Dan Slott. As much as I defended your talents as a writer, for all the praise you bitterly earned after One More Day, somehow you manage to churn out the most controversial comic of 2013 less than 2 weeks into the new year.
And it is so freaking mediocre it hurts.
The biggest issue I've had with this book is that I just have no interest in Doctor Octopus as anything more than an occasional villain. This new spider-man is riding on the hype, and Slott had to do one major task: make us care about Otto Octavius as he takes on the life of Spider-man. But he doesn't do this. Instead, page after page we just see how much of an unlikable, creepy person this new wall crawler is. His dialogue is very brash and snobby, which makes sense given Ock's personality, but doesn't help me care about this guy. Most of the humor a book like Spider-man is known for comes from the fact that Spider-pus (my new name for him) is just a very despicable person, and while it does have some bright spots, some moments just really make me uncomfortable. There's a gag where Spider-pus is leering at Mary Jane's breasts (and maybe trying to get her drunk?) and I couldn't even enjoy the sophmoric guilty pleasure of this scene because of the VERY REAL possibility that he is going to at least try to rape her.
Ryan Stegman's art is solid, but doesn't quite measure up to his fantastic work just last year on Scarlet Spider. The problem is that his Peter Parker always has a sinister look to him, which fits knowing what we do about the character. The problem is that it's completely without subtly at moments with Spider-pus's expressions, especially the scenes at horizon labs, and combined with the dialogue, it really makes you wonder how anyone could possibly believe that this is the same Peter Parker without suspecting anything.
But What really made me dislike this book was Slott's "tick up his sleeve" he's been bragging about.
Turns out Peter Parker still exists buried within Spider-pus's mind, and is the one now "guiding" Ock into making him a hero
This derails everything from ASM 700. Instead of growing as a result of the experiences he gleamed from Peter Parker's life, that entire plot point is shoved to the side to give them a back door should the book prove to be a failure, while forcing Otto to be a hero without him actually LEARNING how to be a better person. Instead of having the balls to go through with an unpopular decision, they pull an Avengers Arena, as if to say "don't hate us, we can fix this! It's not broken yet!" in case sales don't line up. I'm not upset to learn that this new status quo is temporary, but it's hard to get invested in the story now that things take a complete 180 like this. If this scene occurred an arc or two in, I wouldn't have a problem with it, but within a single issue? cowardly.
But taking a step back and looking at it a bit less biased, this story is decently told. As much as I complain about how much I DON'T like this new Spider-man, character wise, I must admit everything fits with Ock's M.O. The art, while not as fantastic as it could be given Stewgman's record, is still a cut above most books out there, and a few gags from secondary characters gave me a chuckle. But looking at it in context of this whole "game change", it fails completely to hook me in, and just left a bad taste in my mouth. It's clear to me this was just meant to be a short arc in Slott's ongoing narrative, and was elevated to such heights by Marvel NOW! If you like Slott's previous run, you will probably disagree with me entirely, but I just can't bring myself to care about this new Spider-man.