Here’s your first warning. HERE BE SPOILERS! DON’T GO BEYOND THIS POINT UNLESS
A) You’ve read Amazing Spider-Man #700 and Avenging Spider-Man #15.1
B) You don’t give a shit about being spoiled!
Seriously, last warning!
… and here we go.
Okay, so I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. Ever since the spoilers came out on the net, and the wide outpouring of poorly typed rage from certain people, I’ve had a lot of stuff to say about all of this, but haven’t been able to because I didn’t want to be one of those dicks who says “Darth Vader is Luke’s dad!” before the thing came out (and if that was a spoiler to you… seriously, dude?) and ruins the whole twist. But now it’s out and the net is awash with spoilers… I consider the moratorium lifted. So
(And if you care about the story, go pick up a copy of #700. Don’t just read it from my recounting of it here, because well, it’s really not the same.)
Right, everyone who doesn’t want to be spoiled on ASM #700 has left. So, last time we left Peter Parker trapped in the body of Doc Ock, who was dying after years of battles with Spider-Man, and Ock had got his revenge in his last dying moments by using a golden Octobot to pull a Freaky Friday on Parker, due to the fact that his continual use of Ock’s telepathic technology to foil his schemes had left an opening for Ock to get into Spidey’s head. Parker!Ock had access to Ock’s memories, however, and used one of Ock’s old plans to send out a call to form a new Sinister Six from the Scorpion, Trapster and Hydro-Man who bust him out of jail. Once he’s done so, he heads over to the Avengers building, where he engages Ock!Spidey in a final battle that ends in…
(Er… formatting came out a bit weird here. Click on the pic to see the full screencap.)
Yeah, not well for Parker!Ock. After Parker!Ock grabs him and tries to throw them both out of the window to kill them (having decided it was necessary to make a heroic sacrifice to save his family) but Ock!Spidey puts up a web airbag and proceeds to beat the hell out of Parker!Ock. Oh… this wasn’t what we expected, was it?
Well, it’s not quite that simple. As Ock!Spidey is about to deliver the coup de grace, he finds himself reliving all of Peter Parker’s memories as Spider-Man, along with all of his thoughts and feelings regarding being Spider-Man and all the losses he’s suffered, that have reminded him that… sigh… with great power comes great responsibility. Ock!Spidey is overwhelmed by all of this, seeing Peter Parker’s life through his eyes and feeling everything that Parker felt, to the point where he pleads for Parker to stop because he just can’t take all of it. Or maybe he can, Parker!Ock tells him, and that as Ock!Spidey, Octavius can turn over a new leaf and start to atone for all the evil things he’s done as Doctor Octopus. Parker!Ock dies, and Octavius declares that he’s going to be a better Spider-Man than Parker ever was, vowing to become…
This leaked on 4Chan about a week before this comic was due on the streets (in, might I add, a far inferior recounting which ended with the delightful “Enjoy, faggots”) and the internet exploded in nerd fury as thousands of people who take comic books far too seriously raged about the evil Dan Slott getting rid of their idol and doing the thing that you do if you don’t like a creative decision on something – send death threats in an attempt to get the writer to change his mind. Of course, Marvel was always going to pulp millions of books and Dan Slott was always going to cower and change it to “and Peter Parker was Spider-Man again” because of a few internet tough guys, and oh wait… they carried on.
And good on them, I say. Marvel is pretty much the king of status quo as you know the Avengers will always be assembling, the X-Men will always be hated and feared by a world they seek to protect, and Peter Parker will always be Spider-Man, although in that last case Marvel’s decided to shake that up a bit. They did it in the Ultimate Universe with the Death of Spider-Man arc, replacing Peter Parker with Miles Morales, and they’ve done it here sort-of by swapping out the minds of Parker and Octavius to give us the Superior Spider-Man. Personally, I like this idea as it allows Slott to explore a different angle on Spider-Man and a whole new set of themes. Peter Parker, as Spidey, had a very strong moral compass to the point where even if killing one of his arch-enemies would have been more beneficial to him and humanity, he would refuse to do it. Peter Parker was a flat-out good guy.
