Superior Spider-Man #6AU

Posted by Donovan McComish 02 April 2013


Hello everybody and welcome to my review of Superior Spider-Man #6AU.

Synopsis:

After being saved by Hawkeye and returned to the heroes hideout, Otto Octavius stands facing the devastation of New York. He narrates about how often he used to imagine this scenario when he was Doctor Octopus, but now all he can think about is Aunt May & Mary Jane (who are implied to be dead now). He angrily shunts the blame to Peter Parker (for "distracting" Otto with his mess of a life) before being interrupted by Iron Man, who mistakes it as Spider-Man blaming himself. He tells "Peter" that he has a plan to defeat Ultron.

Tony explains that when he was the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D, he was in charge of planning various responses to doomsday scenarios. One involves placing a number of devices around an area overrun by enemy forces, and then activating the central device to shunt the aforementioned area into the Negative Zone. Unfortunatly the control device requires Negative Zone tech, some of which is currently at Horizon Labs. The plan is to have Quicksilver place the devices around Ultron's stronghold, while SpOck completes and activates the control unit, which would subsequently send Ultron into another dimension.

After Quicksilver drops him off at Horizon, SpOck makes his way to Max Modell's lab, coming across the corpse of Modell himself along the way. After reaching his objective, SpOck discards the device and changes course, arriving at "his" lab, where he activates one of his Spider-Bots, drawing Ultron Sentinels to his location. Upon their arrival, SpOck attacks them, fixing the Spider-Bot to one of the Ultron's and tricking them into destroying another. As reinforcements arrive, it is revealed that SpOck has summoned the rest of his Spider-Bots, which arrive in a swarm. They attach themselves to the Ultron Sentinels, putting them under Otto's control and causing them to sprout tentacles similar to Ock's original harness.

SpOck directs them to Ultron's stronghold, where they locate Ultron's central intelligence. As he is about to attack, Otto realises the figure is not Ultron, who then appears virtually before him. Ultron destroys the unit Otto is controlling and instantly uploads defenses for the Spider-Bot malware into the Ultron Sentinels, which resume attacking SpOck. As he flees, Otto desperately attempts to complete Iron Man's plan, but the control device is destroyed before he can get it to the N-Zone tech.  Completely defeated, SpOck retreats through Modell's secret tunnels as the Ultron's destroy Horizon Labs.

A while later, SpOck reunites with Iron Man & Quicksilver, telling them he failed. He also lies to them about what happened at Horizon, Stark tells him it probably wouldn't have worked anyway, to which SpOck assures him it would have. As Iron Man talks about picking themselves up and carrying on, Otto realises that by seeing the Avengers as beneath him, he made himself weaker rather than stronger. He recalls what he thought at the start of the issue, that death does not like to be cheated. He then adds that perhaps, with the right people, it can be defeated...

Thoughts:

The purpose of this issue is laid bare within the first few panels. Marvel assumes we need to be told that the Spider-Man in Age of Ultron is Doc Ock, due to the fact that Bendis wrote the series before Superior. This frustrates me as I feel this dates the series. It would have been much better to leave Spidey's identity ambiguous so we're left guessing if it's really Peter or if it's Otto fooling us as well as the other heroes.There are also points in the main series that make this issue's claims questionable. Would Otto really have the strength, both physically & mentally, to continue pretending to sound like Peter after being tortured by the Owl & Hammerhead in AoU #1?

Having said all that, this issue is still worth reading. Christos Gage writes Otto more in line with Christopher Yost's characterisation than Dan Slott's, which means that Otto is given more layers than normal. His reaction to Ultron's conquest of Earth is surprisingly interesting, though very in character. I found Otto's character arc here to be satisfying. Seeing him arrogantly disregard Stark's plan and fail to take Ultron down is great to read. Otto starts out with the belief that Spider-Man was made weak by his dependence on his allies, only to realise through his failure that it's part of why Spidey always won. The only problem here is that, unless the heroes somehow maintain their memories when they prevent this from happening, the events here will be rendered irrelevant to the main series of Superior.

Dexter Soy provides some fantastic artwork. the colour palette reminds me of Declan Shalvey's work on Venom, and that's absolutely a good thing. The characters & the locations parallel each other nicely. Seeing Horizon Labs decimated helps to showcase the personal repercussions of Ultron's rule. I really enjoyed the action sequence between SpOck & the Ultron Sentinels. It's also not hard to find the Spider-Bot-possessed Ultron Sentinels ridiculously awesome!

