Some time ago there was the quite controversial move from Amazing Spider-Man to Superior Spider-Man, whereby Doc Ock took over Peter Parker's birthday and assumed the mantle of Spider-Man. For some fans this caused outrage! Parker has seemingly passed on (although this is yet to be fully believed by everyone) and the new methods that Spidey-Ock is utilising – whether it be robotics helpers, a team of mercenaries or an incredibly hard and fatal stance taken against criminals - have shocked even the fictional characters heads. Even so the title has continued to develop with more and more enemies coming out the woodwork to take on the wallcrawler.
So now we have got to the first Annual for this new incarnation.
Christos Gage (as opposed to the regular Dan Slott) brings out one of Ghost Rider’s adversaries Blackout, a half-human, half-demon hybrid who has the ability to take the light away from anywhere around him. Through Spidey's public association with Peter Parker - and therefore his family too - Blackout has his sights set on Aunt May as a hostage. That old cliche.
Whereas one element of the story does revolve around the kidnapping and inevitable subsequent rescue, the other side of the tale addresses a continual theme - the ongoing development of a new Peter Parker and Spider-Man. That in itself is quite an odd thing considering that the title first began way back in January (with two issues every month to boot), but then again it is the fanatical obsession of Otto Octavius to try to emphatically prove that he is better than Parker in every way. The other impact of this is that whenever a reader face-palmed when Peter “did the right thing” at his own personal expense – for example anything faintly romantic – now we have a composed and focussed Parker, who has managed to organise his “other” life in such a way that he can have a proper and full relationship with those who matter to him, like Aunt May. There is only one flaw in this though. A metaphorical leopard still can’t change it’s spots and although the Spider may have saved the day, the Octopus inside still has to go that one step further to make a definitive point.
The humour that has always been around the Spider-Man titles isn’t lost here either. There's a funny little moment towards the end when a pickpocket cowers at the thought that he made the mistake of stealing from Parker, but that’s the influence this new Spidey exerts. The other continuation is that this ties in with the building story arc concerning the return of the Green Goblin, something that has been going on for months now and looks set to come to a head next year after Spidey's upcoming bout with Venom.
For the artwork, Javier Rodriguez picks up the Superior pencil to give the Annual a much grittier, retro-look as opposed to the main title. Does this change the feeling of the comic? Well no, the story still conveys the levity, while the artwork supports the more sinister and clinical approach that Otto takes. Does it detract from what the reader has been used to up to this point? Not really.
What you are given as a reader is an Annual which - although it is brought to you by a different creative team than the norm - still fits in with the current story and ethos of the character. Marvel and Dan Slott have told us "this one counts" but it’s not essential, however it is a good little off-shoot for any reader to collect.
Matt Puddy is glad he remembered the hyphen!