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Superior to Amazing: Why Marvel should keep Peter Parker on the shelf

By Staff | Feb 3, 2014

Spoiler warning if you haven’t read any Spider-Man comics since December 2012: Spider-Man is sorta dead.

In a gutsy, controversial and ultimately rewarding move, Marvel killed off their most recognizable character in Amazing Spider-Man #700, unbeknownst to anyone except Peter Parker, Dr. Octopus and comic readers.

Some of those readers were outraged at Marvel and writer Dan Slott, claiming Marvel had destroyed the iconic character they loved.

Now, Marvel’s poised to do what everybody knew they would eventually – bring Spidey back in April, with a brand-new Amazing Spider-Man #1.

I’m not going to be enraged over the turn of events, but I can’t say I’m not disappointed.

Back in #700, the dying Doc Ock, aka Otto Octavius, switched minds with his arch-nemesis. Suddenly, Otto had a new lease on life and spidery superpowers while Peter Parker was trapped in the doc’s failing body.

The clock ran out on the Otto body with Peter’s mind still inside. But before he died, Peter flooded their kinda-shared mind with the memories and emotions that forged him into a hero. Ock finally got the message by which Peter lived his life: with great power comes great responsibility.

(That doesn’t mean Marvel destroyed Peter or he “lost:” He won by not giving up even when facing certain death. The person he was and the life he led changed someone else’s life for the better.)

Otto pledged to protect Peter’s family and friends, and all of New York City, as Spider-Man. But he’s still Dr. Octopus, so he decided he could do it better, becoming a “Superior” Spider-Man, which became the title of the relaunched series.

Otto didn’t simply turn over a new leaf and embrace the side of the angels, nor did he prove to be just a villain masquerading as a hero.

His methods go from questionable to downright wrong, but there’s also a logic to his thinking. He really is trying to be a hero – but he still thinks like a villain. He’s put the city under robot surveillance, built up an army of henchmen – er, deputies – and dealt decisively, often brutally, with Spider-Man’s rogues gallery.

It’s like a great “What If” or single story, except it’s been the status quo for more than two dozen issues. And Slott continued to throw readers curves: Peter was still hanging around in the back of Ock’s mind for a while, and the obvious mechanism by which he could return was casually destroyed in Superior Spider-Man #9.

I can’t say Marvel should never bring back Peter Parker, and I certainly can’t say I don’t expect good, and even great, stories from Slott on the new Amazing. He’s been writing the character for years and doing a heck of a job.

But the reason I’ve been shelling out $3.99 an issue twice a month is that Superior Spider-Man is like no other mainstream superhero comic I’ve read. After the absurd “One More Day” reboot, an editor wrote in the first trade about the elements he thought made for a good Spider-Man story. They were so paint-by-numbers obvious in those early stories that it kind of overshadowed what were at least some decent reads.

With Superior, Slott’s turned those elements on their head and is telling new stories in a familiar framework.

I’m sure he’ll continue to do quality work on Spider-Man, but I doubt I’ll be as curious and excited to see what he has in store each month. Peter Parker has to come back, of course, but I’d like to have had a little more time with the Superior version.

Evan Bevins writes the webcomic Support Group, www.supportgroupcomic.com