We’re only two months into Marvel’s latest paradigm-shifting literary experiment, and it’s evident Marvel is already having second thoughts. Or it was just one elaborate con. Whatever, it’s SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #2. Can Doctor Octopus inside the body of Peter Parker woo the love of Peter’s life? Or is Ottoman doomed to failure and loneliness just like his predecessor/nemesis?
Everything is coming up Octavius. He’s stolen the body, powers, resources, career, and identity of his greatest enemy. He’s now a proud member of the Avengers. He’s got a bright future at Horizon Labs. Mayor Jameson showers the attention on Ottoman he never would have on the original Spiderman. He’s pursuing a relationship with Mary Jane Watson, the woman who, in times and continuities past, was Peter Parker’s girlfriend and wife, respectively. Otto even has his own robot butler. And best of all, the original Peter Parker is dead.
Now if only his ghost wasn’t floating around.
Yes, the ghost of Peter Parker – or the mental projection of him remaining in his old body, it’s not clear – is still around and pissed off at Doc Ock for stealing his body and his life. Not that he can give Ottoman the business, since the latter is entirely ignorant of Peter’s presence save for occasional moments when Peter’s will influences Otto unconsciously. As such, Peter gets to watch as his entire life and everyone he loved gets subsumed by a supervillain only mildly interested in becoming a legitimately noble superhero.
Ottoman trying in a clinical, scientific fashion to get into Mary Jane’s pants doesn’t help matters.
I think one of the more interesting parts of SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #2 is how Otto Octavius is simultaniously worse and better at being Peter Parker/Spiderman than the original. His social skills are poor and inhibited by a mad scientist’s ego. He fails to understand relationship cues correctly, especially given he has all of Peter’s memories at his mental fingertips. Yet he’s better able to identify those aspects of Peter Parker’s duel identity that simply weren’t working, and as we see at the end, can actually move beyond them. Anyone familiar with Spiderman’s fifty years of print life knows how badly the guy mismanaged his life, and how often he would rather bemoan his sorry state than try to fix it.
It would appear Peter Parker is having to learn from his greatest nemesis how to be a better person. And they might be lessons not taught too late.
When I wrote my thoughts on the finale to Amazing Spider-Man and how the shift from Spiderman to Ottoman would affect the franchise, my opinion was complex. But what I could definitively say was that, regardless of what merit the idea had as an opportunity for stories, the change would never stick. In the interest of being conservative, I estimated Marvel would reverse the change inside of two years. Dan Slott, the wonderful man in charge of Spiderman at the moment, managed to blow my expectations out of the water, proving I had once again underestimated him.
As I hinted in SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #1, it took all of one issue into the new status quo before the seeds for reversal were planted. And it happened almost exactly as I’d theorized. Peter Parker was still around, and there’s the very real possibility of him eventually retaking his body and life. In one issue flat!
I like to think I’m fairly good at figuring out plot twists, though more than once I’ve been mistaken or fell into a writer trap. In this case, my mistake was not in my predictions, but in how much of my predictions were already planned out in advance. Here’s the thing about Marvel: it doesn’t like to plan ahead. Individual writers might have long term goals, but Marvel editorial is notorious for jumping at every idea and letting them rise and fall with their attention span. Things that come about one year could fall apart or be rectified the next, regardless of whether a change was good or bad. A good writer at Marvel needs to be able to ride these waves of sudden change, and engineer their eventual reversal so they can get back to what they originally planned.
In this case, Marvel NOW. A rare case of Marvel copying DC as opposed to the other way around. It’s my guess that Dan Slott had every intention of writing Amazing Spiderman for as long as he would be allowed, and killing off Peter Parker was an editorial mandate he just needed to work around. Hence the immediate groundwork laid to undo what had happened, a mere issue after it happened.
Does this mean we can expect Peter to be back in his body in what others predicted to be six months? Possibly, though I’m still giving it two years just to be safe. Slott may opt to go into a different direction, or simply decide to keep playing along until Marvel stops paying attention. Or until they realize how horribly unpopular the change to Ottoman is, and beg Slott to reverse it. Should people refusing to buy SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN hold out hope then?
Not sure. But if Ottoman does get the ax, I’ll be right there to tell you when it’s safe to start reading Spiderman again. So keep reading!
Was that plug shameless enough? Might need to ratchet up the shameless a bit.
Edit: Oh, and before I forget. Next month the Vulture does his thing. Just a head’s up.