Otto Octavius, on the other hand, was a monster. He lead a life devoted to the selfish pursuit of power and personal glory at all costs, most recently making an attempt at world genocide in last summer’s excellent Ends of the Earth arc. He switched minds with Peter Parker in order to spite him, but ended up getting more than he expected, including in the end Parker’s memories and moral compass which I think will have a very interesting effect on the new Spider-Man. In fact, if I was going to criticize this in any way it would be that Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 isn’t a part of ASM #700 as it arguably gives us the best hint as to the direction Slott is going to be taking it.
Avenging #15.1 show Ock!Spidey reveling in his new life as Spider-Man and going on and on about the genius of Doctor Octopus as he is wont to do, deciding to design a new Spider-Man suit as the old one was inadequate and he is “Superior” after all. And a few intriguing things happen in the course of this. First, when stitching the new “Superior Spider-Man” costume, he makes an interesting Freudian slip…
He gets confused by Peter Parker’s memory of sewing his first costume, initially recounting it as “my” and then questioning it. For someone who isn’t meant to be Peter Parker in any way shape or form, I’d say that’s quite unusual. The other one comes when Ock!Spidey decides to raid his old lab for equipment, deeming Parker’s lab resources to be “inferior” and has to break in as of course, he’s no longer in his old body and is faced by an automated video of his old self which is playing as part of the lab defenses…
He makes the observation that he looked and sounded “like an underwater walrus”, and then battles an automated set of Ock arms, coming to the conclusion that in every case he was found wanting, and decides he wants to be better than what he was as “Otto Octavius”, deciding that Octavius is dead and that he’s now the Superior Spider-Man rather than being a super-villain… and I’d argue that that’s a very good transition into the new book, which gives a better idea of where we’re headed with this whole thing.
And here’s what strikes me about this “death”… it isn’t really a death at all, just a redefinition of the character of Peter Parker and a change in how he’s written. When we see Spider-Man in Avenging and Superior, he still looks like Parker but is written differently and this is a world of difference to the Ultimate Universe where Peter Parker is six feet under and an entirely different person is running around in the suit. It’s still Peter Parker… but a Peter Parker who thinks a bit like Octavius and has some of the same attitudes as he does.
I think, however, that Superior isn’t going to be about Octavius going around killing people and acting like he’s been for the past 50 years or so, but trying to better himself and live up to the name of Spider-Man. That’s a story I’d most definitely like to see, as themes of trying to better yourself and atone for past sins are always an interesting thing to read about, far better than a slightly different spin on the life of Peter Parker. There’s only so many ways you can make Parker’s life suck to give it some kind of drama before you decide “Hey, let’s make him think he’s someone else now!” which is what Slott has said here, effectively. I think I’m going to like Superior. There’s some other stuff here, too…
After reading the Comic Book Resources forums, some fans are trying to pick apart the idea that Ock will be sleeping with Mary Jane Watson in ASM #700 and Superior in the guise of Peter Parker and that this is rape. Aside from the fact that it’s a pathetic attempt to bring down a comic book by trying to paint it as “reprehensible”, once you read #700 it’s pretty clear that MJ is coming on to Ock!Spidey here and that if they do have a romance plot in the future, as I’ve argued above it’s effectively just a version of Peter Parker who’s had a massive headfuck. Judging from the Superior previews, he definitely has a bit of climbing to do so people will definitely notice and if MJ is fine with Ock!Spidey, or a bit taken aback by some of his strange new personality, it’s just fine. Peter Parker, Doc Ock and Mary Jane Watson are all pretend people, anyhow…
So what do I think of “Dying Wish” and the final arc of Slott’s Big Time run? Overall, I think it’s been great. It was sad that the run got spoiled beforehand, but even with that the quality of Slott’s writing shines through, and that’s what really matters. If it had been badly written then I might have junked it, but ASM #700 is a heartfelt tribute via the “reliving” of Spidey’s memories and it underlines and restates the overarching themes of Spider-Man perfectly for the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man. It’s definitely a very strong set up for Superior, which I would count as definitely one of the most interesting books to watch of the Marvel NOW! relaunches. Slott’s done well here in crafting a great way of rebooting the character and putting a new spin on him for a new era of Marvel, and I’m definitely putting Superior on my pull list after reading this. Even if a few people are stamping their feet and wailing loudly on Twitter, I’d say there’s many more such as myself who are intrigued to see where Superior Spider-Man will take us.
And at some point I’ll get around to Doctor Who, as well…