Superior Spider-Man Annual #1 by Christos Gage (Comics Review)

Last year Marvel made controversial history when it killed off Peter Parker and brought in the notorious supervillain Doctor Octopus as the Spider-Man. Doc Ock is the one who killed Peter and took over his body and his memories, essentially becoming Peter Parker, and reinvented the persona of the hero as Superior Spider-Man. As I hadn’t really read any Spidey comics before, I wasn’t really interested in the status quo, not until I began to read Al Ewing’s Mighty Avengers and read Mike Costa’s 3-part crossover Arms of the Octopus.

This is my first comic reading fully about Spider-Ock in his own title. And I have to say that I really liked it. I’ve read Christos’ Angel & Faith comics before and I really liked them, so Christos is definitely a writer I’m willing to try on any title. He brings a simplicity to this issue that really works. This is a fairly good stand-alone story that ties into the larger story being told by Dan Slott, the series writer, and I think it served as a good intro to the reinvented character. It definitely did for me.

Superior Spider-Man Annual 01The one thing that I love about annual issues is that they are often standalone. They can also prove to be good jumping on points. This is why this issue was so great. Penned by guest writer Christos Gage who, IIRC, has penned a couple of issues previously for the main series, it is a fairly straightforward story with an interesting villain and it also shows off what kind of a superhero Superior Spider-Man is. Or, I suppose, what kind of an anti-hero he is. It is a really interesting take on the character at the least.

The premise here is that the vampiric villain known as Blackout has returned and he wants to restore his reputation. To make that happen, he decides to kill Spider-Man by having Spidey’s best “friend” Peter Parker sabotage his equipment since it is public knowledge that Peter is the one who is Spidey’s tech-expert and collaborator as well. Things don’t quite go according to plan since Peter is really Doc Ock, a secret known to no one else. It goes without saying that Spidey-Ock proves his superiority in quite an interesting way.

Christos’ Spider-Ock is a ruthless, violent character. The writer gives a really good recap of Spider-Ock’s brutal methods in a conversation between Peter and Jay Jameson, Aunt May’s husband, when the two of them talk about Jay’s concerns for Peter’s safety and how Spidey’s new-found brutality is becoming increasingly problematic. It provides an interesting look into the character. Plot elements like this have been used before to show what happens when heroes lose their mental controls and go full-out with their powers. Their villainous counterparts, such as Ultraman to Superman, show what happens when these heroes aren’t heroes but something much more sinister and darker. That’s essentially what Spider-Ock is all about, except that he thinks he can do a better job of being Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever did. And that’s his new mission.

Throughout the book, we also get some cool cameos from Ghost Rider and Dr. Strange, two of the more occult/supernatural-minded characters in the Marvel universe. Spider-Ock considers asking for help from both of them to take down Blackout, who has captured Aunt May and is holding her hostage to ensure Peter’s cooperation. With Ghost Rider, he gets an idea of who and what Blackout is, but with Dr. Strange he reconsiders since the mystic hero “dabbles in auras and clairvoyance” and may be able to discern that Peter really isn’t Peter, that the real Peter has been dead. Besides just offering up small subplot elements, it also shows that Spider-Ock thinks about these two characters, and how much he keeps himself segregated from most of the other heroes when he can.

The art here is by Javier Rodriguez who does the pencils and the colours, with Alvaro Lopez on the inks and Chris Eliopoulos on the letters. The art in this issue has a very animated series type feel to it. Rodriguez and Lopez give their characters some really strong facial expressions that are distinct for each situation and the former’s character work is pretty damn good. Blackout oozes menace in all his scenes and Spider-Ock, as both the hero and the civilian, also stands out in all of his scenes. Overall, there are shades of darkness to the art, which are a reflection of the dark nature of this story as well, and so the two match up nicely with each other. At the moment I don’t know who the artists are on the regular series, but if the art is anything like this, then I definitely want to give it a try.

Which brings me to the final point. I’ve seen Spider-Ock through Mike Costa, Al Ewing and now Christos Gage. I want to see more of this character. Think I’m finally going to take the plunge and start reading the main series. I’d initially thought to go through Dan Slott’s entire run on Amazing Spider-Man before taking up Superior Spider-Man but I kind of don’t want to wait for that anymore!

Rating: 9/10

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Posted on November 23, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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