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Superior Spider-Man #20 – Review

by Dan Slott (Writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli, John Dell (Artists), Antonio Fabela (Colorist)

The Story: Spider-Ock has an encounter with Black Cat, then goes on to make some progress on some of his current projects.

The Review
: Dan Slott has put himself in a nice spot right now with this series in terms of plot progression. Currently playing with the Spider-Man mythos in new ways, there is a pattern of smaller arcs with a bunch of two to three issues that serves as larger pieces to the ongoing narrative, followed by smaller issues where Slott either introduce newer elements or fiddle around with those already in place. It allows him to be a bit more playful with expectations while maintaining a certain momentum in his series, yet things must happen in order to maintain a certain interest in everything that is going on. Does Slott use this issue to its full advantage after the big three-parter with Spider-Man 2099?

The writer does allow this issue to work, for the most part, as he develops multiple situations and plot points at once, delivering on unexpected jokes and hooks that may feed this title new threads for its future. Never letting most of his elements in his narrative gets stale or at least unattended, Slott spins a lot of plates in this issue, which let his characters and situations evolve in bold or at the very least fun ways.

The focus on Otto himself work as always, as his arrogance, his methods and his actions all serve a certain purpose, be it to entertain, give exposition or to simply propel things forward. Not all of what is shown here is as exciting, yet the fact that Otto’s trying to build a company or just how he deals with Black Cat are interesting, setting newer possible interactions and a new direction for the series that could work in the long term. Otto, as always, provide a lot of fun with how Slott manage to introduce a good lot of chaos with the Spider-Man mythology with the ambiguity that is Spider-Ock.

Where it falters a little bit and makes the issue a bit uneven in its quality is when the focus goes on the other characters like Carlie Cooper, Mary-Jane Watson and the mysteriously recovered person who acts as the last page reveal. While they do function in either moving some of the subplots forward or setting up a new status quo for beloved characters, they simply aren’t as interesting as the rest of the issue. They do work and some of them can be easily appreciated, like Mary-Jane moving on with her life and Carlie getting further in her investigation, but it feels a bit disconnected to the Spider-Ock scenes in general. They’re no doubt necessary for the future of this series, yet it’s mainly exposition and hints at things that will eventually happen somewhere down the line.

While not all the scenes are of the same quality, it’s rather neat to see an issue where a good number of things happen, with good pacing nonetheless. With comics sometimes written for the trade and decompressed as a result, it’s satisfying to see an issue like this one that work rather well on its own an in the larger narrative as well without relying heavily on the content of four previous parts and the like.

Another satisfying thing about this issue is Giuseppe Camuncoli and John Dell, who gets their turn in the rotation after the previous three-part story by Ryan Stegman. His slicker characters as well as his more down-to-earth approach to the general weirdness of super heroes and their garish costumes and poses makes for a good fit for this issue, as it deals more with the human side of Otto rather than super heroics. The few scenes with Spider-Ock as he patrols are actually well-paced and diverse enough in the image angles that they do allow for the scene to flow as flawlessly as it can while telling the joke and progressing the plot decently. The rest deals with perhaps more normalized instances, with Otto Octavius dealing with others characters in the process. The expression are small, subtle even, yet it works quite well with the scenes in which they are portrayed, as it also allows the bigger one to be that much more noticeable in the fact that they deviate from the norm, enhancing their effect in the process. The body language and the very thorough work with the backgrounds only help the process, with this issue coming off as strong as far as Camuncoli and Dell are concerned.

The color work from Antonio Fabela is also pretty well-done, with the generally bombastic style of Edgar Delgado being ditched in favour of more nuanced and less flashy colorization. There are a few moments where there are certain exaggeration thrown in, yet those are few and far between, with fewer plays with light and shadows and more with natural and a certain realism to the palette. There are quite a few contrasts, of course, as it is one of the basics when it comes to efficient colorization, yet it’s dealt with in a subtler and more natural way to the story instead of dealing in the extremes. Dealing with a good amount of separation between the outlandish and the normalized without resorting to the larger aspects of both, Fabela do some excellent work in this issue.

The Conclusion
: While it may be uneven in terms of scenes and how some of them work, the progression of the plot threads, combined with some fun moments and a pretty great artistic direction makes this issue a pretty good one.

Grade: B

Hugo Robberts Larivière

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