If you’ve read Spider-Man comics for years, you’ve likely felt as though the character of Peter Parker was growing and maturing with you. Time in a comic book doesn’t correlate to time in the real world, but it was fun to see Peter go from being a naive young kid into a responsible adult. Each stage of life has its own set of challenges and responsibilities we must face up to, and for awhile Peter was hitting his stride. Then, at some point the creators of Spider-Man began to shirk their duties. They were nervous about moving forward with the character, so instead they came up with a laundry list of reasons why the title wasn’t performing and ultimately began moving backwards. With Superior Spider-Man #9, Dan Slott proves that he is the Mole Man of Marvel writers; he can go extremely low. Subterranean low. Congratulations.
Years ago they said Mary Jane was a creative obstacle. Solution? Kill the marriage. The writing still stinks? Make Peter act like a younger dumber version of himself. Still not right? Here’s an idea: Let’s kill Peter Parker. In fact, let’s just kill off The Amazing Spider-Man and ride the gimmick-wave as long as we can (i.e., Doc Ock in Peter’s body), until people get sick of buying a superhero book about a “hero” who tried to kill six billion people and completely flouts the rule of law with impunity (e.g., blowing a defenseless guy’s face off in front of numerous witnesses).
Question: What does it say about a title when people tune in just to see how much damage one man can do to a beloved character? The great thing about comics is that a good writer with enough time could put Humpty Spidey back together again, but the fact remains: instead of uniting Spider-Man fans around a specific direction for Marvel’s flagship character, the Brain Trust has allowed the title to turn into a character study on the inner workings of Dan Slott’s mind. And Mr. Slott does not disappoint. By the end of Superior Spider-Man #9 we know exactly how he defines Peter: a mentally weak man-boy who at his core would allow a deranged psychopath like Doctor Octopus to bring him to his knees and wipe him from existence.
Here’s a quick recap, so you don’t need to purchase the book:
1. Doc Ock figures out that a piece of Peter still remains locked away in his brain.
2. The villain attempts to erase this memory from existence while inside his laboratory and fails. Doc Ock must “go in.”
3. Having physically “killed” Peter in Amazing Spider-Man #700, writer Dan Slott gives Doctor Octopus a chance to “kill” him off psychologically as well. Once again, the true hero goes down in rather embarrassing fashion.
4. Doctor Octopus is triumphant.
Again, Marvel’s promotional campaign for the issue promised readers they would be angry, but why? Dan Slott does the equivalent of a double tap — he killed off Peter in ASM 700, and for all intents and purposes he did it again in SSM 9. Perhaps in a few more issues Doc Ock could make a deal with Mephisto to scatter Peter Parker’s soul into a billion pieces across the universe just to rub it in even further. Maybe Slott wants to go for the mind-body-soul hat trick of destruction. At this point, it’s almost to be expected.
If I was writing the book, I’d have Ock find all the secrets Mephisto locked away of Peter’s life with Mary Jane still inside his head. Ock could tell Peter the truth, undo “the deal,” and in many ways redeem himself by resurrecting true love. In the process, Ock would then create his own new enemy — Mephisto. It would be a great story, it would make fans happy and it would quickly undo a ton of damage done over the years in a plausible way. But hey … I’m just that “crazy conservative blogger” who loves Spider-Man. Who am I to talk? Call me when you want a writer who loves Spider-Man on your payroll, Marvel.
The real questions for Spider-Man fans are as follows:
- Do you believe Marvel will bring back Peter Parker? If the answer yes, it will be obvious that he will have his reputation completely ruined and, on some level, be forced to build it back up from scratch. (This is actually a good idea, but the execution of it all — no pun intended — has been horrendous).
- Given that, does anyone trust Dan Slott with the rebuilding process?
I’ll leave you with a quote from my brother, who read Amazing Spider-Man to me on his lap when I was a child:
You and Main Event don’t enjoy the story and [Dan Slott] comes back with sales. Let’s see … remember the Sesame Street “which of the 4 don’t belong?” game as a kid? My four are Jimmy Page, Aretha Franklin, Neil Peart, and Justin Bieber. Three are respected musicians with decades-long career success. I’ll say Bieber doesn’t belong in the others’ league. Then again, Bieber did have more “sales” this past year, so by Slottian logic I guess I’m an idiot, too.
Boom. Quality-wise, Superior Spider-Man is the Justin Bieber of Marvel titles. Enjoy those sales while they last. Years from now, it will be the quality that critics talk about, and they will not treat this era of Spider-Man kindly.
Here’s another question: Where was any meaningful presence of Uncle Ben in SSM #9? In Peter’s mind, Uncle Ben would have towered over Doctor Octopus like a colossus (or was that a Galactus?). In a battle for Peter’s existence, how cool would it have been for Uncle Ben to give Peter the strength and courage to adapt and overcome? How amazing would it have been to see Doctor Octopus quiver in the presence of a real man — Uncle Ben — and melt away like the Wicked Witch? We’ll never know, because Marvel wanted to make readers “angry” instead of inspired.