The unlikely duo of the Superior Spider-Man and Dr. Strange faces a dastardly and terrifying foe in Master Pandemonium, a monster literally made of demons. The two heroes have to put aside their differences (of which there are many) to save the people possessed by this great evil. Perhaps more importantly, they’ll have to leave their egos at the door, which is something I’m not sure either of them are capable of doing.
The very idea of Master Pandemonium is insane and terrifying. He has a literal portal to Hell in his chest and he’s used that to possess a bunch of people in the city. That’s creepy enough on its own, but then he has them all pile up on him to make a giant version of himself, like a Voltron of flesh. OK, that’s a phrase I never thought I’d say.
Fortunately, artist Mike Hawthorne doesn’t get too far into the details of this for most of Superior Spider-Man #6. Pandemonium’s skin is shown in cracks, implying the connections between the bodies. Where this gets interesting is when Dr. Strange performs some specialized surgery, cutting deep into Pandemonium’s head. It’s there we find the actual villain, held in place by hordes of bodies. It’s like he’s controlling the whole structure through these beings holding his arms and legs.
Throughout this entire endeavor, Pandemonium’s face and chest are alive with fire. It’s often the only light source on the page. Colorist Jordie Bellaire gives this a truly sinister look as the flames blot out his pupils, losing any humanity. We’re definitely dealing with some fire and brimstone with this battle.
The interaction between Strange and Otto is equally hilarious and aggravating. What’s most intriguing is how Strange can see where Otto is coming from and he’s managed to rise above that. The Sorcerer Supreme recognizes his faults and he’s embraced them. That’s made him a better hero. Otto can’t admit that he has any faults. He’s perfect. He’s superior.
Otto wants the respect and admiration he feels he rightfully deserves, but he can’t just start over. His past as Doctor Octopus is still a major part of his life and he can’t escape that. He still needs to make amends for all the wrongs he’s done and he hasn’t quite realized that yet. This is what will make his character development so interesting. Writer Christos Gage gives us a glimpse at this, but I think it’s going to be a pretty long road.
Fortunately, Otto has Anna-Maria to guide him. She serves as this common sense compass for him. Despite all his intelligence, Otto can be pretty stupid when it comes to basic human interactions. She flat out has to tell him not to tell people he was once a super villain, especially on the first date. I love how expressive she is when she’s tearing into Otto. Letterer Clayton Cowles adds some additional emphasis to her dialogue to show off her fiery attitude which is pitch perfect for the character.
Otto’s facial expressions shift and change as he’s being dressed down by Anna-Maria. Inker Wade von Grawbadger adds just the right amount of shadow to show how he’s being humbled in this scene. Yes, Anna-Maria has him in a pickle so he has to listen to her, but he also needs to hear this kind of stuff if he hopes to live up to his super hero moniker.
Superior Spider-Man can be exasperating at times due to Otto’s stubborn and condescending tone, but I’m so pulled in because sooner or later, he’s going to realize the error of his ways. Whether that comes from Dr. Strange, Anna-Maria, or some other life lesson, it will be worth the wait, even though I often want to strangle his superior neck.