Otto Octavius continues to fool the world into thinking he’s really Spider-Man in the Dan Slott-written “Superior Spider-Man” #2 with art by Ryan Stegman. The opening scene of Spider-Man returning purloined technology to Empire State University and being welcomed with a hardy handshake from J. Jonah Jameson while the ghost of Peter Parker helplessly screams into the ether sums up the issue perfectly. Take that scene and multiple it by nine-and-a-half.
Why nine-and-a-half? Because every scene in the nineteen-page story with Peter Parker’s body is punctuated by the screaming/whining/pleading disembodied “real” Peter Parker. Yes, there are a few pages in this issue where that doesn’t happen, but not one of those pages includes Spider-Man. It starts off as a fun gimmick, but grows pretty thin by the time readers hit the staples in this issue. Initially I thought it was rather like Martin Stein’s relationship to Ronnie Raymond in the now classic Firestorm comics of the 1980s, but Octavius appears largely oblivious to the railing from Parker. Slott uses the device to keep the real Parker in our faces, giving readers a chance to share in Parker’s grief and consternation. Similarly, we also share in Parker’s surprise as Octavius makes some choices by the issue’s end that places some wrinkles in the grand scheme of things to come.
Ryan Stegman’s art continues to draw upon the iconic visual history this character has enjoyed, celebrating the agility of Spider-Man and the absurdity of life around the wallcrawler. I found myself mentally comparing the work Stegman poured into the opening scene with the historical run Todd McFarlane gave Spider-Man. Some of the energy and figurework trends closer to Greg Capullo’s work than to Todd McFarlane’s, but Stegman is slave to neither, blending those influences into his own distinctive work. The outlines for characters are uneven and sketchy, accentuating the tense energy of “Superior Spider-Man” #2 while nicely containing the color work from Edgar Delgado. Letterer Chris Eliopoulos deserves recognition in his efforts to unify the appearance of letter art with the drawings. The trio of visual specialists blends nicely throughout the issue.
There’s just a little too much hand-wringing and whining from the spirit of Peter Parker past. It might be necessary to the overall arc of this chapter in Spider-Man’s storied existence, but it quickly gets tiresome in this issue. This should be the flagship title for the Marvel NOW! Initiative and the gateway book for new readers. It’s not really either, but it is a decent enough story. “Superior Spider-Man” #2, however, has me checking to see if I’m truly getting a solid return on investment. I’m not fully invested in this new Spider-Man and I’m not convinced I need to be. I don’t need the ghost of Peter Parker to appreciate the evolution of Otto Octavius, but I do expect to get good Spider-Man adventures for a $3.99 price point.