art and the fascinating and unique twist on a major superhero. Frankly I can’t believe Marvel let Slott do what he did and for so long too. It’s one of the most exciting arcs to ever happen to any superhero, let alone one of the biggest in the world.
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