We Review Dan Slott's Entire Superior Spider-Man Saga - IGN (2024)

*Spoiler Warning: full spoilers for Superior Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man are contained within this article!*
Last week was a bittersweet one for Spider-Man fans, as Dan Slott's Superior Spider-Man saga came to an end after more than a year and 31 issues. For all the controversy that series created when it was first announced that Peter Parker would be replaced by Otto Octavius, it won over many fans and already stands as a highlight in Slott's Spider-Man run. It's strong handling of Otto in the role of Spider-man was a major reason why we chose to pick Doctor Octopus as Spider-Man's greatest villain of all time last week. No villain has so thoroughly defeated Peter Parker, only to be transformed by his influence.Even as we look forward to the imminent relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man and the return of Peter to the mantle, we want to look back at Slott's Superior saga and examine exactly what made it great, those elements that didn't work so well, and our favorite moments from across those 31 issues.

A Controversial Premise

Death is a common plot twist in superhero comics, and even A-Listers like Batman and Superman aren't immune to it. Spidey himself dealt with being dead for a couple weeks during "The Other" crossover several years ago. So why did the announcement of Superior Spider-Man garner such controversy? Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Peter Parker wasn't just being killed off, but that his body was being stolen by one of his greatest villains. The ignominy of it all was too much to bear. Or maybe it was the fact that Dan Slott routinely emphasized that the status quo change was a permanent one. He took no small delight in his temporary "heel turn," even informing younger readers that yes, Peter Parker was dead and would never be coming back.

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In any case, it was clear to long-term readers that Superior Spider-Man was something Slott had been building to for years, even before he had taken full control of Amazing Spider-Man. The seeds began in Amazing Spider-Man #600, where Slott revealed that a decrepit Otto Octavius had only a short time left to live and was struggling to leave his mark on the world using a series of mind-controlled drones. Peter's exposure to the mind-control device opened the door in his own mind for Otto to eventually take over. And 100 issues and several years later, that's what Otto did. He banished Peter to the rapidly dying body of Otto Octavius, claiming the fit, powerful body of Peter Parker for his own.

IGN Reviews of Superior Spider-Man

That could have been the start of a truly dark, depressing comic, with Spidey becoming an outright supervillain and terrorizing the world in ways Doctor Octopus never did. But the final key ingredient came at the climax of ASM #700. Peter knew that if he couldn't reclaim his body, the most he could do was bombard Otto with images of his life and the lessons about power and responsibility that shaped his career as Spider-Man. Otto may have won the day, but he emerged as changed psychologically as he was physically.

We Review Dan Slott's Entire Superior Spider-Man Saga - IGN (2)

Slott set up Superior Spider-Man not as another Dark Reign, with villains unfairly ruling the day, but as a long, complicated story of Otto Octavius' redemption. And the more that focus became apparent, the more the series seemed to assuage the naysayers' fears and win over devoted fans. The point wasn't to show that Otto was a better Spider-man than Peter, because for all his fancy gizmos and ruthless efficiency, he clearly wasn't. The point was to make a formerly unrepentant villain see the value of heroism and acknowledge that his old foe was truly the better man.

What Worked

Superior Spider-Man is a series that could have faltered for any number of reasons. Luckily, there were enough elements working in its favor from the beginning that it was able to justify its premise and quickly build momentum without getting too caught up in the memory of Peter Parker (more on that later). As mentioned, Slott established right off the bat that the series was really devoted to Otto's quest for redemption and the character arc that involved. He was able to turn this former villain into a complex, flawed, but ultimately well-meaning character. The book toed a narrow line in offering readers a darker Spider-Man book without besmirching Peter's name or fundamentally damaging the character. Otto committed some foul deeds that Peter is going to be stuck answering for in the months ahead, but he did the mantle proud in the end.

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Slott was also able to make up for the loss of Peter's signature Spidey snark by exploring humor in other areas. Maybe Otto hasn't mastered the art of the wisecrack, but that in itself was often cause for amusem*nt. There was humor in his humorlessness, and also humor in seeing various other characters react to Spider-Man's sudden personality shift. Whether it was Black Cat having her advances rebuffed with a punch to the face or Otto berating his new robo-assistant, Superior still managed to be a funny comic despite its overall darker tone.

And Slott managed a balance between the old and new. We saw how Peter's relationships with his familiar supporting cast evolved, including Aunt May, Mary Jane, J. Jonah Jameson, and his colleagues at Horizon Labs. But Slott also emphasized newer characters, including Otto's new girlfriend, Anna Maria, and his old college nemesis now turned science professor. The key element is that all of this felt organic, building directly from work Slott had done on Amazing. Otto managed to ruin any chance Peter had left of rekindling his romance with Mary Jane. He exploited the newly warm relationship between Spider-Man and JJJ and then squandered it. And Anna Maria was a key character, allowing Slott to navigate around the tricky issue of having Otto enter into a romantic relationship with any of Peter's old flames. Had MJ continued to date the man she thought was Peter Parker, it would have opened up all sorts of moral issues too dark even for this book. It was important that Otto find a love interest all his own.

