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I almost passed on the Age of Ultron tie-in issue for Superior Spider-Man. With how slow that event is moving, I highly doubted any tie-in issue would reveal anything of interest about what is happening in Ultron’s post-apocalyptic world. And to be fair, I was right. This issue really doesn’t deliver anything particularly relevant to the event. But surprisingly, it’s the best issue of Superior Spider-Man I’ve read.
Superior Spider-Man brought me back to Spider-Man. I had tried repeatedly to pick up some issues of Amazing Spider-Man and get back into it only to be turned off by something or other. Is Brand New Day to blame? Partly, yeah. But I was having this problem to a lesser degree before that too. Yet, I’ve now read six issues of Superior Spider-Man in a row. That’s the longest I’ve lasted reading the main Spider-Man title in years.
It’s hard to peg down what exactly is the reason. I think the fact that we are now dealing with Otto Octavius makes the changes to Peter Parker’s life, most of which I haven’t been a fan of, more palatable. It’s also a great premise, having the villain walk a mile in the hero’s shoes. Red Hulk also has that premise, though it has never been developed quite as well.
This tie-in to Age of Ultron picks up after Spider-Man has been rescued by Hawkeye and reunited with what remains of Earth’s heroes in New York. He’s sent on a mission by Tony Stark, but this is Otto and not Peter. Otto believes he has a better plan. It’s a simple story that really doesn’t appear to affect Age of Ultron in any way, but this is made up for by how well it shows off Otto in Spider-Man’s role.
Honestly, Otto’s idea is pretty genius and very appropriate for the character. Had Tony known whom he was really dealing with, he might have thought it was worth the attempt as well. It’s also just a really cool visual to see those Doc Ock’ed Ultron drones. It obviously fails, though. But that’s the point. Had this been Peter instead, Tony’s plan would’ve gone through and possibly defeated Ultron. And what makes this issue so strong is that Otto comes to realize it.
There’s one very simple thing that makes this issue so great and by far my favorite issue of Superior Spider-Man so far. As it turns out, the premise of Otto Octavius in Spider-Man’s body works SO MUCH better without having Peter Parker’s ghost around providing commentary and trying to influence Otto. In regular issues, Peter’s ghost is really just a distraction that undermines the whole point of having Otto walk a mile in Peter’s shoes. We don’t need a spectator. We don’t need Peter as a semi-active participant. As in this issue, it works so much better to simply let Otto do his thing and have Peter present only through his memories and reputation. The journey Otto goes through and the lesson he comes to learn from it are far more compelling without ghost Peter trying to scream about it into his ear.
One function of this tie-in is to try to patch the continuity holes with Age of Ultron and the current direction of Superior Spider-Man. The former was being planned and written well before the latter was even conceived of, and it shows. In the pages of Age of Ultron, Spider-Man really doesn’t seem like he’s Otto Octavius on the inside. This story makes an attempt to explain that, but there’s really not much that can be done about it. It’s a little hard to buy that Otto is trying to play the role to avoid suspicion for two reasons. One is that he doesn’t seem so interested in doing so before Age of Ultron when he’s around other heroes. Second is buying that he’s such a good actor.
There's a strange quality to Dexter Soy art, but it works well for the story. The action scenes are especially good with an exciting energy to how he depicts and choreographs everything. The quieter scenes are where his unique style becomes more noticeable, but this never reaches the point where it becomes awkward or detrimental to the story.
This A.U. issue of Superior Spider-Man is less about Age of Ultron to me and more about doing the current Spider-Man status quo justice. It’s the best I’ve seen it pulled off so far. There’s no ghost Peter Parker distracting from Otto’s journey and no hammy overacting from Otto himself. Instead, it’s a pretty smart and genuine take on the concept, and it’s one I wish I could see more of in the regular issues of the series.