I have a special relationship with Superior Spider-Man. I not only read every issue of Dan Slott and Christos Gage’s run when he took over Amazing Spider-Man, but I adored every second of it. To take such an iconic hero, rip his mind from his body, and stick one of his greatest foes inside was a thrill. Even more thrilling was how this character slowly learned a little bit about responsibility when given great power. He wasn’t quite a hero, but he did heroic things in his own way. Christos Gage and Mike Hawthorne took this character and moved him along in development in his first-ever solo series. In this final trade paperback, the creators get to finish his story and move him along once again, but is it good?
This book opens with a two-parter “War of the Realms” tie-in that throws Otto into the deep end with the West Coast Avengers. Christos Gage utilizes the team quite well, riffing off Otto’s deadly serious nature and pompous personality for hilarious results. Gage’s rendering of Gwenpool is excellent as she continuously reflects on event comics and likely how things will go as they encounter threats of all sorts. Lan Medina backs Gage up on pencils with inks by Cam Smith and colors by Andy Troy and Erick Arciniega. The book has that hyper-detailed look that suits superheroes and the narrative is about as fun as superhero books can get when they’re this referential. Good stuff.
The remaining four issues let Gage and Hawthorne (with Wade Von Grawbadger on inks and Jordie Bellaire on colors) close out the character in about the best way possible. They continue to explore Otto’s confusion as he begins to understand his frustration with not saving everyone is a good thing. He rages, and it’s all because he no longer cares only for himself. It’s great to see him learn things from others about being a hero, whether it be Spider-Man or Anna Maria. Seeing a hero like Otto learn basic things about saving a life is an interesting twist on the hero genre.
All things must come to an end though and in the final two issues, we witness the return of Doc Ock. At first glance, I wasn’t sure if the method of turning him back was the best, but given the history of Spider-Man and his relationship to Mephisto, it’s a solid way to honor the past and renew this hero into the villain Spider-Man deserves. Regardless of his transformation, the creative team reminds us maybe he has changed, even if a little bit and that growth is an impressive thing that we’ll all be watching for when Doc Ock pops up again.
It’s not easy pulling endings in comics since these stories will live on forever, but I think Gage and Hawthorne have done a great job with the time they had with this character. Not only did they effectively show us a villain turned hero struggle with his feelings as he tried to save everyone, but they accomplished making this somewhat unethical man deserve the red and black Spider-Man costume.
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