The middle chapter of Dan Slott’s current Spider-Slayer arc unfolds in “Superior Spider-Man” #12, with some help from scripter Christos Gage, as Alistair Smythe terrorizes Mayor J. Jonah Jameson and various civilians after escaping his own execution on the prison island known as The Raft. Otto Octavius, still right at home in the body of Peter Parker, is on hand and battles both Smythe and a newly refurbished trio of familiar Spidey villains.
This entry in Slott’s three-part arc is decently paced, and the notion of these enhanced villains running amok in the prison keeps the tension elevated. Glory Grant and the other Daily Bugle staff, trapped with only a more brazen and oddly-behaving Spider-Man to protect them, add an element of suspense. Otto-Spidey’s battle with Smythe is a clever match between two brilliant and villainous minds using the high tech toys those minds spawned. And the arc itself thus far has been an engaging enough, and the stage Slott is setting for Spidey’s presumed showdown with Smythe (and possibly The Vulture, Boomerang and The Scorpion) next issue is enticing enough to bring back anyone who’s enjoyed the story so far.
Despite its merits as a standalone entity, the storyline really doesn’t do much to advance the “Superior Spider-Man” saga as a whole, something that Slott had been very careful to ensure in past issues of the series, even if some of these advancements were slight. Here, Slott focuses a little more on the somewhat-suddenly thawed relationship between Spidey and Jonah, and while it’s a topic worth exploring, this relationship has been the soft spot in the whole storyline, as Jonah’s rapid transition from Spider-Man’s most prominent critic to his most faithful supporter has come across as a little too convenient. Jonah’s newfound admiration for the wall-crawler would be enough to make even one-time Spidey-maven Flash Thompson jealous, had this shift occurred back in the day. And the bloodlust that a grieving Jonah displays against Smythe for the killing of his wife was perfectly reasonable last issue when he was to merely be a witness to the execution, but here, that bloodlust takes Jonah, and his interaction with Spider-Man, to an uncharacteristic low.
Gage’s handle on the characters’ dialogue is mostly spot-on, but in a couple of instances is a little too glib for the mood of the story, and at one point he blatantly relies on the cliche of a character accidentally blabbing too much and giving away critical information as a means to advance the story. And in an absolute groaner, one character’s “Star Wars” quote (misquote, actually) at the site of a tiny projected holographic image is not only cliched, but totally unnecessary.
Artistically, the three artists involved collectively turn in a pretty attractive comic. Penciller Guiseppe Camuncoli has a kind of Ryan Stegman-like vibe, keeping in tune with the past look of the series while keeping things like exaggerated facial expressions to a minimum. Inkers John Dell and Terry Pallot finish off with a pretty clean and polished look to Camuncoli’s pencils, and give The Scorpion’s and Boomerang’s costumes an appropriately organic and metallic appearance, respectively.
While not the strongest issue in the generally impressive run of this title to date, the strengths it does have outweigh the weaknesses, and as such is worthy of recommendation to anyone who’s been enjoying Slott’s stint.