As a Spider-Man fan for longer than I like to admit to some people (but not here where my obsession is more commonplace) I’ve long been chafing at the lengths Marvel’s management and editorial staff has been going to keep Spider-Man and Peter Parker in some state of endless adolescence; annulling his marriage; keeping him perpetually broke with unstable employment that made his heroism supposedly all the more distinctive to the point where it had long since become a trope. It seems like a fortuitous combination of Dan Slott’s Big Time and the inception of Miles Morales to fill that teenage Spidey niche that we can finally enjoy the adult Peter Parker/Spider-Man we’ve either been denied or merely teased with. But did we get what we were hoping for?
I started this as a exercise in ranting but as I wrote it some possibilities became clear to me so I want to explore what we have gotten so far and get some feedback from fellow fans. There are some spoilers following on what has occurred in the first six issues of the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man (2015 -) post-Secret Wars.
We find that in Amazing Spider-Man (ASM) #1 Peter Parker as CEO of Parker Industries is now hugely successful and he’s used those resources and his own considerable scientific genius to arguably outperform the body snatching, once self professed Superior Spider-Man; Dr. Otto Octavius aka Dr Octopus aka SpOck (Spider-Ock).
We had a year to love-hate SpOck, who in his arrogance refused to accept the mediocrity of Peter’s unfathomable personal inhibitions and used his position at Horizon Labs to become the ultimate NYC super-policeman. He further dovetailed that ambition into both earning the doctorate Peter never completed and then when Horizon Labs was expelled from NYC became co-founder and CEO of his own corporation Parker Industries, albeit under Peter’s name to his fuming consternation. It has to be credited, SpOck took Spider-Man’s power and Peter’s resources and commitment to justice in a unique and effective direction. SpOck gave us a glimpse of what many of us had been waiting years to see and read. Of course we could predict that SpOck would undermine himself even more than Peter’s ghost would. As Dr. Octopus he often over extended himself making him vulnerable to defeat by Spider-Man repeatedly. This time SpOck drew up short against the Green Goblin’s newest incarnation; the Goblin King and acknowledging that Peter was the truly Superior Spider-man allowed him recover his mind and body. This was the apparent end to Otto’s story.
Since his restoration, Peter has also adopted a technology based approach to superheroics. He had begun leveraging advanced tech with the resources of Horizon Labs during the Big Time arc and many of us were ecstatic. But now, with SpOck’s endowment of Parker Industries to enhance his effectiveness, the restored and revitalized Spider-Man has assumed the responsibility of being a global rather than merely a neighborhood superhero. But so far it has been nowhere near as satisfying as it was when SpOck was doing it, in my opinion. Why is this?
Well for one thing Peter Parker has become an uncharacteristic dick. Peter has always been endearingly idealistic but is his present behavior really believable for Peter Parker? He summarily fired his former Horizon Labs and (actually SpOck’s) Parker Industries co-founder Sajani Jaffrey without any regard for an explanation or denial from her. Since when does Peter Parker swallow the circumstantial evidence of another’s guilt?
This was a downright dick move on his part.
And before that he ditched on a carefully coordinate SHIELD mission (issue #4) to save his Aunt May which is not so hard to understand, but in doing so he also ejects Mockingbird from his Spider-jet to prevent any possibility that she’ll interfere from his rescue mission.
Another dick move.
When would Peter ever have behaved this way in the past? Suspicions begin to grow. Did he fail to purge all of Otto’s personality? Yes, one can begin to question just how complete Peter’s restoration in fact was.
Then there is the issue 5 reveal that Otto is not in fact gone, but has copied himself into the Living Brain that SpOck confiscated for his own purposes early in the SSM arc. He probably had no chance to do it before the Goblin King checkmated him so this may be an Otto who still thinks he’s the better Spider-Man. You have to hand it to his perseverance, this guy is harder to get rid of than a stray cat that you fed, but what kind of Spider-verse would it be without Otto haunting Spider-Man in some form? It’s actually comforting to know he’s not gone for good.
