My New Favorite Team Up: Otto Joins Forces With Dr. Strange In Superior Spider-Man #5

by James Ferguson

As Otto Octavius settles into his new life as Elliot Tolliver, the Superior Spider-Man, is he ready to live like an actual human being? There is no doubt that he’s one of the most intelligent people on the face of the Earth, but can he go on a date? Probably not. Fortunately for everyone involved, Otto’s date is cut short when a horde of demons invades San Francisco. He’s forced to call for help from the Master of the Mystical Arts, Dr. Strange.

There’s a lot going on in Superior Spider-Man #5, so let’s start with the more uncomfortable part in Otto’s date with co-worker, Emma. She’s an older woman, working as an administrator at Horizon and the two get along wonderfully. Since Otto has next to know people skills, he blurts out the truth about himself and everything goes awry.

Think about all the crazy things that happen to super heroes and villains. Up that by about a million and you have some idea of the insane life that Otto has lived. It’s no wonder that the capes and tights community tend to date their own because normal people would get freaked out by this. Artist Mike Hawthorne captures this unsettling feeling in Emma perfectly. You can see the specific moment where everything goes horribly wrong and Otto can’t pick up on it in the slightest.

This is also a little sad because you can see this look of calm happiness on Otto’s face. He’s finally getting through to someone and he feels comfortable enough to share his secrets with. He’ll soon learn that this isn’t something you talk about on a first date. He’s crushed when she walks out on him and, unsurprisingly, doesn’t react well.

Where the facial expressions on the human characters are spot on, Hawthorne excels in the creepy demons that populate the streets. They’re unnatural in every way, like a cross between the Skrulls and the Brood. Colorist Jordie Bellaire gives them a sickly green color, like a dark lizard. This contrasts well with their glowing yellow eyes.

The interaction between Otto and Dr. Strange is the highlight of Superior Spider-Man #5. Here you have two arrogant men who refuse to believe that anyone can outsmart them in any way. This results in some great arguments and some mistakes as the two are constantly stepping over one another.

This is where there’s a small change to the artwork, presumably switching between inkers Wade von Grawbadger and Andy Owens. The first half of the book is smoother with some great textures, while the second half is a little rougher with some more uneven lines. I can’t be sure of who handled what as the credits don’t list specific pages.

In many ways, Strange is the perfect adversary / rival for Otto. There’s no doubt that that they’re both intellectuals and leaders in their fields, however they both look down on each other. Writer Christos Gage fills these scenes with some great dialogue, packed with jabs and not-so-passive-aggressive comments.

We get into some pretty complicated explanations for how these demons came here and letterer Clayton Cowles weaves us through this exchange with expert precision. The dialogue never feels overwhelming or text heavy. Instead, it flows very well, like a normal conversation. There are some nice stand outs too, like when Dr. Strange uses some of his magical abilities and the font turns red, adding some intensity to his actions.

After reading this issue, I’d love to see an ongoing Odd Couple-like team-up book with Otto and Dr. Strange. The two are such great foils for each other that they’d spend half the time arguing and the other half demolishing bad guys. Superior Spider-Man sets its eyes on bigger threats than what we see in Amazing Spider-Man. Otto is not content with tackling street level crime. He’s going after bigger and badder enemies, first with Terrax and now with Hell itself. I guess that’s why he calls himself Superior.

Superior Spider-Man #5 from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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