Otto Octavius (aka Elliot Tolliver) has left the mantle of Doctor Octopus behind and has once again donned the webs to become the Superior Spider-Man. This new look doesn’t do anything to check his ego as Otto sets out to show San Francisco how a real hero does things. He’ll have to juggle his super hero life fighting villains like Stilt Man with his personal life as an accomplished professor.
This relaunch of Superior Spider-Man serves to get any new readers up to speed on the basics of Otto’s life and death and life again without taking too much away from the story. Writer Christos Gage plops these details in organically throughout this issue as Otto is taking stock of his current situation.
Otto tends to be rather long-winded, so there’s quite a lot of dialogue, both internal and external. Letterer Clayton Cowles makes this work without distracting from the artwork. The narration never feels overwhelming either. After a couple pages you’re used to it as this is just how this guy talks. No wonder Spider-Man would always cut in with jokes during their fights.
While spinning webs of any size is certainly a major aspect of Otto’s day time activities, the supporting cast is taking a major role. There are some potential love interests, which is a weird thing to say when you think about Doc Ock, however he’s so unfamiliar with this that it creates problems just by existing. He can figure out how to swap minds with another person, but he doesn’t know how to speak to a woman.
This plays into the general theme of Superior Spider-Man, as Otto is humbled by what he doesn’t know. He’s using this third chance at life to try a more noble path. This means checking his arrogance at the door which is no easy task for him. He knows he’s the smartest person in the room, however that doesn’t make him the best one.
There are times when Otto is dripping with condescension and that’s what makes this book so interesting. Artist Mike Hawthorne gives him this smug look that you just want to slap off his face, yet it’s balanced by these moments of thought as he re-evaluates everything that’s come before. This new learning is what makes Otto so intriguing right now. He’s trying to be a better man.
Shadow is used to emphasize these more somber beats. Colorist Jordie Bellaire excels with this, highlighting these softer moments as Otto reflects and considers his next steps. This really showcases just how alone the man is, despite being surrounded by a class full of adoring students.
Hawthorne’s style works just as well in the action sequences, which some great dynamic layouts. There are a number of different vantage points which complement the spider-like agility at play. Although he’s wearing a similar costume, Otto carries himself differently than Peter Parker. You can tell just by looking at him that there’s someone else under the mask. There’s a confidence in each swing where Peter tends to wing it a bit more.
Otto’s path to redemption is just getting started. He has a real chance to make something good with his life this time around, but he has to get out of his own way to do that. He’s been successful in so many other areas so the real world and humanity is his next and perhaps greatest challenge if he is to show everyone just how superior he can be.
The first time around, Superior Spider-Man was a novelty. It was something new and different with Doc Ock riding around in Peter Parker’s body. Now the real challenge will be to see if it can continue past that with Otto faces reality with a clean slate.