Superior Spider-Man volume 4: Necessary Evil


By Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Livesay & John Dell (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-581-9

Amazing Spider-Man #700 began one of the most impressive reboots of the Spider-Man mythology and was certainly the most striking and compelling character shake-up of all the MarvelNOW! relaunches.

In that issue, all that was Peter Parker apparently died when Doctor Otto Octavius took over his body. The hero’s mind had been transferred and trapped in the dying body of the super-villain where, despite his every desperate effort, in the end Peter perished with and within that decrepit, expiring frame, arguably becoming a wholly Superior Spider-Man.

Now the coldly calculating Octopus is permanently installed in the Wondrous Wallcrawler’s body and successfully living Peter’s life, albeit with a few minor but necessary alterations, upgrades and improvements…

At first the situation did not seem completely hopeless. At the moment of the monster’s greatest triumph Parker inflicted his full unvarnished memories on the psychic invader, forcing Octavius to experience every ghastly moment of tragedy and sacrifice which combined to make Spider-Man the compulsive do-gooder that he was.

From that enforced emotional turmoil came a bitter understanding. Otto had a change of heart and swore to live the rest of his stolen life in tribute to his greatest enemy; earnestly endeavouring to carry on Spider-Man’s self-imposed mission, guided by Peter’s abiding principle: “with great power comes great responsibility”…

However Octavius’ ingrained monomania proved hard to suppress and the usurped web-spinner constantly toiled to prove himself the better man: augmenting Parker’s paltry gadgets and methodology with millions of spy robots to patrol the entire city at once, constantly adding advanced tech and refining new weaponry to the suit and even acting pre-emptively rather than merely reacting to crises as the original had…

Otto went back to college because he arrogantly refused to live life without a doctorate and even briefly tried to rekindle his new body’s old relationship with Mary Jane Watson.

The new, ultra-efficient Spider-Man became New York’s darling and even Mayor J. Jonah Jameson embraced the Web-spinner; all but adopting the Arachnid as his deputy – to the utter incredulity of an imperceptible psychic shard of Peter which still screamed in frustration within the deepest recesses of the hero’s overwritten consciousness…

The helpless ghost was an unwilling passenger, unsuspected by Octavius yet increasingly privy to the villain’s own barely-suppressed memories. Moreover, more and more of Parker’s oldest friends began to suspect something amiss…

Police CSI Officer and ex-girlfriend Carlie Cooper knew Peter’s secret identity and recalled the last time Spidey fought Doc Ock, when the killer broke her arm. He claimed then that he was Peter trapped in the villain’s body…

The public seems happy with how Spider-Man has changed. Not only is he exceedingly more efficient, but far more brutal too: practically crippling bad guys like Boomerang, Vulture and Scorpion. This new hard-line attitude actually increased the webslinger’s approval rating and, after a hostage siege, his status peaked after he executed the psychotic perpetrator Massacre

Eventually Octavius realised there was a noble passenger in his head and eradicated the last vestiges of his enemy’s presence – at the cost of many of Parker’s later memories and fully liberated extended his campaign of modernised crime-fighting.

Helping Jameson after the Spider-Slayer and other super-felons broke loose on The Raft penitentiary, Spider-Man then blackmailed the Mayor into donating the now empty edifice for a base. The Superior wallcrawler designed a new costume, built giant war-tanks and even hired henchmen to help him clean up the city for the decent, law-abiding citizens.

“Parker’s” personal life is all but over and he’s constantly harassed for a lack of productivity by employer Max Modell at technological think-tank Horizon Labs. He still wants that elusive doctorate, however, and is prepared to put up with lots of grief from his lecturer Dr. Lamaze – even though the oaf is a bumbling fool even more stupid than when he was Otto Octavius’ college lab partner. At least Parker’s blossoming romance with brilliant Anna Maria Marconi is still progressing satisfactorily…

From his transformed citadel on the now-renamed Spider Island II, Spider-Man watches over his city through the electronic eyes of thousands of tiny Spider-bots…

There’s still lots he doesn’t see though: resurgent and hidden criminal mastermind Goblin King (former Green Goblin Norman Osborn) is successfully completing his own campaign to take over the underworld with his Goblin Army Cult.

