Review: Superior Spider-Man Annual #1
Christos Gage involvement in Superior Spider-Man is always a welcomed sight. He often tones down the excessive asshole-ery that Dan Slott can verge into with SpOck. Superior Spider-Man Annual #1 is another great example of Gage’s understanding of the SpOck situation.
Throughout Superior Spider-Man Annual #1, I kept thinking one thing about Peter Parker: he truly is SUPERIOR. I’ve never though SpOck was a superior Peter Parker before this annual. In this issue, SpOck effortlessly balances the personal and super hero sides of his life that Peter Parker had so much trouble with over the years. Gage uses all the tech and advancements that SpOck has made to better Peter’s life in truly tangible ways. One could argue that, in Slott’s characterization of SpOck, that Peter has become more violent, but hasn’t actually bettered his life. He’s going for his doctorate, but everything has almost crumbled around him. Gage tones down SpOck to someone who could easily blend in with the other Avengers and civilians. Granted this changes when he is alone, but SpOck puts up a believable enough veil that you can understand why no one notices that Peter has changed. By the time the issue as done, I can hands down say this is the best portrayal of SpOck so far. While you may not agree with his methods for disposing of villains, he certainly knows how to jump between both effortlessly.
The rest of the story is a means towards an end. Spider-Man is now known as a cutthroat hero and Peter Parker can’t be touched. It’s an interesting development, but I’m not 100% sure it needed to be told like this. Villains have already been talking about how Spider-Man is more ruthless and how he can’t be taken down the same way anymore. This annual seemed more like a technicality than necessary. By the end of the issue, the reader should feel somewhat sad at what transpired during the annual. Which conflicts with my overall happiness that the story finally got SpOck right. Gage’s ability to toy with your emotions gives what could have been a quick throwaway annual some emotional weight. Superior Spider-Man Annual #1 does get the “annual” part right though. Marvel’s recent output of annuals have been glorified mini-series or endings of already ongoing arcs. This is a standalone story that affects the ongoing. That’s a perfect annual.
Javier Rodriguez pencils a phenomenal issue. Characters are bright, full of life, and oozing personality. The most gruesome scene ends up being one of the best in the annual. Blackout’s defeated face is plain to see, even though Rodriguez doesn’t go overboard with the blood. Rodriguez uses silhouettes quite often in this issue, but thankfully doesn’t go overboard on them (looking at you Hawkeye Annual). They effectively build tension as Blackout pursues Spider-Man, and provide a stark contrast to the often bright spandex world that Spider-Man inhabits. Much like Ryan Stegman, Rodriguez tweaks Peter’s eyes just enough that an observant reader can tell that something is wrong with him.
Superior Spider-Man Annual #1 gets 4/5.