They teased this premise for months. Dan Slott said Superior Spider-Man would be back with the onset of the “Spider-Verse” storylines, mere months after Octavius shuffled off this mortal coil (again). He tantalized audiences with the question of just what happened to Octavius while he was caught in that time displacement, waaay back in Superior Spider-Man #19.
The brief return of this title heralds the beginning of Edge of Spider-Verse, and therefore is jam-packed with two stories that deal with various aspects of it. Displaced into 2099 by the temporal meltdown at Horizon Labs, Octavius pieces together technology from the future to send himself back home, but discovers a sinister complication as he jumps from one reality to another in the primary story. In the after-story, Octavius, recruiting Spider-Men from alternate realities, has a conversation with one such Spider-Man, who, like him, won’t hesitate to kill if needed.
Before I step into my analysis, I’d better address the elephant in the room. The “Spider-Verse” arc is doubtless going to require a lot more suspension of disbelief than a lot of Spider-Man stories out there. We’re dealing with a Multi-verse, alternate realities, time travel, and a whole freakin’ mess of a plethora of Spider-People from different dimensions running around in one unified story.
It’s probably going to break a few rules, perhaps even some internal ones, to say nothing of possible continuity issues. All I can say, at this point, is that it’s probably best to not dwell too hard on some of these issues, and take into account that a time-jumping, reality-hopping, multi-versing story like this, written with the specific purpose of bringing all these Spider-Folk together, is probably going to have to break some of these rules. I for one have no problem with this kind of writing, so long as it’s in service to a good and memorable story, and given Dan Slott’s record with Spider-Man, I have faith this will all be resolved in a satisfying manner.
Obnoxious, arrogant, and full of himself as Octavius is, particularly during this time in Peter’s body, it’s almost impossible not to like him when he’s in his element. His arrival in 2099 is full of hilarious character moments, as well as a surprising amount of personal development as he schemes and raids and tinkers his way towards a device that can send him back to his home time. Moments such as his proclamation that the technology of 2099 is still too primitive for his superior intellect make you shake your head and grin at the egomania that drives him. Yet, these moments are counterbalanced by unexpected touches of tenderness in his development of a holographic assistant that resembles Anna Maria, the woman with whom he’s in love. It all makes for a nicely developed Octavius as the plot moves towards the rising action.
And it’s in this action that we see Octavius’s ruthless side come out. Upon finding that the Spider-Men of the various realities he encounters have been murdered by one entity, Octavius is at his efficient and proactive best, working to end this threat as effectively as possible by turning his quest to go home into a quest to raise an army of Spider-People to combat it. It’s not something I could anywhere near as easily envision Peter Parker doing, and makes for an entertaining return to form for a Spider-Man who is similar to, but also still very different from, the one we know and love.
Artistically, I can’t help but love this issue. I don’t always like Camuncoli’s linework, but I think it really pops in this issue, particularly during the initial action scenes in 2099 and the fight between Spider-Man India and Morlun near the conclusion of the main story. I also like the visual compositions of the alternate realities Octavius visits while trying to return home, giving readers clear indications that he’s in the House of M reality, and so on. Antonio Fabela’s deep, rich colors are a big help as well, and his skill at utilizing different color palettes keep things vibrant without seeming busy.
All in all, Superior Spider-Man #32 is an exciting, kinetic return to form for Slott, as well as a good setup for Edge of Spider-Verse. I’m eager to see more, and can’t help wondering just what will happen in the next, presumably (?) final issue of this title.