1. The Superior Spider-Man (No. 1, Mar 2013, Marvel) – Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman & Edgar Delgado
Perpetually unlucky in love. Perennially cheating death. Or atleast until recently. Fourteen months ago, to the chagrin of many sweaty fans, the brilliant Otto Octavius swapped minds with the spectacular Spider-Man, effectively murdering our hero Peter Parker. You wouldn’t think such a comicbooky story arc would affect long-time Spidey fans, but the news of Parker’s “death” and the corollary idea of Otto Octavius inhabiting Parker’s body to make a far superior Spider-Man, has driven certain long-time readers into despondency. An effusive excerpt from a “fan” letter in the wake of the last issue of The Amazing Spiderman and the first issue of The Superior Spider-Man:
Marvel, I would like to voice my extreme concern and dislike for the future of The Amazing Spider-Man series. . . . removing Peter Parker as Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe is unacceptable. . . . I own every Amazing Spider-Man comic from issue 300 to present, . . . I will say that out of the over 500 issues I own Dan Slott has been the absolute worst writer yet in my opinion. If Marvel is looking to rejuvenate the Spider-Man story Dan Slott is not the way to do it. / I may eventually get over the title change, and I realize that future story arcs are already in the making, but I am sad to say that if Peter Parker does not return as Spider-Man in the relatively near future, I will be canceling my subscription. -Nick Thompson
2. Web of Spider-Man (No. 42, Sep ’88, Marvel) – Peter David, Alex Saviuk & Keith Williams
The third issue of a four issue story arc where Mary Jane is duped into posing for a “lingerie” catalogue, as Spider-Man is busy being inducted into a cult. Classic ’80s Spidey-cheese. Just goes to show how selective the memories of devoted fans are when it comes to the quote-unquote “integrity” of the Spidey mythos.
3. The Spider-Woman (No. 4, July ’78, Marvel) – Marv Wolfman, Carmine Infantino & Tony DeZuniga
If you had to make a list of the most inept superheroes in the Marvel universe, Jessica Drew’s Spider-Woman would most certainly be on that list. If she had one secret skill it seemed to be continually being thwarted by macabre men in dark hoods (e.g., The Hangman whose only superpower was his uncanny knack for hanging people, The Needle whose only raison d’être in life appeared to be to sew men’s lips together, and The Gamesman whose sole claim to fame was seducing the weak-willed Spider-Woman). A time capsule into how women were seen during the Silver/Bronze Age transition , writers on the various Spider-titles have yet to fully atone for the ’70s depiction of the scatterbrain superheroine.
4. The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man (No. 1, May ’91, Marvel) – Danny Fingeroth, Al Milgram, Kerry Gammill & Mike Machlan
Paul Giamatti as the Rhino is reason alone to watch the new sequel to director Mark Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Although some of my friends have a preference for Sam Raimi’s take on the character, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that Webb’s reboot of Spider-Man is closer to the comics. The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man being my introduction to the Spidey mythos, I’m all on board with Sony’s plans to do future standalone movies revolving around Spider-Man’s foes. Milk it for all it’s worth, Sony.
5. The Superior Spider-Man (No. 31, June 2014, Marvel) – Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Giuseppe Camuncoli, John Dell & Terry Pallot
Sixteen months and thirty-one issues later, the initially dreaded Otto Octavius-swapping-minds-with-Spider-Man story arc has ended. And Surprise, surprise! Peter Parker is not dead after all: Parker’s persona was still alive, buried deep inside Otto’s psyche only to return once again – and all is well with the world. Conveniently just in time for the May 2 release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Personally, I quite enjoyed Dan Slott’s run of Superior Spider-Man; especially amusing was Otto Octavius (in Peter Parker’s body) having to go back to school to earn his PhD – since Peter in his utter ineptness failed to do so.
If you decide to pick up the trade-version of this story arc, look out for how Slott exposes one of the fundamental problems of the Spidey lore: the Mary Jane-Peter relationship. Exactly why are they together? They have absolutely nothing in common, except for the fact that Spidey saves MJ from mortal danger from time to time. It would make more narrative sense, as Slott proposes, if Peter was with someone like Anna Maria, the character who happens to help Peter get his PhD. Perhaps not as physically impressive as MJ, but atleast Anna Maria is just as scientifically gifted and academically brilliant as Peter. They’d have something to talk about during dinner. As Slott points out in issue 1 of Superior Spider-Man, what exactly would Peter, a PhD candidate and a senior researcher at Horizon Labs, talk about with Mary Jane, a model and NYC night club manager? What they ate for lunch? The weather?