Superior Spider-Man #4

 Posted: Feb 2013


Dan Slott hasn’t created many villains during his run as main writer on the marquee Spider-Man title. He has instead generally opted to delve into Spidey’s extensive rogue’s gallery. Of the few antagonists he has created, the most interesting is probably the heartless yet cunning madman known as Massacre. Introduced during the outstanding No One Dies story arc, Massacre was beaten and then saved by Spidey almost simultaneously; making sure, at the time, to stay true to his new “no one dies” creed.

That particular conviction has seemingly been all but washed away with the advent of the Superior Spider-Man and his more lethal approach to crime fighting. With Ock behind the mask rather than Pete, the rematch between Spider-Man and Massacre promises to have a much different outcome.

Story 'The Aggressive Approach'

With the help of his new and improved crime fighting Octobots (now known as Spider-Bots), the Superior Spider-Man is not only superior to his predecessor in almost every way; he may also be the most efficient hero in the entire city. Whether he’s gathering up the Vulture’s wayward child minions or causing villains such as the White Rabbit to give up without a fight based on reputation alone, Ock certainly has this hero thing down. Not only is this new Spider-Man superior, but the new Peter Parker also seems to be improved. When a Spider-Bot alerts Ock of a nearby fire, the Superior Spider-Man elects to leave it to the local fire department so that he can attend to more pressing matters – against the wishes of an ever present ghost Peter. Those matters just happen to be the physical therapy session of Aunt May. A more efficient Spider-Man means that Peter Parker can be more present in the lives of those he loves.

There is a catch though. Once May’s doctor informs Ock that his “aunt” will be forced to use a cane indefinitely, the mad scientist within the new Peter Parker comes to the forefront. At his workshop in Horizon Labs, Ock begins construction on an exo-limb that can be grafted to the spine and brain of a patient so that they may walk freely again. Once Ock suggests that his new invention be tested on Aunt May, Max Modell is mortified that Peter would suggest human trials on an untested project.

After a confrontation with Uatu Jackson brings up the subject of Peter’s credentials, Max Modell (as well as ghost Peter) quickly points out that Parker has never earned a doctorate. Ock obviously can’t stand to go on without having the prestigious title and storms out of his lab.

Meanwhile, at the Ravencroft asylum, Doctor Ashley Kafka has been called to the cell of Marcus Lyman. Kafka explains that Lyman (aka Massacre) may be more dangerous than most of the super-human patients that are also locked up in Ravencroft. As soon as Lyman’s cell door is opened, Kafka’s fears come to fruition. It’s not Lyman in the padded cell, it’s the bloodied guard, his neck snapped. The man dressed as the guard is actually Lyman and he quickly snaps the neck of Kafka’s personal guard. His next target is a frightened Kafka who pleads with Lyman, saying he needs her to escape. “No. That’s not true,” says Massacre “I don’t need all of you.”

On a lighter note, Ock has gone back to Empire State University to earn his doctorate degree. After some funny moments in which Ock flirts with undergrads and then remembers his new professor as a former classmate, he gets a call from Mayor Jameson. Spider-Man is needed, it’s an emergency. At Ravencroft, Jameson is there to speak directly to Spider-Man about the latest prison break. He squarely puts the blame of Massacre’s escape, and the people who have already died as a result of it, on the hands of Spidey. It was Spider-Man after all who saved Massacre from certain death back in Amazing Spider-Man #656. As Ock shows contrition for Pete’s lack of lethality, our attention is shifted to the horrible sight of a murdered Ashley Kafka. Carlie explains that Massacre gouged out one of her eyes so that he could pass the retinal scan and escape.

As ghost Peter grapples to find a way to rectify the situation, the Superior Spider-Man makes the bold statement that it was a mistake to let Massacre live and he will finally end this man! Ock’s fortitude is strong enough to make ghost Peter’s astral body, and his conscious like voice, fade away.

Meanwhile, Massacre has held up an entire fast food restaurant so that he can get a soda and a meal. Once the young employee of the joint pushes the silent alarm, Lyman doesn’t hesitate to kill everyone except a couple of hostages, a mother and her young son. Back at Horizon Labs, the Superior Spider-Man employs the help of Uatu so that he can add facial recognition to his Spider-Bots. In Times Square, Massacre allows his hostages to live and then wanders off into the crowd. Above the Square, two of the Vulture’s underage stooges are flying about when they spot a Spider-Bot. As the pint sized juveniles panic, someone comes out of the shadows and stomps on the bot. “There’s someone who can keep you all safe from the Spider. Someone who knows his every trick, and how to crush him once and for all,” says a grinning Green Goblin.

General Comments

Artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, whose work I loved on the recent Hobgoblin arc, takes over for Ryan Stegman on these next two issues. Camuncoli’s more realistic style fits this dark and gritty tale more so than Stegman or especially Humberto Ramos (who takes hold of the penciling duties on issue #6) would have. His portrayal of Massacre is fantastic. The root like scars that seep out from underneath the metal plate on his head look gruesome and his dead eyes are the personification of a mad, heartless killer.

The intensity of this issue and the powerful build up are just part of the elements that make it the best installment of Superior Spider-Man yet. Despite the needless and somewhat tactless death of a supporting character introduced over 20 years ago, there’s not a whole lot to complain about here.

First off, we see that Ock’s natural mannerisms and eccentric behavior are making it harder and harder for colleagues not to notice Pete’s major changes. Camuncoli has also added changes to Pete’s outward appearance. The new Peter’s slicked back hair style is noticeably different than the original Peter’s hipper hairdo. Secondly, I love the idea of a pompous Doc Ock going back to school. There are lots of possibilities for continued comic relief based on that premise, and I certainly hope Slott takes advantage of it in future issues. Lastly, the build up to the next issue is palpable. Not only are we going to see an infuriated and unmerciful Superior Spider-Man confront a deranged and murderous killer in Massacre, but we’re also treated to the return of Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin. Octavius versus Osborn? The possibilities are endless.

Overall Rating

Call me pleasantly surprised. While the first two issues of Superior had me skeptical at best, these last two installments have been pure gold. My one complaint is the flippant death of Ashley Kafka. Hopefully Kafka’s death will be further addressed in future issues and not limited to just the couple of panels that this book afforded it. Regardless, I’m still counting the days until the next issue.

 Posted: Feb 2013