Thursday, 3 October 2013

Superior Spider-Man, Volume 3: No Escape by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos Review

The third volume in the utterly brilliant Superior Spider-man is yet another winner from Dan Slott and his cadre of super-talented artist collaborators. Comprising two 3-issue arcs, both storylines are amazing in different ways but share an originality and freshness that permeates this series. 

In the first story arc, Spider Slayer is to be the last prisoner in The Raft, the island prison off of Manhattan, to be executed by the state. His crime: murdering J. Jonah Jameson’s wife. Jameson asks Spider-Man to join him on the day of execution to ensure the death penalty is carried out and, of course, things don’t go the way he planned. As well as Spider Slayer, fellow prisoners Boomerang, the Vulture, and Scorpion also run riot, enhanced by Slayer’s mini-robots.

There are so many details about this story that I loved, but, importantly, I really enjoyed the story itself. Spider-Man anticipating Slayer’s escape and his spider-bots going toe-to-toe against Slayer’s spider-bots was really fun, and seeing Jameson get in on the action himself was great – and he holds his own too! I won’t say how it plays out but it is handled superbly with Slayer thinking he has the upper hand because he knows what Spider-Man would do - except this is Otto the Superior Spider-Man and he’s constantly surprised by new Spidey’s choices, as are we as readers.

The Raft was meant to close but because of something Jameson says to Spider-Man during the escape attempt, Spider-Man’s able to take The Raft as his own private lair. It’s brilliant how Otto has adapted to the role of superhero but still has the mentality of a supervillain, getting a lair, building his robots, even acquiring henchmen (called “Spiderlings”!). It’s both really funny and says a lot about the character, distinguishing Otto once more from Peter’s Spider-Man.

The second story arc deals with Kingpin’s Shadowland headquarters, a crime nexus in the heart of New York. Shadowland was a series Marvel did a few years ago which I admit I didn’t read but, having read some reviews of the series, don’t feel I missed much. This much I know: it looks like an Eastern fortress and it’s making the residents living around it miserable. Why the Avengers don’t stomp it to pieces, I don’t know, but Spider-Man decides to do just that and, armed with his giant robot spider and army of Spiderlings, smashes Shadowland, putting Kingpin on the run – incredibly all in one issue! 

This is why I like Superior Spider-Man than just regular Peter Parker Spider-Man – Peter would never do anything like this, despite knowing Shadowland exists. He just doesn’t have the wherewithal to do something of this scale, the planning, the imagination, the firepower, the balls - but Otto does and pulls it off admirably. Otto is proactive compared to Peter who was only ever reactive. Otto’s also got no boundaries, is unafraid of taking huge risks, and his boundless ambition and confidence creates enormously exciting stories within a short amount of space, all to the good. He’s redefining Spider-Man as a superhero and crime-fighter.

The other issues in the story arc feature Phil Urich, aka Hobgoblin, whose tenure as Kingpin’s henchman is up once Spider-Man appears to tear down Shadowland, so has to find other financial sources. Luckily for him the Goblin King has hacked Spider-Man’s spider-bots so that anyone resembling a goblin is undetected, allowing Phil to get away with his crimes much to Spider-Man’s frustration. Without going too deeply into the plot, there is one moment that stands out as remarkable and that’s Spider-Man’s outing of Phil Urich as Hobgoblin on every screen in New York! He does this primarily to get the people of the city to help him prevent further crime sprees but it’s doubly surprising in that he chose to reveal Phil as Hobgoblin so publicly – again, Otto is one unpredictable superhero and one determined to use all of the resources he has at his disposal.

It feels like all of this is enough for one book, right? Well, I haven’t even mentioned the other storylines Slott is juggling like Otto getting his PhD from former classmate Professor Lamaze, whom he despises, or his burgeoning relationship with Anna Maria, or how Carlie Cooper is closing in on discovering “Peter’s” secret identity. And I still haven’t mentioned the other big moments in this book like a character death and the emergence of a powerful new enemy! It’s insane how much Slott is putting into this story, it is absolutely bursting with creativity in one of the most engaging stories I’ve ever read from Marvel, let alone starring Spider-Man. Slott is a genius and Superior Spider-Man, I have to say once more, is a masterfully written book by one of the greatest talents Marvel has. Slott’s bringing his A-game to every issue and it really shows.

I think I could write a dissertation on Superior Spider-Man if I wanted, it’s so richly textured and layered – but I’ll leave it with this review and simply say I loved this third book like I loved the last two and can’t wait to read the next one. I don’t know who can read this and think otherwise, but there is only one verdict for Superior Spider-Man: it rules. Treat yourself to this incredible story and read it today!

Superior Spider-Man - Volume 3: No Escape

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