*There be spoilers ahead, kiddies!*
For me, a review of Superior Spider-Man #1 is going to be a matter of subjectivity vs. objectivity. There’s a chasm between the two for this book. Subjectively, I just don’t care for this entire concept. Doctor Octopus running around in Spider-Man’s body is the kind of thing that could make for an okay story arc (maybe), but it’s not something I’m particularly excited about as a permanent (or even semi permanent) change to the character. Despite Dan Slott’s great work with him recently, I’ve never been a big fan of Doc Ock. So the thought of reading through his internal monologues at least twice a month doesn’t fill me with joy. No matter what happened in this issue, I pretty much constantly found myself wishing it was anything else.
Objectively, however, it all works. As previously mentioned, it fits within the confines of the story they’ve been telling (but that doesn’t mean I have to like it). The dialogue and all the innermost thoughts of the newly-minted sort-of-hero all ring true as Octavius, especially as written by Slott. The moment he realizes that Peter Parker will get credit for every one of his scientific achievements is pretty great. There’s absolutely zero subtlety in the story, but it fits considering the lack of subtlety you get from most comic book super villains. This is a guy who brain-swapped with his biggest enemy. We can’t exactly expect him to reign in the pompous monologue, now can we?
Artistically, it’s a slam dunk. The art is absolutely gorgeous. Overall, it’s a little dirtier than Stegman’s work on Scarlet Spider. It doesn’t have quite the polish or refined edge we’d gotten used to seeing, but that suits this story. It’s a nice touch and is without a doubt the most subtle choice in the issue. All of the big actions scenes look great. The visual of Peter in a mad scientist lab coat is pretty good. It’s hard to touch upon any real flaw in the visuals.
Even objectively, the book isn’t without its flaws. Mary Jane and those closest to Peter should be able to see something is wrong. Given the aforementioned lack of subtlety, it’s pretty obvious Peter is different, but no one calls him on it. It’s the first issue, though, so I can forgive it for now. On the other hand (and this is a huge spoiler… sort of), the Ghost of Spidey Past at the end completely removes any sense of permanence from the story. As comic fans, we all know Peter is going to come back. We’re not going to be reading about Octo-Spidey in three years. Even so, having Peter’s ghost/spirit/essence/whatever look us right in the eye and tell us as much has essentially put a ticking clock on The Superior Spider-Man. They may as well start the numbering at the top and work down to #1 so we know exactly when it’s happening.
On this issue (even the entire series), your actual mileage will vary. This is a controversial and divisive story (as it was no doubt designed to be). To play it safe, I’m giving The Superior Spider-Man #1 3 out of 5 nanite spider tracer-injecting glove claws. Yes, that’s a thing that happens, and it’s kind of neat. There’s plenty to look forward to. As we see more of more of Otto’s interactions with Peter’s supporting cast, we’ll see the full extent of the change. How long will that novelty last? Does it matter? Peter’s already waiting in the wings, after all.