With a few exceptions, it’s impossible for me to not get excited when I think about the run of Superior Spider-Man. It’s not because I relish the thought of Peter being dead and Octavius running around in his body. I was very glad when he returned. Rather it’s more because with Octavius driving things, Dan Slott was able to tell some very bold and fresh Spider-Man stories and put an entirely different, but still believable spin on such a well-established hero. With that run behind us, it’s sometimes hard for me to believe that I miss that egotistical, arrogant scumbag and his genius intellect.
So it’s no surprise that I was excited to finally put hands on this, presumably final, issue of Superior, the second part of the Edge of Spider-Verse storyline that kicked off last month. Even as the mini-series of the same name establishes characters that will, for the most part, be featured later in Spider-Verse (with at least one notable exception featured in this story), Superior Spider-Man is instead doing things in a more or less chronological fashion. First it’s establishing the problem of the Morlun “Addams Family” traversing alternate realities to hunt down, feed upon, and ultimately wipe out all Spider-People. Octavius, upon discovering this, has built a small army of Spider-People to combat them but finds that the effort is fraught with peril, on multiple fronts, and that his allies may not necessarily share his harsh methods of dealing with their foes. We are also treated to an origin story that gives more insight into who Karn is, and how he may turn out to be an exceptionally pivotal player in the upcoming drama. I’ll only say that it’s very much worth reading, being well-told, giving necessary insight into the family to which he and Morlun belong, and being wonderfully illustrated by M.A. Sepulveda.
I think what I enjoyed most about this part of the story is the fact that things get underway in a manner that leaves no doubt that the battle has most definitely begun and is truly engaged. The action is tight and compelling from the get-go, with the fight between Karn and Cyborg-Spidey quickly widening as Octavius’s assemblage of Spider-People join the fray and level the playing field, if only momentarily. The stakes, while they’ve already been established from Octavius’s dimension-hopping, now come starkly to the forefront as we quickly see that even a number of Spider-People can hardly hope to take one of these totem hunters down. When Karn’s siblings Brix and Bora show up, it quickly becomes apparent that retreat is the only option, and that putting so many Spider-People together may attract more of these ridiculous powered Spider-killers.
I will not deny it, one of the reasons I’ve been so excited about Spider-Verse is that we get to see so many different alternate reality Spider-Men/Women/People working together to combat a larger threat. It was spectacularly satisfying to see Spider-Girl, Noir, Spider-Monkey, India, and the others all burst into battle against Karn. It’s no secret that this storyline was something Slott wanted to expand upon while working on the much-loved “Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions” video game, and it’s very easy to see the outgrowth of that game featured in this story. I also think that, on another level, “Spider-Verse” acknowledges the What-If characters and other alternative creations and makes them more than just imaginative reinventions that take place in another bubble of reality that doesn’t have to be validated. This treatment has, until recently, only been reserved for the biggest characters, such as 2099 in various titles and Miles Morales in the excellent Spider-Men. I feel that these characters have now been acknowledged and legitimized in a way that they hadn’t previously been before this story.
With all that said, fans of the arrogant genius Octavius still get plenty of panel time with him in this issue. He is, after all, leading this team, and gets into plenty of gloating, self-congratulatory dialog that shows him at his arrogant best. After they retreat from the battle, we see him going back and forth on the problem of the Spider-killers, quietly pining for Anna Maria, and treating most of his teammates like they’re barely worth acknowledging. It’s of particular interest to me that, even as someone who technically wasn’t “chosen” to be a part of the Web of Life and the spider totems, Octavius, for all his arrogance and snide disregard for others, takes the lead on this particular problem and combats it with aplomb in a way that makes you wonder if Peter Parker would have stood any kind of chance against these threats had Octavius never gotten involved. While many links have been established between Peter Parker and Otto Octavius over the history of Spider-Man, this may yet become one of the most important.
I think it goes without saying that Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art is more than appropriate for this story, and that he’s earning his place as a popular and well-respected Spider-Man artist. He captures the frantic, fast-paced action of battle cleanly and in a way that doesn’t confuse readers or unnecessarily clog the pacing. He’s fearless about switching between characters, and captures the look of each of them wonderfully. I was particularly fond of his designs of Brix and Bora–they look like they could have taken refuge here from a “Castlevania” game, which is an appropriate look for beings who are, in a manner of speaking, vampires. Strong inks by John Dell and sensational colors from Antonio Fabela round out the linework for a satisfying visual experience.
This issue really only presents one problem for me: I want more Superior Spider-Man, and as far as I know, we’re at the end of the line here. I doubt we’ll be seeing more of Octavius as “Spider-Verse” progresses and beyond that, his future is far from certain. With high-stakes action and good writing and artwork such as what we see in this issue, I think it’s natural for Spider-Fans to want more of this series. Hopefully we’ll see that wish granted in some form, but until then, Superior Spider-Man #33 makes for a strong finish to the series run, even as it kicks “Spider-Verse” into high gear.