I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really spelled it out:
I’m not a huge fan of Superior Spider-Man. From the very concept of the series to actually reading some of it, it didn’t sit well with me at all. It didn’t feel like Spider-Man — because, of course, it wasn’t. Not really. Now I’m not saying that I have a problem with Dan Slott’s writing or with Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art. My problem came from the fact that it just wasn’t right. Doctor Octopus finally achieving victory by swapping minds with Peter and becoming Spider-Man? Interesting idea. But against everything that ever should have been. But hey, I figured why not give it a chance?
And it was still just not right. Somehow I didn’t think to prepare myself for the fact that as both Peter and Spider-Man, Otto Octavius would be a completely different man. The Superior Spider-Man is arrogant and unpleasant. He is to Spider-Man what Jean Paul Valley was to Batman in the Knightfall saga. He’s cocky and ruthless, thinking that becoming “darker and edgier” will make him better. I read a little bit of the first trade in a bookstore, and I picked up issues #17-#19 because they had Spider-Man 2099. And then I stopped reading it, because it wasn’t my Spider-Man, the tights-wearing nerd who I fell in love with all those years ago, who fueled my interest in comics.
And then, much to my joy, it was announced that Peter Parker would finally be making his return in April 2014. Amazing Spider-Man would come back with an all-new #1. Imagine how happy this made me! So when Superior #27.NOW came out and caught my eye in my local comic shop, I figured “Why not?” Sure, I didn’t like Otto as Spidey, but I’ve always loved the Green Goblin, and I knew by this time that “Goblin Nation” was going to be the final story arc. I wanted to see how this whole disaster ended, how Peter came back against all odds.
Well, color me surprised when the arc took hold of me and made me see why I should have been reading from the start of the series.
See, the thing about Superior Spider-Man is that it was never intended to replace the original. Of course I knew Pete would return eventually; it’s a comic book, and as we all know, no one stays dead in comics except Uncle Ben, Bucky, and Jason Todd. And the last two don’t count. (On a sidenote, you could argue that Bruce Wayne’s parents stayed dead, but I’m not sure that would be true; Peter Parker’s parents were infamously cloned, of course, and Superman’s birth father at the very least has appeared). The whole point of the book was not to make us believe that Otto was superior, nor was it to make us like him. The whole point was to watch him try to prove to himself and the world that he was better. Better as Peter, better as Spider-Man; better at science and better at being a hero.
The turning point for me, the thing that really made me understand just how wrong I had been all this time, was issue #30. I’m issuing a spoiler alert now, because while everyone by this point knows that Pete’s back, I’m about to go into specifics.
About halfway through #30, the last remnants of Peter’s consciousness, which we saw enter Otto’s memories back in #27, finally breaks out; Peter regains all his own memories and re-establishes his presence in Otto’s consciousness. And finally, the so-called “superior” Spider-Man becomes a sympathetic character. As his city is burning around him, the woman he loves is in peril, and his failures are thrown in his face, Otto comes to terms with the fact that Peter was, and always will be, the truly superior one. And in a heartfelt decision, Otto erases himself, all of his memories, his entire consciousness, and gives Peter his body back. Whether any part of Otto still exists remains to be seen. But in the ultimate, final sacrifice, Otto Octavius gave his very existence to save the city and the woman he loved, and put right what never should have gone wrong in the first place. A quick costume change later and the one and only Amazing Spider-Man is back, at long last!
I’m going to be totally honest here. The two-page spread when Peter’s consciousness finally regains all of his memories was absolutely beautiful, filled with panels from classic Spider-Man comics in film-reels of memories. Full disclosure, tears came to my eyes. Manly tears of… oh, who the fuck am I kidding, they were wimpy tears of pure fanboy joy. I have never been happier reading a comic than this.
I never thought it would be possible, but in a total reversal of everything I ever expected, I’m very interested in getting the whole series now. In trade paperback, of course, because I’m not crazy enough to try to get all of the single issues. I may not have loved Otto’s Spider-Man the way I love Peter’s, but I understand now that I’ve been very unfair towards him and his creators. Seriously, if you have any interest in Spider-Man, at the very least check out the Goblin Nation story arc. It’s incredibly important, both for Otto’s character and for Peter.
Here’s to the end of a divisive series and the start of a brand new story. Here’s to the hope of a new, superior Amazing Spider-Man.
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