In the end, it was fan cynicism that killed Peter Parker.
Before I go on, let’s give the new comers a chance and take a look back at the events leading up to The Superior Spider-Man.
In The Amazing Spider-Man 998, it was revealed that Otto Octavius, infamously known as Doctor Octopus, has switched bodies with Peter Parker. How? Turns out that every time Spider-Man used Octavius’ technology to save the day a bit of the super villain’s mind was downloaded into our hero’s brain.
In The Amazing Spider-Man 999, Peter, in spite of Octavious’ broken and dying body, orchestrated a breakout from the prison Octopus was spending his last hours at.
In The Amazing Spider-Man 700, the last issue of the title, Octopus uses his newfound spider-body’s power to destroy his old body and kill Peter Parker. Once and for all. Yep, no more trace of Peter Parker. None...Except for Peter’s memories. The same memories that made him into the selfless hero he was, but I’m sure it won’t in anyway inspire Octavius to become a better, superior, Spider...Oh.
Yes, it’s a gimmick. Most everything in comics today is since the historic cover showing a man in blue tights with a stylized ‘‘S’’ on his chest lifting a car without effort. Gimmicks can be fun and well written, though, like the resurrection of Oliver Queen in Green Arrow: Quiver.
If this first issue is to give any insight as the quality of the following issues, I’d say we have a great gimmick on our hands. Dan Slott’s having a ball writing a Spider-Man whose genius is close to madness and the art is nothing to scoff at neither. While Ryan Stegman has his own style, he keeps the character designs close to what they were under Humberto Ramos’ tenure as artist during most of the previous Dan Slott comics and Edgar Delgado helps making this book feel darker than what we had come before.
Let’s come back on that, actually, the ‘‘darker’’ qualities of The Superior Spider-Man. Indeed, we have one of Spider-Man’s longest lasting and most infamous villains running around playing Peter Parker. He’s already declared himself better at being both Spider-Man and Peter Parker. As of this first issue, I’d say he’s succeeding. And let’s not forget how eager he is to spend time with Peter’s ex-girlfriend, Mary-Jane Watson.
And I love it. Why? Going back to what I said at the beginning of this review: The fans made it so.
See, the Spider-Man comics don’t have what you can call a high popularity rate these days. Not since Peter sold his marriage to Mary-Jane to the Devil back in 2007’s One More Day storyline. Fans, including myself, were really pissed and some are still boycotting any series starring the wall crawler. It also seems like the controversy surrounding the end of One More Day opened the floodgates to many critiques of how Peter had been acting since his inception in 1962. Many former fans started calling him out on his over-inflated sense of guilt, his irresponsibility when it comes to his loved ones’ feelings and the sinister undercurrent of Peter never wanting to grow up and always thinking like a teenager. Fans wanted a Spider-Man who would get his life together, use his brain before jumping into action and who would get back with Mary-Jane. In a word, fans thought they could be better at being Spider-Man than Peter.
That is exactly what Dan Slott gave us.
I’m not saying that fans are vicious megalomaniacs. What I’m saying is that Doctor Octopus is a twisted looking-glass help up to fans’ cynicism. Like us, Octoavius felt that Spider-Man was squandering his abilities and never reached his full potential both as a hero and as a man. Why is it then that we feel so uncomfortable seeing Otto living Peter’s life? It’s because there’s something missing. While Otto and the fans know of Peter’s memories and are inspired by them, they haven’t lived them. For all his faults, Peter Parker is the hero he is today because of everything he’s been through.
I have a feeling this will play a big part in Peter’s eventual return, but for now I think I’ll greatly enjoy this insidious look at a villain posturing as a hero.