Superior Spider-Man is far more fun than Peter Parker. There, I said it. He’s not the OG of Spider-Man characters, but his evil nature and egomania are incredibly fun traits to explore while reading this series. Christos Gage and Matt Hawthorne have brought the character back to readers with his own ongoing series and, so far, the series has blown me away. The first collection is out this week featuring the first six issues, and it’s well worth your time.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Otto Octavius leaves the moniker of Doctor Octopus behind…and once again becomes the Superior Spider-Man! If you think you’ve already read the most intense, unexpected and surprisingly heartbreaking Superior Spider-Man story there is, prepare to be proven wrong! Otto is going to show the world that he’s the most pragmatic, most effective and (to him, anyway) best super hero on the planet. But when a villain that considerably overpowers Otto shows up in San Francisco, there’s no way the Superior Spider-Man can triumph, right? Right? Can you see Otto smirking from where you’re reading this?
Why does this matter?
Otto Octavius is back in a Spider-Man suit, has his own city of San Francisco to protect, and he’s learning how to be a better person. Gage and Hawthorne are delivering a story where they can really change the character since he’s got his own corner of the Marvel universe to explore. That’s exciting since most serial storytelling can’t change a character too much.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This series does Superior Spider-Man right. It opens with him being a bit of a bastard, but as the story develops you can see he’s trying to be a hero and a better man. The book opens with an action scene and proceeds to unveil how Otto’s life works these days in San Francisco. Shockingly, the once evil and definitely grouchy Doc Ock has a pretty great life. Gage is integrating the Horizon organization into his life, carrying over those characters from Amazing Spider-Man and also the love of Doc Ock’s life, Anna Maria. There are structures here that were already established as strong and dynamic, continuing the trend of a great series. Anna Maria, in particular, has a different dynamic with Otto that’s very adult and complex.
This series does not hold back with heavy hitters. Otto must fight off Terrax, a cosmic level villain, and it’s his mind that gives him any chance at all. Later he fights Master Pandemonium, who becomes a giant thanks to the thousands of humans he mind-controls. It’s wild stuff and it’s fun to see how Otto can get out of these situations alive. The word “superior” in the title most likely connects to Otto’s mind, which makes this book less about brawn and more about clever ideas.
The art by Hawthorne is fantastic in this trade paperback. The suit has a dark edge that reminds us of Otto’s underlining evil nature and I simply love the darker webs too. The power cosmic is a wonder to look at thanks to Jordie Bellaire’s colors, which are never too bright. The poses Hawthorne puts Otto in are exceptional too, and they remind us this version of Spidey is as agile as ever. Hawthorne draws Super Spider-Man in an edgy sort of way with hard angles and elongated limbs and torso. It gives him that spider quality, but also a sort of bad boy edge. There is good visual comedy here and there thanks to reactions from characters. There is a deeply human element that is never lost when the mask is off.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The story seems to rush in setting up other San Fran villains Otto is involved with but their role is limited. It’s unclear if they’ll be more involved in later stories, but it’s very much shoehorned in only to be forgotten later on. I’m all for a big ensemble cast but as it stands the strongest element is Otto, Anna Maria, and a potential love interest.
Is it good?
I’m so glad this character is back in his own book. Gage and Hawthorne clearly have interesting plans for the character and the continued use of familiar characters from the original run is a great sign the high bar will continue to be achieved. This is the most unique take on Spider-Man and it’s back, better than ever.