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All the anger over Superior Spider-Man #9 really surprised me. I read the issue and had no strong reaction to it. Otto Octavius and Peter Parker -- or the shade of Peter -- had their hyped mental showdown over who gets to be Spider-Man and Peter lost. It was a surprisingly emotional defeat for Peter, and I remember thinking how it was kind of a brave move for a writer to have a hero smacked down so harshly. Sure, Peter had the “out” that he was systematically being deleted by an outside force and that this really was more of a copy of Peter to begin with. But Dan Slott really didn’t overplay those excuses like a writer might when unnecessarily trying to protect a main character’s credibility. It was a brutal defeat. I had to give Slott credit for that.
And then I went online.
Wow. I sure didn’t see many people reacting like I did. There was outrage. There were people declaring they were dropping Superior Spider-Man. And there were people who were... surprised?
The surprise is what I think threw me the most. Did people really come into this expecting a different outcome? Was there any expectation that Otto’s time as Spider-Man was over? Marvel ended Amazing Spider-Man and relaunched it as Superior Spider-Man for this. It was not going to be over in nine issues. Hell, we know Marvel is launching two more titles in the Superior Spider-Man franchise. It has been quite obvious that Otto Octavius is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Superior Spider-Man is Otto Octavius.
Well, I shouldn’t say foreseeable future, because we all know Peter will eventually return as Spider-Man. ...We do all know that, right? It sometimes seems like there are people think this is a permanent status quo, as if anything is really permanent in comics. Yes, Otto is riding high currently on a couple of victories over Peter, but he’s going down. That’s not in question.
Superior Spider-Man is the story of the villain walking a mile in the hero’s shoes. Telling that kind of story requires that the villain actually walk the mile. There’s no point in even starting such a story if he’s only going to go ten feet and quit. Otto Octavius has to take the journey, and it’s really only just starting now that the phantom Peter Parker is gone. My main criticism of Superior Spider-Man when it started was that this story really couldn’t be told with Peter in Otto’s head screaming and pulling strings. There are lessons that Otto is going to learn along the way, and he has to learn them on his own for the story to have any real substance.
Does Otto’s victory mean it was pointless having Peter’s phantom around in the first place? Well, it certainly wasn’t necessary, but I can’t go as far as to say there was no point. Otto’s previous victory over Peter was really just about him fighting to stay alive and cheat death. This was a fight about being Spider-Man. You see that when Otto strips away his mental image of Dr. Octopus and makes the fight Amazing Spider-Man versus Superior Spider-Man. Otto’s desire to be Spider-Man has been elevated from a competitive whim to a committed purpose in his life. With this victory, he’s in it for real now.
Now, don’t write me off as a Slott apologist. These past nine issues of Superior Spider-Man are a new record for consecutive issues of a Dan Slott written book that I have read. When it comes to his work, I’m normally on the other side. I could go on for days and days criticizing his Amazing Spider-Man, Mighty Avengers or even Avengers: the Initiative. So there is no writer loyalty behind my defense of Superior Spider-Man.
Slott tricked some readers into thinking that the phantom Peter Parker was the key to Otto Octavius’ downfall as Spider-Man. That wasn’t the case. Otto does have a downfall coming, but the means by which it happens will be something else. And it will happen at a later time, hopefully when Otto’s journey has run its course rather than well after that point. I’m looking at you, Red Hulk.
I can understand readers who dislike the Superior Spider-Man status quo to begin with being frustrated that it didn’t end prematurely. That’s natural. I’m sure we all have stories going on right now in comics that we wish would just stop now regardless of whether that’s good storytelling or not.
But for Superior Spider-Man #9 to have gone down any other way would not have been good storytelling. Some accuse the book of being just a gimmick to uplift Spider-Man’s sales, which never really recovered for Amazing Spider-Man after Brand New Day. If Marvel had let Otto’s time end here, those accusations would’ve been true. It would have just been a cheap stunt, because it sure wouldn’t have been a good story. A good story doesn’t end before its time and certainly not in its first act.
Superior Spider-Man still has a ways to go, and with the ghost of Peter Parker no longer there to interfere, Otto Octavius’ journey just became a whole lot more interesting.