To that end he has transformed young Phil Urich – latest iteration of The Hobgoblin – into his latest living weapon: a Goblin Knight to lead his armies to inevitable victory…

Meanwhile, Carlie Cooper has shared her suspicions about Spider-Man with her friend and Captain Yuri Watanabe (who secretly moonlights as costumed vigilante The Wraith). Together the women have been gathering definitive proofs of their suspicions regarding the Wallcrawler; and now with an Island fortress and a mercenary gang to pay for they have a money trail to follow…

Most dangerous of all, disgraced former Horizon employee Ty Stone is still free: a malevolent genius and subtle manipulator with a deadly agenda all his own slowly building his own powerbase…

This latest collection ties in to the various time travel stories and stems from the after-effects generated by the disruptions in the (Marvel) universes caused by the Avengers unmaking the Age of Ultron, but don’t fret as the stories work well enough on their own…

Illustrated by Ryan Stegman & John Livesay, the 3-part story-arc Necessary Evil begins with ‘Let’s Do the Time Warp Again’ and a glimpse at Nueva York in 2099, where Miguel O’Hara is knee-deep in a chronal crisis. His entire world is unravelling, with dinosaurs and other time-lost threats materialising even as his archenemy (and biological father) Tyler Stone of world-owning corporation Alchemax is gradually disappearing thanks to some threat to an ancestor in 2013…

A Word to the Wise: At a time when Marvel’s product quality was at an all time low, and following a purported last minute dispute between the company and prodigal son John Byrne (who had re-invented himself by re-inventing Superman), the House of Ideas launched a whole new continuity strand with all-new heroes (and franchise extensions) set more than a century into the future.

The world was a corporate dystopia, the scenarios were fantastical and the initial character-pool was predictable if not actually uninspired. A lot of the early material was by any critical yardstick sub-par. But there was also Spider-Man 2099.

Some analogue of the wall-crawler is always going to happen in any Marvel imprint (anybody remember Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham?), and in those insane days of speculator-led markets (where greedy kids – and adults – dreamed of cornering the market in “Hot Issues” and becoming instant squillionaires) the future wallcrawler was a spectacular example of quality creators producing superior work (don’t take my word for it, just check out Spider-Man 2099: Genesis)…

In 2099 world governments were openly in the capacious pockets of huge multi-national corporations which controlled every aspect of society. All superheroes had been gone for decades, although their legends still comforted the underclass living at the fringes – and below the feet – of the favoured ones who could survive in a society based on unchecked, rampant free-marker capitalism.

Miguel O’Hara was a brilliant young geneticist fast-tracked and swiftly rising through the ranks of Alchemax. He enjoyed the privileges that his work (creating super-soldiers for the company) won him. He loved solving problems and despite interference from salary-men and corporate drudges he made a major breakthrough: a technique to alter genetic make-up and combine it with DNA from other organisms…

Following a demonstration which went grotesquely awry the arrogant scientist made a big mistake and threatened to quit. Unwilling to lose such a valuable asset CEO Tyler Stone poisoned O’Hara with the most addictive drug in existence – one only available from Alchemax – to keep him loyal.

The boy wonder was then forced to use his genetic modifier, resetting his physiology to purge the addiction from his cells. However one of the lab assistants he used to bully saw a chance for some payback and sabotaged the attempt, adding spider DNA to the matrix…

Miguel became the ultimate rebel in his time and was at the cutting edge of a new “Age of Heroes” fighting Stone and Alchemax as well as many other menaces. He eventually discovered the other reason for his privileged fast tracking: his mother’s long-ago affair which had resulted in a son…

Now O’Hara had to ally with Stone and stop the temporal threat in 2013 – to save his world and his own life…

In New York, Horizon labs are under threat: a corporate takeover by Allan Chemical (owned by Parker’s old school flame Liz Allan-Osborn) but orchestrated by the conniving Ty Stone, who had been sabotaging the Think-Tank’s experiments and stock price for months.

