The following review contains spoilers for "Amazing Spider-Man" #700 and the status quo going into "Superior Spider-Man."
"Superior Spider-Man" #1 from Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman is a whole new turn for the Spider-Man franchise all while still keeping in the same wheelhouse of fun and awesome action. Spider-Man has always been the Marvel character with a slightly lighter world, even when things get dark, and here Slott shows how to craft a dastardly plot twist while also still making it feel fun and appeal to a wide audience. This is the sort of superhero comic we need to ensure stays alive.
I have to admit, I wasn't reading Slott's "Amazing Spider-Man," but this new turn of events seemed like a great jumping on point. A new Spider-Man, a new opportunity for tales, a new reader gained. However, I have to admit I didn't quite understand why Otto Octavius in Peter Parker's body was actually taking on the role of hero. I know how he ended up in the position, I just didn't get why he stayed there to fulfil the role. I was extremely pleased to see the recap page actually work for me, for once, and explain this plot device simply and easily. With this problem solved, I was ready to wander in and enjoy myself.
Dan Slott writes in the voice of Doctor Octopus and makes it work for a lead character. He's kind of pompous -- in battle he's more snarky than quippy -- and he's torn by his actions. His name and his identity will be forgotten as he advances the name of Peter Parker, his enemy for so long. It's a tough spot to be in. Slott writes his thoughts in captions like an old EC comic. Octavius is prone to long thoughts, he thinks through situations, and it gives this new book a great vibe different from when Parker headlined. Slott wins this round of change.
The second victory for Dan Slott is the effective change of tone in the book. Spider-Man is a different kind of cunning and a whole new ball of brutal. Slott doesn't go into the grim n' gritty side of things, which would have been too far, but he lets us know Octavius isn't really a hero moving forward, he's just a guy who does good things but in a whole new way. This grants opportunities to see the Spider-powers used in new and inventive ways. This may seem like a shell of a story merely waiting for a status quo reboot, but it isn't built as such. Octavius beats villains and Slott changes the game once again with a twist you'll have to read in order to believe.
Amidst the fantastically wrought science action, there is one scene between Octavius and Mary Jane that shows exactly who we are dealing with. It's a creepy scene that gives readers a moment inside Octavius's head -- the one thing that makes this book suddenly not quite feel all-ages. How this plot point is handled in future issues will quite possibly be the deciding factor on how the entire gambit is viewed in the years to come.
Ryan Stegman's work in this issue is world class. The greatest aspect of his pages is the body language of ‘Peter Parker.' It's the same old body we know but now with new ways of carrying himself. The stiff shoulders and straight lines of Parker show us Octavius' mindset and self-esteem through the action. This is a great storytelling trick and Stegman nails it because this person still looks exactly as Parker should but he acts completely differently. Stegman also delivers gorgeous action scenes full of zest and movement. He is showing himself as a premiere Spider artist with the way he can deliver the bombastic images as well as the smaller moments.
"Superior Spider-Man" #1 is a complete success, a reboot issue that builds from what came before but is entirely accessible for new readers. It is also riveting in the plot complication it delivers, the possible solution it hints at, and the way Octavius intends to act in the interim. Spider-Man will be different for a little while and if it can continue to be this intriguing, well thought out, exciting and downright fun, then it can take its time playing out this strange experiment.