Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #10 is about loss of trust, it’s about betrayal, but mostly, it’s about the systematic dismantling of every vestige of Otto Gunther Octavius’s hard-fought endeavor to prove his superiority.
Writer, Kevin Shinick, opens this story with a very poignant flashback to Otto’s childhood were we find an example of schoolyard bullying that is eerily similar to that of Peter Parker’s own past. If not for the bowl haircut, the boy could easily be mistaken for young Parker. Exposed here is an act of betrayal and a loss of trust. Young Otto’s only sanctuary is his boyhood bedroom, free from ridicule and safe from torment.
What a great metaphor for Spider-Island! Up until this point Spider-Island, formerly known as the maximum security prison The Raft, has been Spider-Man’s base of operations. There he’s built an army of Spider-Minions, perfected weaponry prototypes, and protected New York with an iron fist, free from meddling and fear…until now.
We, the readers, are jumped feet first back into the all-out melee that commenced last issue. The clash is between the infiltrating, disguised forces of the Green Goblin and our defending heroes, Spider-Man, Daredevil and the Punisher. Although there wasn’t a great deal of new information to move the story along in this second installment, I have to admit that I absolutely loved the action-oriented artwork! The art team of Marco Checchetto and Rachelle Rosenberg (on colors) handled battle sequences with perfection.
Fight illustrations were frenzied and claustrophobic as Spidey and his compatriots were overrun by assailants decked out in the latest Sinister Six-styled weapon prototypes (My God, Checchetto draws great weaponry). Beautifully drawn images of men climbing over each other to attack our heroes gave a real sense of hopelessness. In general, the recent art on Superior Spider-Man Team-Up has been phenomenal and it threatens to eclipse the work currently in the main title (Oddly enough, on the cover, the creative team was incorrectly credited as Sliney, Fabella and Yost). Paolo Rivera’s montage cover art was gorgeous, as usual.
Events in this issue are undoubtedly set within the 31 day window, before the events referenced in Superior Spider-Man #27.NOW. This adventure is a prelude to “Goblin Nation” in the respect that now, finally, Spider-Man is aware of who his secret enemy is. The story here is thin on plot points to further the storyline, so its pacing was more fitting of a blockbuster action movie sequence. Sadly, this issue felt like filler to me considering the previous spoiler in Superior Spider-Man #27.NOW.
Historically, the writing has not been as strong as the main title’s writing, but I do appreciate Otto’s more nuanced personality in Team-Up lately. His inner dialog exhibits a dwindling self-confidence and self-loathing that seems more appropriate for his current dire circumstances. For example, during his battle with faux Spider-Minions, Spider-Ock demonstrates a growing paranoia and indecision as he discovers that he cannot trust either of his cohorts. Everything he’s built is crumbling around him and yet he can’t allow himself to accept the assistance of others for fear of betrayal.
A continuing criticism of mine is Shinick’s underlying lack of understanding of the subject matter. My last review of Superior Spider-Man Team Up #9 pointed out Shinick’s disregard (or ignorance) of Spider-man and Daredevil’s past relationship and of Daredevil’s comfort level with people around him knowing his secret powers. A problem that I had in this issue is the wholesale killing that occurred. Granted, in the last year, Spider-Ock has been known to maim and to even kill at least one of his adversaries. Straddling reason and sanity, the Punisher has a long, chronicled history of wholesale murder. Of the three protagonists, I have difficulty believing that Daredevil would condone, let alone allow, the Punisher to callously machine gun down countless fake Spider-Minions. Shinick attempts to soften this sticking point by Daredevil saying to Punisher, “For the record, I still don’t approve of your methods.”
Then, Daredevil orders Spider-Ock to flood the lower level of Spider-Island, effectively dispatching the remaining minions and drowning them like rats. That’s not the Daredevil I’ve known. A small nitpick to most, but how does the Spider-Minion control Doc Ock’s robotic tentacles? As far as I know, Doc Ock has a telepathic link to his arms that the minions do not have. But, as the saying goes, why let that get in the way of a good story? Those critiques aside, I’m a sucker for a Spider-Man, Daredevil and Punisher team-up. Those three are, in my opinion, the trinity of street-level bruisers, so I’m more likely to cut Shinick some slack.
An interesting occurrence was Otto’s perceived “Pavlovian” panic response to a Goblin tattoo. Was his reaction a physical one like he thought or could it be that Peter still has a modicum of presence and control within those 31 memories? Void of his vast weapons cache, lacking his self-confidence and after alienating his only allies, is the war for the Goblin Nation already lost?