Superior Spider-Man Vol. 2: A Troubled Mind (Marvel)

SSM v2

Rating:  4/5 – My Mind is Playing Tricks on Me.

The Superior Spider-Man series spins out of the pages of Amazing Spider-Man where we learn that Doc Ock has inhabited Peter Parker’s body.  The Superior Spider-Man Volume 2:  A Trouble Mind contains issues 6-10 in the series and focuses on Spidey’s interactions with the Avengers along with the internal struggle of both Otto and Peter occupying the same mind.

The series is written by Spider-Man brain trust member Dan Slott.  Dan was one of the writers after Brand New Day when Marvel kicked The Amazing Spider-Man franchise into high gear with thrice monthly shipping and a revolving cast of writers kept up with the demanding schedule and put out some great Spider-Man stories in the process.  Issues 6-8 are penciled by former Amazing Spider-Man artist Humberto Ramos (who collaborated with Slott on Spider-Island) and issues 9 and 10 are handled by regular Superior Spider-Man artist Ryan Stegman.  While I have come to enjoy Ramos’ line work, I do know that it can be polarizing and some people seem to love and while others do not.  His style is cartoony and exaggerated, with an angular approach to the character designs.  If you enjoyed his work on Amazing Spider-Man it is more of the same here.  Stegman, as he has shown throughout this series, is doing fantastic work and his exceptional pencils and panel layouts are on full display in issue 9, part three of the Troubled
Mind arc: Gray Matters.  The creative team is rounded out by inkers Victor Olazaba and Cam Smith, colorist Edgar Delgado and letterer Chris Eliopoulos.

The Superior Spider-Man volume 2 is mostly comprised of the aforementioned Troubled Mind arc with solo issues at the beginning and end of the trade.  One underlying theme throughout this book is the realization from those closest to Peter that something is off with him.  No matter how hard Otto tries, his personality and nuances are showing through.  From the Avengers, to MJ to Carlie, they are slowly putting the pieces together that something is wrong.  I had to chuckle at a NYPD officer lamenting that he misses the notes that Spidey used to leave at crime scenes and wondering why he doesn’t leave them anymore.

The first part of the trade focuses on the fact that due to Spider-Man’s proclivity towards violence, the Avengers have put him on probation.  They also put him through a battery of tests to verify he is truly Spider-Man.  This probationary event has spawned its own series – The Superior Spider-Man Team-Up for those interested in reading more set in the Superior Spider-Man world. The tests the Avengers performed lead to Otto’s discovery of Peter in his mind and with the use of an old invention he sets about solving that problem.  This back and forth internal struggle between Otto and Peter was inevitable and comes to a head (no pun intended) in issue 9.

One of the story devices that I have enjoyed throughout the series is having Peter in the background as a spectral spectator to his life.  Slott has Doc Ock’s voice down and his interactions with those in Peter’s world are both interesting and comical especially when Peter is adding some additional commentary.  While short-tempered and easily annoyed, Doc Ock has done some interesting things with Peter’s technology and it has been fun to see his evolution from a evil villain to someone you are almost rooting for, like at the end of the emotional issue 8.

The Amazing Spider-Man has been around for decades, and I am sure he will be around for decades more after this brief hiatus.  If you are still reeling from Amazing Spider-Man 700 and are unhappy that Peter Parker is not swinging through NYC, this might not be the book for you.  But if you like the Parker-verse and its inhabitants and want to see the evolution of a character while enjoying some beautiful artwork, I would check this series out.

Much like the Batman’s “demise” at the Distinguished Competition, this book has you questioning what it means to be a superhero, specifically what it means to be Spider-Man. Can anyone just step in and assume the mantle of a known hero?  What do individuals do when given great power, do they rise to the occasion or crash and burn?  Superior Spider-Man is a story of second chances, redemption and one man’s attempt to right the wrongs of a past life.  How many of us would not do everything in our power to hold onto that chance and make the most of it if presented with it?

Reviewed by: Jeff Bouchard – Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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