Call me old fashioned, but I think team-up comics have a general set of rules that they should follow. They’re traditionally one-shot stories, more or less outside of any current storyline happening in the solo comic of whatever character gets top billing in the team-up — in this case, Superior Spider-Man (the why-didn’t-they-learn-from-the-nineties-that-Spider-Man-should-just-be-Peter-Parker incarnation of the hero with the brain of Otto Octavius). Team-up comics should be more fun and less serious, should usually have the requisite scene of the heroes fighting each other before realizing their misunderstanding and working together against the true villain, and they certainly shouldn’t be an essential part of storylines that begin and end in other books.
“Superior Spider-Man Team-Up” #2 breaks pretty much all these rules, although the heroes-fight-then-make-up trope is present and accounted for, and actually handled pretty well. Other than that, though, this issue could basically be any of the current Spider-books. In the Marvel tradition of the last decade that pretty much every comic on the stands has to tie in to the ongoing super-event, just to make sure you’re buying all of them, Spidey’s team-up book ties in to the events of “Scarlet Spider” so closely that rather than containing a one-shot story, it actually begins a continuity-heavy two-parter that concludes in “Scarlet Spider” #20.
Not really in the spirit of team-ups, at least to my mind. But I’ll stop being a grouchy child of the ’80s for a second and take the comic on its own terms. The first thing that jumps out from the pages of “Superior Spider-Man Team-Up” #2 is that the art is far, far better than #1. I’ll never be a fan of scratchy, pencil-like inking, but Marco Checchetto has a much better command of human bodies and faces than David Lopez. His panels are more dynamic and exciting, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s modern coloring sits much better on Checchetto’s art. In other words, the book has been bumped up to an art level appropriate for an event tie-in focusing on Marvel’s most famous character.
The writing has improved as well. Chris Yost has a better handle on how to write Doc-Ock-as-Spidey than in the last issue. In #1, Spider-Doc just came off as a jerk, which was appropriate for the perennial villain but not for the narrator of a superhero comic. In this issue, he seems a bit more conflicted as he settles into the role of Spider-Man. The issue begins with him gloating about how much better he is at being Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was, which is a wonderful way to have the character act like a hero but still think like a villain. At one point, he launches into an internal monologue fitting for the old Doctor Octopus, only to correct himself, then get hit pretty hard because he hasn’t been paying attention to anything outside his own head. It’s a little humorous, which is just what a Spider-Man comic needs.
If “Superior Spider-Man Team-Up” continues in the direction it’s going, it should end up on par with the other Spider-books tying into the Superior Spider-Man event. It’s a good thing, too, because Marvel’s clearly decided that this team-up comic won’t follow the usual rules, and instead will be a required part of monthly Spider-reading.