“Superior Spider-Man” #3 continues Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman’s top-class run on the series as Octavius/Spider-Man faces the Vulture and his latest minions.
After a couple of issues of setup, this one feels like the first which you might describe as a “typical” Superior Spider-Man adventure: Octavius fights one of Peter’s old villains, Ghost-Peter tries to influence the outcome, and the creative checks in with the supporting cast and how they are affected by the apparent changes in Peter Parker.
This is also the first issue that tells a story about Octavius as a character. If he’s going to be the lead in the series (or co-lead, at any rate) it’s important that he be fleshed out, and Slott returns to the character’s childhood to give a little insight into his upbringing and motivation. The backstory dovetails nicely with the main plot, and in doing so gives us a reason to be on Peter’s side. Technically, it’s well executed — but it’s also got a strong emotional component.
Slott has mentioned in the past how he was planning to go a bit “dark and weird” with “Superior Spider-Man,” elements that definitely come to the fore in this issue. The villains are disturbing, Spider-Man’s demeanour is icy and brutal, and the theme of the issue — violence towards children — isn’t exactly a cheerful one. It’s to the creative team’s credit that the tone is kept just light enough that it still feels like a Spider-Man comic, even if it’s one that’s going to some unusual places.
Specifically, Ryan Stegman seems to have taken his art up a notch on this issue, evolving the straightforward action-superheroics of the first two issues into something with a gloomier look. Stegman’s work on the title has always been a little creepy, with unusual camera angles and intrusive character close-ups, but here he’s gone into overdrive with the light and shade as well, and it looks great. A perfect fit for the current direction the series.
It’s clear that despite the reservations of some fans, the technical strength of this story alone is likely to make it one of the greats — provided Slott and company can sustain it. If this is indeed a “typical” issue of “Superior Spider-Man”, there’s no reason to believe they can’t.