Superior Spider-Man #13

Love it or hate it, it's tough to deny that "Superior Spider-Man" has people talking. In the thirteenth issue of the series, writers Dan Slott & Christos Gage and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, demonstrate precisely why: it's darkly fascinating and utterly unpredictable.

This issue brings the conclusion of the three-part story arc set on The Raft, and heralds a major turning point in the relationship between Octo-Spidey and one of his allies, as well as a huge status quo change for the character. As the series enters the second half of its first year, Peter Parker's absence is keenly felt, but Octo-Spidey is proving a compelling protagonist and an anti-hero in the true sense of the word.

As installments go, this one does indicate some of the weaknesses with the "Superior" Spider-Man concept. It's hard to know whose side readers are supposed to be on. The supporting cast members in this issue are largely unsympathetic, the villains definitely are, and Octavius is clearly heading off the deep end. The few cast members who do suspect that anything might be wrong haven't been seen in several issues. As good as Octavius' story is, many readers suspect it's only a matter of time until Peter Parker comes back, and characters investigating his possible disspearances are like a reassurance to the audience that there is a hero to cheer for, even if his presence in this book is a kind of negative space.

Aside from that, though, "Superior Spider-Man" #13 is great -- weird, unnerving and unlike any Spider-Man story previously told. Its tongue is firmly in its cheek, whether it's Smythe attempting to execute a familiar plan and being foiled, or Octavius referring to his "minions." The style of humor is different than before, but it's no less amusing for it.

Camuncoli's art plays a bit part in establishing the tone of the book, and although there was nothing wrong with his work during the "Big Time" era, there's a definite sense that his style fits the book's current tone far better. It's expressive but not cartoonish; ominous without being gloomy. The visuals are subtly evocative of Octo-Spidey himself, and that gives the book a coherent feeling, from pencils to script.

Although the pace of the issue was arguably a little rushed, considering this was a three-parter, it's fair to say that it maintains the series' high quality. Too much story for one issue is a preferable problem to too little, and the book's rapid turnover of its own status quo keeps readers guessing about the conclusion of every story. It's easy to love, and even though it's tough not to want the "real" Spidey back, the quality of this comic is enough to justify an extended period without him around.

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