Best Shots: AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #15.1 (SUPERIOR Era Begins)

***This review contains spoilers for this week's .***

 

Avenging Spider-Man #15.1

Written by Chris Yost

Art by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco and Dave Curiel

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Peter Parker may be dead... but will he live on in the heart of his greatest enemy? Underneath all the hype, Marvel's Superior Spider-Man is already a surprisingly introspective beast, and Chris Yost picks up the baton nicely from Dan Slott with Otto Octavius's first adventure as a conflicted, reluctant fledgling hero.

Of course, that's not to say Doc Ock is a sympathetic character. Hardly. From his disdainful asides towards Peter's scientific achievements to his near-constant sneer at most of Peter's friends and family, Otto has some growing up to do, to be sure — but to be honest, his appraisal of Peter's life says a lot about him. You get the measure of a man not just by what his friends say, but what his enemies do, too: it's almost reverse psychology, so that when Otto mocks Peter's respect for Horizon Labs, you wind up rooting for him that much more. Even though he doesn't get a single line in the script, Peter Parker's ghost already looms large over this sinister Spider-Man, and it keeps this story interesting.

But while focused mainly on the losing game of cat-and-mouse that the real Peter played against his villainous body-snatcher, Avenging Spider-Man also plays up the lasting damage done to Otto himself. He isn't just inhabiting Peter's body, but has literally experienced his every memory — with all that power comes all the baggage of responsibility, and that gives Yost a lot of opportunity to develop Otto's character here. A little bit of distance can lead to a lot of perspective, and Otto's realization that he was no gem as Doctor Octopus really reinforces his motivation to keep up Peter's legacy as Spider-Man.

That said, there is a certain spark missing to this book, some sizzle to go with all that navel-gazing. Yost spins up a fairly perfunctory action sequence, but it feels just one step behind any true insight beyond the standard deconstruction of good always winning out over evil in comics. The actual choreography isn't particularly memorable, which also falls on the shoulders of artist Paco Medina.

In Medina's defense, this is some of the cleanest work I've ever seen him do — it's like a less flashy Olivier Coipel, with his square faces and brawny physiques. He does straddle that line between a muscular, stouter Spidey and the thinner, most nimble version that Mark Bagley popularized. But the actual speed and tension for the end fight isn't quite there — the storytelling feels pretty standard here, but there are no moments that make you really feel Otto's new lease on life could be in jeopardy, or the enthusiasm he might feel in a younger, more virile, more powerful body.

That feeling of "standardness" is what ultimately keeps Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 from reaching the upgraded status that Otto Octavius promised. But the concept and the timing is what matters — this is definitely a fitting bookend to this week's , showing that while Peter Parker may not have survived his last battle with Doctor Octopus, he didn't go out without leaving a mark. Seeing the Peter-Otto dynamic from a different perspective — and learning how similar these two flawed men are — is reward enough for now. Avenging Spider-Man is less an introduction or even a grand finale and more of a thoughtful epilogue for this chapter of Peter Parker's life. Now that the two have taken each others' measure and found room to change, I'm excited to see Otto Octavius try to live up to his word as a .

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