We’ve spent the week looking at some of the biggest releases to come out of Marvel NOW! Many are reinventions of already established characters, creating memorable stories that really stand out from what Marvel Comics had been doing before.
It’s safe to say that Marvel is trying to reach out to new readers with a myriad of story options. From “The Avengers” large, epic scale odysseys to “Uncanny Avengers” analogy for civil rights with its look at mutants in the world.
Yesterday, “The Indestructible Hulk” told us that Marvel was interested in shaking things up a bit and separating itself from the norm that it had established for its characters. Meanwhile, “Thor: God of Thunder” told readers that “Hey! We’re just interested in telling awesome stories with amazing characters! We don’t care if they’re part of a movie franchise.”
Time will tell if this initiative, this “Marvel NOW!”, is as successful as it’s started out to be.
And there are many other series as well. “Avengers Arena” is a ‘Hunger Games’-esque free-for-all between 16 teenage superheroes. Forced to kill each other, you read to see if any of them will survive. “All New X-Men” is so different, in fact, that it’s taking characters from 50 years ago and bringing them up to the present.
This is all well and good, sure, but there is one title that has a draw that I do not think that any of the other books can compare to.
Today, we discuss author Dan Slott and artist Ryan Stegman’s Superior Spider-Man.
Everyone knows the story of Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Young Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and given the powers and strength to become Spider-Man. Spurred on by the death of his uncle Ben, he learned with great power, must also come great responsibility.
He then had a long lived career as Spider-Man.
And then, he died.
That’s right. We’re not talking about the wunderkind that is Miles Morales in the contemporary Ultimate Marvel Universe. (He’s doing a fantastic job, by the way. If you haven’t picked up that book yet, do yourself a favor and do it. At least for someone you love.)
No. We’re talking about Peter Parker. The original Peter Parker. In a stunning turn of events that’s been built up for close to two years, Peter Parker had his mind placed in the body of his arch nemesis, Dr. Octopus.
Peter Parker’s mind. In Dr. Octopus’ body.
Author Dan Slott, who was very vocal about this story months ago, said that it would set the internet aflame, in so many words. Being very vocal on Twitter, he warned us that stores had under ordered copies of “Amazing Spider-Man #700”, the last issue of the long running series.
In the finale, trapped in the dying body of Dr. Octopus, Peter Parker struggles to stop his nemesis, who is using his body and his powers. Fighting against time, and against a much younger enemy, Peter Parker does what he does best: goes against the odds. The odds this time, though, were how long his body can hold out.
I’ll save you some smaller spoilers and not explain the entirety of the conflict, because that’s not why we’re here. Just know that Peter Parker failed and succeeded at the same time. Before he slipped away, he left villain Otto Octavius with one thing: His memories. His mind.
In a stunning two page display, Otto experiences everything it takes to be Spider-Man. The victories. The losses. The lives saved. The lives taken. The heartache. The love. Everything.
And then, he dies. Peter Parker dies.
It infuriated and interested fans alike. What would a villain, just reinvigorated by his arch-enemy-hero’s memory, do with his life?
Become a better superhero than his predecessor ever was.
Title: Superior Spider-Man
Author: Dan Slott
Artists: (Released bi-weekly, so it possesses a rotating schedule) Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos, Giussepe Camuncoli
Issues Released: 1 (THIS PAST WEDNESDAY. BRAND NEW.)
So, Peter Parker is dead.
Long live Spider-Man.
Responding to a distress call at NYU, Otto Parker (or is it Peter Octavius? What?) responds. He has taken upon the responsibility and tasks of taking down the villains.
Here, we are treated to a rare, inside look of a madman. Well, a former madman. I guess what author Dan Slott is doing is using this as a time to let us see the thoughts that Dr. Octopus is thinking. What his tactics and strategies are.
And it’s not pretty.
I guess we think that anyone with superpowers would use them in a humane manner, restraining themselves.
Otto uses the identity of Spider-Man like a speed boat and cuts loose with it, assaulting his villains in a much more brutal manner. Even when the bad guys, a villain named Speed Freak whose speed might be too much for Otto, gain the upper hand and he tries to run away, the memories come back. Haunted by his former enemy, Otto resists his instincts and saves a nearby policeman from the assault.
It’s an inner turmoil that is wonderfully well crafted and a great joy to read. This, in large, is due to Dan Slott. Dan Slott has been writing the adventures of Spider-Man solo since issue #646. So, doing math, that’s 56 issues. Before that, he shared writing duties with a few others, but now, he’s in total control.
So, when comic readers get upset at what they believe to be a “gimmick” (as if that has a negative connotation), they think that Marvel is not following through. That something like this cannot last forever. “A villain in a hero’s body? PREPOSTEROUS!”
Perhaps, but you know? There is something called giving credit to a writer.
And Dan Slott delivers. Even when writing a villain, this is a man that loves the character of Spider-Man as much as any young, ten year old. It shines through on every page. He handles every supporting character with as much charisma as he does his lead villain/hero.
Accompanying him on his first arc is up-and-coming artist Ryan Stegman. Keeping an aggressive, sketchy art style, this is not the pretty, stylized Spider-Man we see in ads. No, this is much darker.
The action is fun, sure, but it’s the smaller moments. Peter Parker, his mind now a mad scientist, moves and acts a way that mad scientist would. He struts and carries himself in a pompous and arrogant way. A few times while reading, I noticed that it was Peter Parker I was looking at. NOT Dr. Octopus.
So, what are the themes of the series? Besides a not-quite-typical case of brain swapping, this series explores how powerful responsibility is.
How another man’s life can lead your own to places you may never thought you could go.
I guess the big questions is where do things go from here?
It’s hard to say.
Marvel NOW! was meant to bring the masses to comic shops and grab some pop culture goodness. The stories are being told. You just need to go out and grab them.
Start here. Let me know where this takes you.
In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. He recommends each and every comic he writes about.
Contact him at email@example.com
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