The Law Is A Ass # 313: Superior Spider-Man’s Abu Ghraib for Power
The Superior Spider-Man is not a good book.
No, it has nothing to do with the whole Doctor Octopus is in Peter Parker’s body while Peter is apparently dead, even though some remnant of Peter’s morality is making Ock try to prove he can be a Spider-Man. A superior Spider-Man, even. No, that doesn’t bother me. I mean I never thought that status would remain quo for long.
Ever since the days of Stan Lee, Marvel Comics has operated on the principle of “the appearance of change,” but that’s not even the real reason. The real reason I expected Peter Parker back in control just about now is because in a few short weeks the movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes out. Anybody who thought the Disney suits would want a comic book where Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man out at the same time as the movie where Peter Parker is Spider-Man could use a lesson in marketing. And I don’t mean a refresher course at your local Kwik-E-Mart.
So why is The Superior Spider-Man not a good comic for me? Well, let’s look at the latest example of what bothers Bob about The Superior Spider-Man and then we’ll discuss.
The Superior Spider-Man Annual # 1 featured Blackout. No, not the one in the skin-tight black costume with the “ridiculous lightning bolt on his head,” but the half-demon hired killer with razor-sharp claws and teeth who likes to rip throats out – sometimes in double-page pop-up spreads.
Blackout wants to reestablish his rep as a hired killer and how he chose to do it is the subject of this week’s SPOILER ALERT. You know those really big spoilers on cars that resemble the blades of a ventilation fan? They look silly. Don’t use them. And don’t continue reading this column, unless you want the beginning, middle and end of The Superior Spider-Man Annual # 1 spoiled.
Blackout decides he’s going to reestablish his rep by taking out Spider-Man. He figures if Spider-Man’s tech were to have an “unexpected systems failure,” he’d have an advantage. So Blackout kidnaps Peter Parker’s Aunt May, then tells Peter that he will kill Aunt May unless Peter sabotages Spider-Man’s equipment.
Bad mistake. May Parker is one of the few people the misanthropic Otto Octavius actually feels regard for. He doesn’t take threatening May Parker well.
How not well? Well, for starters he locates Blackout’s hideout and defeats Blackout in your typical all-out action sequence. Well, not quite typical, this one is shorter. Shorter because after SpOck – or Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus for long – frees May and tells her to go to the police, that’s when things get uninteresting.
SpOck wants to make an example of Blackout. So he breaks Blackout’s right arm. He shatters Blackout’s right kneecap. Then he hangs Blackout from some chains and uses a pair of pliers to yank out Blackout’s four fangs. Without any novocaine. And that’s just the warm-up.
Next SpOck rips off each of Blackout’s ten clawed fingernails, taking time to examine them and determine that they’re made of a much stronger version of the same keratin which make up our fingernails. Thanks for the update, I know I couldn’t live without that information.
Finally, SpOck uses a solar simulator to take advantage of Blackout’s sensitivity to sunlight to burn him allll over his body. They never actually showed Blackout’s body after this, but I’m guessing Harvard PhDs have fewer degrees than Blackout’s burns.
Why did SpOck do this? To use Blackout as an object lesson. He was to tell others that if anyone every threatened Peter Parker or his family or friends, if anyone bothered them, if anyone so much as dropped a Parker cell phone call, SpOck would come down them like the wrath of Kong.
So why didn’t I approve of what SpOck did to Blackout? Really, you have to ask?
SpOck tortured Blackout. These weren’t enhanced interrogation techniques. There was no interrogation. It was torture plain and simple. And while my quick research of the New York penal code did not reveal any actual law against torturing people, it did find a law against breaking arms, breaking legs, pulling out teeth, pulling out fingernails, and burning the entire body: Assault. Once again SpOck’s breaking the law. I think he’s broken more laws than I have New Years resolutions.
Now don’t tell me the New York Penal Code wouldn’t apply to Blackout, because he was half-demon so not human. First of all, he’s also half-human, so the laws would apply. Remember in Ghost Rider Vol 3 # 15, Blackout was captured by the police and sent to prison until the Firm got him out. If Blackout was human enough for the penal code to apply against him as a criminal, then he’s human enough for the penal code to apply for him as a victim. Beside which, if he isn’t human, then Blackout’s some sort of animal. Half horse half donkeys are animals called mules, so half human half demons would be some sort of animal. And New York does have a law against torturing animals.
So what about The Superior Spider-Man Annual # 1 makes it not a good book? Well, it’s not just the fact that the “Superior” Spider-Man has broken the law. Again. My reason runs deeper than the simple fact that SpOck’s racking up crimes faster than a bank that’s too big to fail.
No, it’s this: Doctor Octopus has always been a character defined by his hubris. So, if his efforts to prove that he was a superior Spider-Man were to fail, because he was betrayed by his own hubris, that’s not an interesting story. No, that’s the story that everyone expected to happen. And when a story goes exactly the way everyone is expecting it to go with no twists or turns or surprises, it’s not particularly interesting.
What makes [[[Game of Thrones]]] so compelling? It’s the fact that the heroes – the people who the viewers expect to make it through the show and lead the way to victory – die. No one is safe. And no one knows how the story will proceed. So it’s compelling.
Now if The Superior Spider-Man were a redemption story, one in which the former super-villain Doctor Octopus’s experiences as Spider-Man actually reform him and make him a good man, that would be an interesting story. Because no one would really be expecting that.
Two weeks in a row I’ve slammed The Superior Spider-Man. Well I promise to leave him alone next week. Frankly Doc Ock’s pride going before his eventual fall is about as interesting as chocolate pudding without the chocolate.
I haven’t read any (current) Marvel or DC comics in years.
Sounds like it’s been a good policy.
This somehow seems to capture the middle ground in mass comicdom. As the worst comic, as far as I know, in the Marvel Universe, the Spideys are still much better in quality than all of DC, except for Channel 52. But then again…I’m wanting to see how Life With Archie handles Archie’s, erm, death. I don’t care all that much about how Peter Parker gets out of all this, unfortunately…
Speaking of what-comes-next: the (well-written) Legal Eagle stuff — Interested to see what you think of fellow attorney Soule’s She-Hulk. Or recent events in DD’s barrister career. (Bit of a Marvel bias there, but except for Harvey Dent or Jean Loring, can’t think of many lawyers over in the New 52! or old-school DC…)