The geniuses there use experimental time-tech to record Stones perfidious deeds, but when they first turn on the machine Spider-Man 2099 explodes out of it, desperate to stop the chronal anomaly before his future dies. Before too long however he is confronted by this era’s wondrous webslinger.

O’Hara’s not worried: after all he and his predecessor have met before and fought as allies. Unfortunately that adventure is not one that remained in his memory after Ock removed the last vestiges of Peter’s consciousness…

Because of this, ‘Smack to the Future’ finds the Spider-Men in savage combat, leaving Ty Stone to continue his machinations unobstructed: absorbing Horizon and taking over the company that results from the hostile takeover.

He’s thinking perhaps… Al-Chem-Max?

With the future rapidly unravelling, the scene changes to the Caribbean where Yuri and Carlie are chasing down the final piece in their detective jigsaw puzzle in the concluding chapter ‘Event Horizon’, where a last minute save sees the Superior Spider-Man and his notional legatee vanish into an explosive time glitch. Only one reappears when the crisis is over and Parker/Octavius has no memory of what has happened…

And in 2099, Tyler Stone gloats; his world is safe and, by destroying Alchemax’ time tech, he has stranded “his” Spider-Man where nobody can save him…

It’s back to business with artists Giuseppe Camuncoli & John Dell as ‘Still Standing’ takes a look back to just after Octavius triumphed in stealing Spider-Man’s body and life. Following that cataclysmic clash a John and Jane Doe were admitted to hospital. She was considerably disturbed by hallucinations in which she saw the “Great Web coming undone” and “all the Spiders dying” whilst he kept deliriously demanding where Otto Octavius was…

Retuning to the present day, the ever-efficient Spider-Man encounters super-thief and some-time adventure Black Cat. As a former lover, the feline felon expects her former beau to go easy on her as usual, but is astonished at his new attitude and the savage beating she receives before he leaves her to the cops…

In the meantime the hospitalised John Doe is released, intent on some secret task to perform, as the increasingly acerbic and domineering Peter Parker wheedles money from his Aunt May and her husband to start his new tech company – backing up that investment with the last of Dr. Octopus’ off-shore hidden funds.

Carlie is tracking those accounts and sets off to give her findings to the Avengers but she doesn’t make it…

And at his Doctoral Board meeting the exultant Parker gets a stunning shock after his successful presentation is ruined by Lamaze who accuses the candidate of plagiarising the work of another scientist: his old college chum Otto Octavius…

This portentous package concludes with ‘Lethal Ladies’ as Doc Ock’s old girlfriend Stunner goes on a rampage, tearing up the town in her solid hologram form, forcing the Superior Spider-Man into a battle he just doesn’t want to fight.

As Carlie discovers that there’s no corpse in the tentacled super-villain’s grave, only to be abducted, Spider-Man uses Stunner’s equipment to solve his Doctoral problem with Don Lamaze, utterly unaware that the Goblin Army Cult now possesses Carlie’s proof of who’s really living in Peter Parker’s skull…

To Be Continued…

Scripted as ever by Dan Slott, Necessary Evil collects issues #17-21 of the fortnightly Superior Spider-Man (4th September-13th November 2013), ramping up the tension in advance of truly shocking revelations to come, and this titanic time-busting tome includes a covers-&-variants gallery by Stegman, Camuncoli, Humberto Ramos, Mike McKone, J.G. Jones, Olivier Coipel, Leonel Castellani, J. Scott Campbell & Adi Granov

This up-to-the minute tech-heavy reinvention is naturally accompanied with some AR icon sections – Marvel Augmented Reality App pages which provide access to story bonuses and content on your smart-phone or Android-enabled tablet.

Spider-Man has been reinvented so often it’s almost become commonplace, but this iteration – for however long it lasts – is one no lover of high-octane adventure should miss: smart, shocking and incredibly addictive.
™ & © 2013 and 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. Italy. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.