If this issue had truly been nothing more than a shallow attempt to fully tie the Superior Spider-Man in with Age of Ultron, I would have had no qualms in saying that you could skip it and not miss anything. But thankfully Gage uses the opportunity to "weave" some interesting character work with Otto that makes this issue well worth a look...

Score: 4.0/5.0

Scarlet Spider #15

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd

Okay, so thus far, we've had a story in which a young girl with psychic powers, who may or may not be the reincarnation of an Atzec sun god, is being chased by a pair of mutant werewolves siblings.  Meanwhile, the clone of Spider-Man, having just been killed by said werewolves, gets brought back to life with a mystical full-body makeover courtesy of a totemic spider deity.  Um...yeah, comics can tend to get a little weird.  Even so, "In the Midst of Wolves" has been surprisingly enjoyable thus far, so let's see whether the conclusion lives up to the expectations that have already been set in place.     

THE STORY
We open with Aracely hiding in a dumpster from the Lobo siblings, hoping in vain that the stench from the garbage bags will hide her scent.  She thinks about how Esmeralda Lobo called her by her full name--Maria Aracely Joesphina Penalba de la Heras--and the Coyote they work for.
 
As she does, we get a flashback of events prior to Scarlet Spider #1 in a Mexican desert, where Aracely gets brought before an old man in a suit accompanied by a wolf or coyote.  The old man is called “Mr. Moctezuma,” and Aracely demands to know where her parents are, and Mr. Moctezuma claims that her parents only want the best for her, that they asked him to do this, and that they will join her soon.  Aracely is then loaded into the cargo bay of a semi-truck--the same one Kaine had found her in back in issue  #1--and Mr. Moctezuma orders his men to leave the truck out in the desert for a day before delivering it to Roxxon.  When one of the men states that Roxxon needs live test subjects, Mr. Moctezuma says that “the Lobos have much more the gain from him, and much more to fear” and that Aracely has to die before “it” can begin.  As the immigrants in the truck scream for help, Aracely calls out for her parents, but instead hears a voice that says “You will survive this.  And then you will make the world bleed.”
 
We then resume events in the present, where Aracely is calling out for Kaine, even though he knows he’s dead, when she then sees a lone spider looking right back at her.  Without warning, the dumpster’s lid rips off and Carlos Lobo, in werewolf form, pulls her out, enraged over Aracely making the street gang attack them.  Esmerelda Lobo states that Carlos should kill her after all when suddenly, thousands of spiders pour out of the dumpster and the Lobo siblings look up to see Kaine in his “Other” form perched on a large web saying one word: “Prey.”

Soon, spider webs are all around them, and the Lobo siblings can’t get a scent on Kaine because he and the spiders share the same scent.  Kaine appears again and rips Carlos' eye out.  Then, shooting webbing from his finger tips, he pulls and wraps up Esmeralda.  Esmeralda transforms into a werewolf and tears herself free, saying she and her brother have fought monsters before, that they have seen Mictlan, and that he’s nothing compared to what is coming.  As Kaine seemingly vanishes again, Aracely thinks that while she wants to run, she cannot leave Kaine, as she knows that he’s still in the Other somewhere.  But as Kaine reappears again and attacks the Lobo siblings, Aracely starts to feel the Lobo siblings fear and the savagery from Kaine, and she realizes that there’s nothing human left in whatever Kaine has become.
 
As Kaine proceeds to web up Esmeralda again, Carlos leaps on Kaine, pinning him to the ground.  Suddenly, four spider legs emerge from Kaine’s back and one of them impales Carlos in the chest.  As Esmeralda screams, Kaine says to Carlos “Killed me” and then…tears Carlos’ right arm clean off!  Esmeralda leaps in, pushes Kaine out of the way, and escapes with her mortally wounded brother in her arms.
 
Aracely, frightened and hesitant, approaches Kaine, who is feasting himself on Carlos' arm, asks him what is he.  Kaine turns around and says “Prey” and attacks her.  Soon Aracely is trapped in a web and as Kaine approaches, Aracely tries reach out to him with her powers, telling him he doesn’t have to be afraid.  It doesn’t work, and when he grabs her by the throat, Aracely reminds him that he came back for her, that he’ll always be there for her, and for him to come back now.  Kaine lets her go, then rips off his own skin and becomes human again, naked and looking just like he did when Aracely first met him, with long hair and a shaggy beard.  Kaine tells her his human form isn’t him, that the thing that he’d became and tried to kill her is the real him now.  Aracely assures Kaine that she can never be afraid of him, that he could never kill her.  When Kaine says Aracely doesn’t really know him, she says he’s wrong, that she’s always known what he is…her champion.
 