We Review Dan Slott's Entire Superior Spider-Man Saga - IGN (4)

And the series emphasized Otto's changed relationships with Spider-Man's core rogues gallery as well as his friends and family. Slott found time to include most of the biggest Spider-Man villains, from various Goblins to Venom to Kingpin. In some cases we saw how his newly militant approach to crime-fighting made him a nightmare for foes like Kingpin or the Sinister Six. But in other cases, his lack of Peter Parker-ness was his greatest enemy, as the Green Goblin showed over the course of "Goblin Nation."

We Review Dan Slott's Entire Superior Spider-Man Saga - IGN (5)

And it's also worth pointing out that Slott's Superior Spider-Man was ably supported by a solid support network. Christos Gage was a frequent pinch-hitter, co-writing several story arcs with Slott as well as handling the two annual issues. Chris Yost followed up his memorable Avenging Spider-Man run with an even better (if briefer and more sporadic) stint on Superior Spider-Man Team-Up. Team-Up allowed Yost to explore relationships and showdowns with villains that the main book simply didn't have room for. Meanwhile, Nick Spencer's Superior Foes of Spider-Man proved to be one of the unexpected gems of 2013. While not having a great deal of connection to the other two books, its focus on D-List villains trying to make a name for themselves underneath Otto's watchful gaze was (and still is) endlessly entertaining.

Finally, some mention must be paid to artists Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Humberto Ramos, and the others who contributed to the series and ensured that it maintained a biweekly schedule from start to finish. Each brought a unique sensibility to Spider-man's world, and each managed to convey the darker, more sinister element that crept into that world with the rise of Otto Octavius.

What Didn't Work

While Superior Spider-Man was a successful inversion of the usual Spidey formula, it wasn't without its faults. The only problem with the two tie-ins being as great as they were is that they sometimes exposed the flaws in the main series. Yost and Gage had a tendency to write Otto with a little more nuance and humanity that Slott. Slott's Otto was more prone to boastful bravado, whereas the other writers treated him with a little more subtlety. At times, the Otto Octavius in Superior Team-Up seemed to reflect the profound psychological changes the character went through in ASM #700 more so than the one in Superior Spider-Man.

We Review Dan Slott's Entire Superior Spider-Man Saga - IGN (6)

Another recurring issue with the main series is that it managed to distract from Otto's character arc at times by injecting Peter into the narrative. The first issue ended with the revelation that Peter's mind still lingered within his body, able to watch and occasionally take control as Otto's crusade got out of hand. His presence was less a useful narrative device and more an annoying reminder that, for all Slott's teasing, the Superior status quo really was temporary. By comparison, the tie-in books rarely acknowledged Peter's ghostly presence. The main book certainly improved after issue #9, when Otto tried again to wipe away Peter's memory, though that resulted in a case of storytelling deja vu as Peter "died" all over again. In hindsight, Superior Spider-Man would probably have been better off if Peter never made his presence known at all until his reappearance at the end of the "Darkest Hours" storyline. The spotlight should have remained firmly on Otto in those crucial early months.

If Peter's ghost was a recurring flaw in the early months of Superior, that problem was replaced by another later in 2013. At times it seemed Slott's concept was almost too rich for its own good. Several arcs felt stuffed to the point of bursting, with too many concurrent plot threads and too many developments flying fast and frantic at the reader. There wasn't enough time to savor the impact of each new twist and change in Otto's life. There's definitely something to be said for a book that offers too much content in an age where so many comics are decompressed and drawn out overlong. And granted, half the purpose of Superior Team-Up was giving a spotlight to characters and elements the main series didn't have time for. But it's easy to wonder how Superior might have fared with an extra few months to spread out and allow the narrative to breathe more.

We Review Dan Slott's Entire Superior Spider-Man Saga - IGN (7)

Finally, while the final storyline, "Goblin Nation," was easily the highlight of the entire series, the final issue did feel a bit anticlimactic in some respects. After spending the better part of a year teasing the return of the Green Goblin and playing up the mystery of his identity, the actual reveal in issue #31 was fairly underwhelming. Readers never learned how Norman Osborn went from comatose burn victim in Brian Bendis' Avengers run to mustachioed Goblin here. Both Osborn's abrupt exit and the lack of resolution to Liz Allan and Normie Osborn's role in the conflict was disappointing. But ultimately, Superior was just one big chapter in an even bigger story, so we have little doubt Slott will pick up those threads again down the road.Head to page 2 for our favorite moments from Superior Spider-Man.

With a run that spanned 31 issues (plus an Age of Ultron tie-in and two annuals), Superior Spider-Man certainly had its share of memorable moments, but we at least want to highlight a handful here.

Otto's Psychology

The early issues of Superior were at their best when they explored Otto's delicate psychology. Slott ensured that readers really understood how Otto's troubled childhood influenced his path as a villain and his actions in the present. One of the first key moments came in issue #3, when Otto lashed out at Vulture for abusing children. That was paired with a flashback to Otto's abusive father, who would routinely beat his son for infractions as minor as leaving the apartment lights on.

