Spider-Verse Part 3 has arrived, and the showdown everyone has been waiting for has finally happened: Peter Parker vs. Doctor Octopus (aka: The Superior Spider-Man). With Olivier Copiel vivifying Dan Slott’s words, Amazing Spider-Man #11 is injected with energy and vibrancy it otherwise doesn’t quite deserve. The reason being is because its writer seems to have drawn inspiration for his version of Peter Parker by watching Forrest Gump on repeat in his bedroom. Dan Slott’s Peter Parker is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get.
After 10 issues of Peter fumbling and bumbling around as a sideshow character in his own book, a switch has seemingly been flipped and he suddenly takes charge. It’s jarring, and the result is a sort of cognitive dissonance for readers who haven’t been happy with the status quo for some time. If you’re like me, then you’re left scratching your head at the inconsistency. If you’re like Andrew Roebuck from Spider-Man Crawlspace, then you have a more curious take.
Mr. Roebuck says of Spider-Verse Part 3:
“It seems to me that we finally have a reason for Slott writing our Peter Parker so incompetently these last few months. He needed it to feel important for him to step into his big boy pants and take charge of the situation. We needed to see Peter at his worst to appreciate him when he is finally back doing the things that we all knew the character capable of.”
If one were to hold tight to this premise, then he or she would have to believe Dan Slott wanted Peter Parker fans to drop roughly $50 over the past year on a lackluster to embarrassing version of their favorite character for the so-called payoff of issue #11. That is certainly one way to deal with the cognitive dissonance the book has generated, but one I don’t think will be of much comfort to the vast majority of Peter Parker fans.
What is more likely: that Dan Slott views Peter Parker as a kind of Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption, who he had to drag through a mile of human waste to attain glory, or that he’s writing a character that he doesn’t quite know how to handle?
Perhaps the most bizarre moment of Peter’s momentary return to form is his assertion: “Ock can’t imagine a world where he loses. One where I come back, reclaim that body, and win!”
Given that there are plenty of instances in Spider-Man history where Peter Parker handily defeats Otto, it seems a bit odd to say that the villain can’t imagine a world where he loses. He’s lost. Multiple times. Regardless, any one who read The Superior Spider-Man knows that Peter didn’t come back and “win” per se — Otto basically stepped aside.
All of this again raises the question: What happened to Peter? Was he dead? If so, then where was his soul? Did Otto just take control of Peter’s mind for a year, which would mean that Peter was the one doing all sorts of dastardly deeds while brainwashed? Is there a “downloaded” Otto somewhere in the recesses of Peter’s brain just waiting to get out? There never was any clear answer, which may be why Peter hasn’t really grappled with the enormity of the situation. The personalities of individuals who survive near-death experiences often undergo profound changes. The Superficial Spider-Man just swings around and occasionally mentions that he maybe-sorta-kinda-died.
The one diamond in the rough from The Amazing Spider-Man #11 comes when Peter and “Spider-Gwen” share a moment that could lead to some interesting stories down the road. As much as it pains me to say it, the smart move by Marvel would be to use each character’s shared experience as a spring board for a more serious relationship between the two of them. This particular Gwen knows exactly what Peter went through when he lost his first true love. Instead of having Peter Parker engage in stupid make-out sessions with Dan Slott’s creation Silk, it would be worth Marvel’s time to kick start something more serious between Peter and Gwen. Doing so would also open the possibility of a love triangle between Peter, the new Gwen, and Mary Jane. The Superficial Spider-Man could become The Substantive Spider-Man once again.
In short, Spider-Verse Part 3 was one of the few issues of The Amazing Spider-Man since its relaunch that was actually worth the $4.00 cover price. Unfortunately, Dan Slott’s Spider-Gump is still like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get.