Superior Spider-Man #4 Teaches Otto Octavius Some Humility

by James Ferguson

In the wake of Terrax’s attack on San Francisco, Otto Octavius is left battered and broken. He barely made it out of there alive and unfortunately the same cannot be said for many innocent civilians. While he wants to turn his attention to bigger projects he deems more important, Anna Maria won’t let him go without cleaning up the mess he’s made. There are still many people missing and untold amounts of rubble to take care of.

While Otto has been on the side of the angels for a little while, it’s tough for him to escape from the soul of a villain that’s clearly still alive and well, despite how far he tries to bury it within himself. Anna Maria is essentially trying to teach him to be a human being and show a little empathy. This takes Otto completely out of his comfort zone, but he has little choice. Anna Maria has him trapped. If he doesn’t play by her rules, she’s going to turn him into the authorities.

No one else can speak to Otto like Anna Maria does. Letterer Clayton Cowles makes her speech feel big and strong, as she’s constantly dressing him down. Her word balloons can crowd a panel, so Otto has no room to wiggle away from her.

What follows is an interesting journey for Otto. You can actually see him loosen up just a bit as he rubs elbows with the common man. Writer Christos Gage shows this in a number of ways, but one that sticks out is how Otto corrects people when they call him “Spider-Man.” The first couple times this happens, he points out that he’s not Spider-Man. He’s the Superior Spider-Man. Think about that for a second. It would be like if someone said they were the “Superior Jeff” at a party. What a jerk. As time goes on, Otto manages to stop himself which shows some major growth on his part, even it’s just avoiding sounding just a little less obnoxious.

Otto is served a heaping helping of humanity in this clean up mission as he works to help local law enforcement to save people trapped under the rubble. A rather somber scene comes after he saves a young boy, who sadly just became an orphan. Artist Mike Hawthorne delivers a powerful sequence shown without a single piece of text as Otto consoles the boy. Since we don’t actually hear what he says, it makes the moment a little more personal as we can imagine the words he’d put together to explain the situation.

This isn’t the only sequence presented without text. There’s a montage of sorts later on showing all the work Otto is putting in across the city. He has one hand tied behind his back as his right arm is broken, so he can only do so much. This makes for some great images of an injured Spider-Man helping the helpless. I like how the cast is webbed to his chest in a make shift sling.

Inker Wade von Grawbadger highlights the grime and sheer devastation at work in the city after the attack. Shadow is used very well here. This contrasts with the bright florescent lighting of the labs at Horizon University. Colorist Jordie Bellaire makes these scenes look like they’re squeaky clean, showcasing how lucky and/or privileged the folks over here are to have avoided the brunt of Terrax’s attack. Otto works through the day to help as many people as he can so his work culminates with a gorgeous sunset. I guess it could have been the opposite, with the sun rising at the end too. Either way, it’s a nice metaphor.

If Otto Octavius is on a road to redemption, he’s taken quite a few strides down that path with this issue. This book is teaching him not only how to be a better hero, but how to be a better man. You’d think he’d have a good idea of those qualities after spending some time in Peter Parker’s body, but he still have a lot to learn. He needs to learn some humility, although if he does that, they may have to change the title to something other than Superior Spider-Man.

Superior Spider-Man #4 from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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