While scouring the wreckage of Attilan for Inhuman tech, Otto Octavius gets more than he bargained for when a rescue mission turns shockingly personal. Christos Gage deftly engages Ock's perspective on the aftermath of "Infinity" in this fast-paced and well-executed one-shot issue; Stephanie Hans takes it to a whole new level with her elegant style, debuting her best work yet. "Inhumanity: The Superior Spider-Man" #1 is a hidden gem of a comic that benefits from impressive plotting and terrific art.
From the very first page, Hans makes it clear that this will be a gorgeous book with a stunning full page spread that reads more like a painting than a comic book scene. Hans' style uses little to no inking, but her scenes are brilliant, clear, and absolutely engrossing; soft lines aside, her panels are riddled with smaller details. For instance, her work with Ock's Spider-Man outfit proves her attention to continuity, as she consistently emphasizes features from the grips in his boots to the finely detailed webbing patterns on his palms.
Her work on this issue is nothing short of cinematic; she uses a wide range of perspective shots to keep the flow of the comic dynamic and interesting. What's more, this shifting focus packs an emotional whammy as Hans stages them with careful precision and meaning, from firemen sifting through the wreckage to civilians moving through the broken city to a close up of a character's tear stained face. Her art propels the story along smoothly and gracefully while packing an additional emotional charge. Comics usually aren't considered fine art, but Hans brings us pretty damn close with her lovely style in this issue.
Gage's story is no less heartfelt. His story comes together wonderfully under a series of precise narrative decisions that function independently of the main "Superior" title yet remain distinctly personal to Ock, from emphasizing Ock's reliance on technology to the choice of villain to - finally - the small twist at the end of the issue. Gage's use of dramatic irony rings particularly poignant here, especially as arrogant, attention-seeking Ock struggles to come to terms with his situation as it goes unacknowledged. Gage's narrative is tight and deliberate, providing recaps in tiny, easy-to-swallow doses as Ock moves across the city. He has an excellent grasp of Ock's voice and it shows, from Ock's version of events in the narration to his treatment of the other characters.
Although Spider-Man's name is in the title, Gage's one-shot also focuses on a small side character named Lieutenant Coyle and benefits from it greatly. Coyle's mere presence and ultimate success reminds readers that Ock isn't a hero, no matter what face he wears; Ock may throw the punches, but Coyle effortlessly and subtly saves the day. Gage uses Coyle as an excellent foil for Ock without overemphasizing or stretching the fact.
"Inhumanity: The Superior Spider-Man" #1 took me by complete surprise with its tight plotting and stunning art. Despite being both a tie in and offshoot of a main title, the issue finds its own distinct voice and revels in it. For Superior Spider-Man fans and new readers alike, "Inhumanity: The Superior Spider-Man" is a fantastic standalone story.