We then see a montage of the next few days after.  Aracely gives Kaine a haircut and shaves off his beard.  Kaine returns to the tattoo parlor to get the same tattoo, as it had disappeared along with all his scars when he transformed.  Then we see Kaine, Aracely, along with Donald, Wally, and Annabelle out to dinner; the narration tells us that only Aracely knows about Kaine’s transformation and acts like nothing has changed.  Finally, we see Kaine in the bathroom of the restaurant, looking into the mirror.  He says he no longer struggles with whether he is a monster or not, because he now knows he is one.  And in the mirror, we see the humanoid made of spiders from last issue.

Then there's three more panels.  First in New York at Lennox Hill Hospital, where Julia Carpenter/the new Madame Web, is still in a coma with her daughter, Rachel, watching over her.  Julia then whispers “Kaine.”  We then see a pair of glowing red eyes “Between worlds” and a voice that says “Spider.”  Then we go to “The End of All Things” in which a man on a throne overlooking a floor covered in bones who says “The Other has ascended.  The Culling will soon begin.”

Then we head back to the Four Seasons Hotel in Houston, where a sleeping Aracely dreams.  Someone whispers her name and we see the same Aztec masked man from issue #13 say “Mictlan Rises.”  Then a hummingbird.  Then Aracely holding a human heart against her face saying “The Sixth Creation comes.”  Then, she wakes up, eyes glowing red and says “It requires blood.”  Then she floats in the room and says “We will make the world bleed.”

In Mexico, we see Esmeralda tending to Carlos’ wounds, when Mr. Montezuma and his pet wolf arrive.  Carlos pleads with Mr. Montezuma, saying that he promised him and his sister they would see their brother again.  Mr. Montezuma says he did and that Carlos can now join him and literally sucks Carlos’ soul out of his body.  As Esmeralda tries to attack, Mr. Montezuma has her in a choke hold, telling her that the hummingbird is alive and that Aracely needs to be dead for the sixth creation to begin.  Esmeralda begs for another chance, but Mr. Montezuma tosses her aside, telling her that Aracely already knows, that he can feel that Huitzilopochtli is awake, that he will come to kill him for what he did to him.  As a group of group of six seemingly super-powered characters (no idea who they are) enter the room, Mr. Montezuma declared he will be ready for Huitzilopochti, the girl, and Scarlet Spider.

THOUGHTS
To borrow a phrase from one episode of the NBC comedy, Community, which the Superior Spider-Man recently made reference to, this issue was “crazy-town banana pants.”  Granted, I’ve read crazier comics than this one, but not many of them result in repeated open and visceral exclamations of disbelief like this one did.  Which is in this instance, was a very good thing.

Much of the issue, of course, consists of Kaine in his Other form battling the Lobo siblings, and the result is the most intense fight scene of the series to date.  With the aid of Khoi Pham very much illustrations, Chris Yost makes us see just how primal and ferocious this “Man Spider” Kaine truly is, and the effect is both frightening, exciting and just sheer unadulterated badass.  It’s a temporary look for the sake of the story, but given that this is a significant develop for Kaine, I have no doubt we’ll be seeing him in this form in future issues, as the concluding pages of this issue seems to suggest.
 
Likewise, Aracely has also under gone a figurative--and perhaps also a literal--metamorphosis as well, as many of the puzzle pieces that make up her mysterious origins have now been fitted into place  Although, given how much she’s tied into Aztec mythology and what Yost appears to be hinting at, I have feeling her demise is only a matter of time, and that the supposed big bad in Mr. Moctezuma may actually believe he has to kill Aracely to save the world.  Which, while understandable, would be a bit of a shame as I think this issue and storyline has further cemented Aracely as one of the most fascinating, mulch-faceted supporting character of the series.             
   
Using a much derided story like “The Other” as the backdrop is, without doubt, controversial fans Spider-Man fans, much like the series itself being rooted in the much more contentious Clone Saga.  Yet once again, Chris Yost is able to turn what amounted to the rock-bottom moments of Spider-Man history into something which feels right at home for Kaine and his world.  Overall, I think Yost took a big risk with “In the Midst of Wolves” and it’s paid off enormously.


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