New webslinger Otto Octavius continues to cement his position as a superior Spidey in this latest volume.

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(Panini Books)

The inherent danger in the runaway success of the new Superior Spider-Man series, which has seen Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus, seize control of the webslinger’s body from the late Peter Parker, is that nobody will want to see a return to the status quo.

The arrogance and assuredness displayed by the new Spidey is a refreshing change from Parker’s self-doubt and insecurity, and Otto’s determined attempts to become a better Spider-Man may be flawed at times, but they also inspire a punch in the air as he does exactly what we’ve wanted Peter to do for years.

This is no longer a Spider-Man who walks a narrow path between his conscience and his ability to make a real difference in the world, as evidenced by his shocking execution of the serial murderer Massacre in the last volume. For the first time he is making decisions which are not clouded by a need to do the right thing, but instead take into account other variables such as the potential of his enemies to cause future harm.

Surely it’s far better to prevent that possibility by taking extreme prejudice, no? That is just one of the moral dilemmas posed by writer Dan Slott in this new series, and it’s an interesting conundrum which is sure to polarise readers’ opinions.

Peter Parker’s actions having indirectly led to the death of New York Mayor J Jonah Jameson’s wife Marla at the hands of Spider-Slayer inventor Alastair Smythe, Octavius agrees to supervise the killer’s execution on the island prison known as The Raft in the first story collected in this volume.

When Smythe escapes thanks to a swarm of mini Spider-Slayers, at the same time empowering fellow prisoners the Scorpion, the Vulture and Boomerang, Jameson orders Spider-Man to take him down by any means necessary, an exchange which is recorded and later used to blackmail the furious Mayor…

Then in the wake of the incident on The Raft, Spider-Man turns his attention to crime boss Wilson Fisk, aka The Kingpin, and brings down his entire operation in Hell’s Kitchen, forcing Fisk to fake his own death and escape. The ensuing chaos flushes out the new Hobgoblin, in reality Daily Bugle reporter Phil Urich, whose identity is then publicly revealed by the web-slinger, leaving him with nowhere left to hide, and nothing left to lose…

What we see in both of these stories is Octavius’ desire to take a more pro-active approach to crime-fighting, a complete contrast to his predecessor’s approach, which generally proves much more successful, at least for now. Of course, the higher this new Spider-Man climbs, the further he will eventually have to fall, whether that is in a matter of months or years, and regardless of the real Peter Parker’s role in events.

The excitement of the Superior Spidey series lies in the freshness and uncertainty of the stories unfolding here. For the first time in decades, we just don’t know what’s going to happen next or how our protagonist is going to behave, as Octavius continues to plan out his new career as a superhero at the same time as taking decisive action to improve the life of his alter ego – “Doctor” Peter Parker anyone?

Almost as if you were webslinging across New York, there are highs and lows, thrills and spills, and moments of reckless abandon in Octavius’ journey to become the Superior Spider-Man, and I for one am glad to be along for the ride.

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