And this trend continued in issue #6, as Otto confronted the prank-loving villains Screwball and Jester. Their playful tormenting reminded Otto a bit too much of all the times he was a victim of bullying. This caused him to lash out, beating both villains half to death in the process. While casting Otto in a sympathetic light again, it also served as a stark reminder of how fundamentally different he and Peter still were. Peter managed to rise above years of emotional and physical abuse, whereas Otto never could quite escape these petty outbursts.

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But we also saw how truly good and noble Otto could be in issue #8. Here, he invaded Cardiac's H.E.A.R.T. clinic with the intention of reclaiming his neurolitic scanner. But after learning of the important medical work Cardiac and his associates were performing, Otto put aside his grudge and worked tirelessly to save a young girl who had suffered severe brain damage because of Otto's final world domination plot in the "Ends of the earth" storyline. This moment was vital in that it showed Otto learning the true consequences of his actions and that not every situation could be dealt with using fists and gadgets.

We Review Dan Slott's Entire Superior Spider-Man Saga - IGN (9)

Going Down a Darker Path

Superior Spider-Man #13 was an issue that very much set the tone for the second half of the series. The battle between Spider-Man and Alistair Smythe wrapped with Otto delivering a lethal blow, only for Smythe's drones to launch one final attack and attempt to transfer their dying master's consciousness into Spider-Man's mind. Too bad another villain had already tried that trick. But the real highlight came when Otto chose to claim Spider-Island as his new base of operations. It was clear his ambition was as strong as ever. And given how he blackmailed Mayor Jameson into allowing the property transfer, it was also clear that Otto didn't care whom he stepped on along the way.

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Spider-Man 2099 Joins the Story

The "Necessary Evil" storyline was a highlight for several reasons, not least of which being that Slott finally brought Spider-Man 2099 and his world back into play in a major way. It was very cool to see Slott connect the dots between the two Spider-Men, showing how Liz Allan's Allan Chemical eventually developed into the futuristic mega-corporation Alchemax Miguel O'Hara remained in the present even after the conclusion of this story, and Slott eventually set the stage for the ongoing Spider-Man 2099 series.

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Otto Finds Redemption

But Slott definitely saved his best moments for last. The entire series really boiled down to the climax of issue #30, where Otto struggled to battle the Green Goblin's schemes and rescue Anna Maria before she was crushed by a train. At this crucial moment, Peter was forced to take back control of his body, because only he had the courage and selflessness to throw himself in front of a train without looking. This was the moment Otto finally realized that he could never be the Spider-Man Peter was. And he committed his most selfless act - giving up his new life so that Peter could save New York. He lost everything in that moment, but found redemption along the way.

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The One and Only Spider-Man Returns

Finally, issue #31's big showdown between the restored Peter and the Green Goblin offered a quintessential Spidey moment when a simple joke clued Osborn into the fact that he was no longer dealing with Otto Octavius.

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What better way to welcome Peter back than that?

What Comes Next

Superior Spider-Man may be over, but it's already very clear that Slott's Spider-Man run as a whole is far from finished. That should be evident from the fact that he's relaunching Amazing Spider-Man this month and prepping a tie-in mini-series called "Year One: Learning to Crawl" that will examine Peter's early months as Spider-Man from a new angle.

In the immediate future, Peter's life will be consumed with the struggle to reacquaint himself with the Marvel Universe and everything that transpired while Otto was in control. The method of Peter's return means that he retains few memories of what went on after Otto stole his body. He's only just now discovering important tidbits like the fact that Otto earned him a doctorate, that he is now CEO of Parker Industries, that he has a new girlfriend, and that Spider-Man quit the Avengers and is directly responsible for the deaths of two villains. A little good, a little bad.

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So the question is very much what Peter does with all of this information. How does he break off his romance with Anna Maria? Does he remain in charge of Parker Industries? Can he patch up his many damaged relationships with both friends and costumed allies? And most of all, what lessons does he take away from Otto's tenure as Spider-Man? For as much as Otto admitted he was the inferior Spider-Man, he certainly exploited Spidey's abilities and resources in ways Peter never did. Are there lessons to take away from that?

Peter also missed out on big happenings in the Marvel Universe, including the time-mangling Age of Ultron, Thanos' invasion during Infinity. He's returning just in time to deal with the events of Original Sin, where he'll discover that he wasn't the only person bitten by the radioactive spider on that fateful day. And Marvel is already gearing up for the next major Spider-Man event this fall, Spider-Verse. There, Peter will team up with every Spider-Man in the multiverse to deal with the renewed threat of Morlun.

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And what of Doctor Octopus? Is he truly dead and gone? It's still not clear what happened with Otto's discarded body. Is there a trace of either Peter or Otto's mind left within that rotting husk? It's hard to imagine Marvel leaving this villain off the table forever, especially as it's probably just a matter of time before he debuts in the Amazing Spider-Man film series. So it's really a question of how Otto will resurface, and if it's possible to resurrect him in such a way that he retains the experiences and memories of his time as the Superior Spider-Man.

What did you think of Dan Slott's Superior Spider-Man run? Do you miss Otto now that he's gone, or are you glad Peter is back? Let us know in the comments!Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.
We Review Dan Slott's Entire Superior Spider-Man Saga - IGN (2024)
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