To me, Peter just hasn’t been right since he supposedly recovered himself from SpOck’s possession. How could he be? How could he purge SpOck’s personality completely? The whole memory recovery thing was pretty sloppily delivered if you ask me. Or was it intended to be? I wonder if Dan Slott will use this to undermine Peter’s trust in himself if he suspects he’s actually still an amalgam of his own and Otto Octavius’ personalities. At least that would explain much of this post resurrection behavior.
Then there is the issue of the tech. ASM has become very Ex Machina in its first 6 issues. While SpOck used his tech to make him the superior, self appointed big brother of NYC, Peter now seems to have a tech answer for every conceivable situation. He’s got an acid web fluid, a cement web fluid, each voice activated. He’s got a Spider-mobile which can cling to surfaces as well as he can. Spidey planes. Spidey subs. A Spidey-World Wide Web. I have enjoyed the “retail price” comments but not enough. He’s only been at this for about 8 months. This inventory of ordinance stretches believability even for comics. Moreover, it’s not nearly as satisfying as it is when Reed Richards or Tony Stark or even Bruce Banner do it. Maybe we should have been careful what we asked for. It’s not even as cool as Big Time was.
There are some things I like, such as Dan Slott exploring just how valuable Peter’s spider-sense can be to his physical capabilities. Where in the past he was famously a nervous driver, now he can instinctively handle the most advanced automobile in the world and of course he can. His spider-sense should give him confidence in his physical abilities. We need more of this. Whatever happened to his spider kung-fu skills that Shang Chi taught him and his Spider-Island realized affinity to the spider-verse’s “web”? I hate it when such story plots are dropped in the subsequent arcs.
Secret Wars teased us with a Spider-Man that was still married to Mary Jane and they had a (non-Mayday) daughter. He was an adult; finally. He learned that when you’re a father and husband your “great responsibility” was to your family first though you still did your best for others. Our mainstream Peter lacks the qualities the Renew Your Vows Peter (also written by Dan Slott) had (has?). ASM Peter Parker is in my opinion still not the man, the adult he should be. In fact I think he’s regressed despite his achievements. Is this Slott’s intention? Is Slott some plotting genius? Spider-Island, Big Time certainly earned him some trust. It’s just hard to be patient after the summer event hiatus.
I never expected ASM to be issue 5 of Renew Your Vows but I wanted and still want Peter to have a chance to finally mature and to be the premier hero he often stepped up to being when the need required. He’s the Marvel Universe’s greatest hero -not in strength, not in brains, and not even in heart but with a combination of these characteristic he exceeds all others, even arguably Steve Rogers who has many advantages over Peter that make Captain America’s heroism debatably secondary to Spider-Man’s.
Opinions will differ - we all have favorites. Spidey is mine. I still want him to be incorrigible and irritating to those overly serious Avengers who begrudgingly need and want him on the team, but not this arrogant, unilateral dick for crying out loud. His villains are the dicks. Doc Ock and Norman Osborn are dicks. It’s part of their character flaw that makes them vulnerable when they should be nigh irresistible. Even some heroes like Reed Richards and Tony Stark and lately Old Steve Rogers often behave like dicks because of their conviction that they know better than others what the right thing is. It makes them more human and less perfect which is how Marvel heroes are supposedly distinctive from the DC JLA heroes. But what does being a dick contribute to Peter Parker’s character?
Is six issues enough time to judge Dan Slott or even understand what he’s leading up to? He’s stewarded the misadventures of Peter Parker pretty well since Quesada and company chose to clumsily annul his marriage. He seems to be taking the story in the direction of undermining Peter’s control of Parker (SpOck) Industries. Maybe being CEO of PI will be temporary and Peter will lose it to a competitor like Tony Stark long ago lost Stark Industrial to Obadiah Stane. Maybe Sajani will coordinate a hostile takeover with some adversary’s help and leave Peter and his investors such as his Aunt May and her husband John JJ Jameson Sr. broke. Doc Ock triumphs again? Now that Peter Parker has become a global success, is he being set up for his biggest fall yet? Is that what it will take realize that the ghost of Otto Octavius is still influencing him? Until he does, I don’t see him becoming the complete man that his Renew Your Vows Peter Parker has.