As the numbering suggests, “Superior Spider-Man” #6AU by Christos Gage and Dexter Soy is set during the “Age of Ultron” crossover. According to Marvel’s instructions, this means the book can be safely skipped without missing any of the book’s ongoing story, and a fill-in team of creators helps sell that idea. Indeed, having read the book, it’s true: this is no more an essential read for fans of “Superior Spider-Man” than the average issue of “Avenging Spider-Man” is.
The setting doesn’t give a huge amount of room to advance the plot of either the crossover or “Superior Spider-Man,” so instead Gage has found a story with a (reasonably) circular structure. Although the character changes, the story intentionally ends in more or less the same place it began. At the same time it does what good crossovers should: addresses points that the main book doesn’t have space for. Specifically, why is Octo-spidey not acting more like readers might expect Octo-spidey to act?
The question of why someone as arrogant as Octavius would accept help from other super-powered individuals as allies, even commanders, rather than as underlings is reasonable. This comic attempts to give a good reason for Octo-Peter to hang around with the Avengers in “Age of Ultron,” taking orders them rather than trying to save himself (or even take on the threat alone). In that, it succeeds. It’s essentially a stand-alone character piece equivalent to those found in “Avenging Spider-Man” but which, in this case, just happens to be set in the midst of a giant event story.
By design, that makes it a story which is easy to skip, and it’s hard to do “character learns a valuable lesson” plots without making them feel trite on some level. Gage doesn’t entirely avoid that, but by throwing in some unusual team-ups (Quicksilver!) and going to town on the dialogue, he does manage to elevate the issue beyond fill-in. Soy’s art also helps. On “Captain Marvel” it seemed at odds with the character and her style, but here the anime-inspired poses and darker tone fit much better: everyone has urgency piled onto their body language, and the environments look bleak and foreboding.
“Superior Spider-Man” #6AU is not a bad comic. It’s even a mostly good one. But the fact that the plot is in a holding pattern makes it hard to love, and there’s no doubt that it’s the weakest “Superior” issue yet. With that in mind, it can’t help but be a little disappointing overall.