Spectacular Spider-Man 220: Dr Octopus is Punching above his weight

Credits: Written by Tom DeFalco, art by Sal Buscema and Bill Sienkiwicz and edited by Mark Powers.

Cast: Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Otto ‘Dr Octopus’ Octavius, Mary Jane Watson Parker, Anna Watson, May Parker, Stunner and Kaine.

Plot: After many years of trying to kill him, Otto Octavius is desperate to save the life of his foe Spider-Man. Stunner is with him, pointing out how gaunt he looks. Unconscious, Peter remembers moments during the clones creation, memories he should not possess. Curing Peter is not going well, leaving Otto frustrated, but Stunner consoles him. Taking a break, Otto phones the home of May Parker, only to speak to her friend Anna Watson and he learns of May’s stroke and hospitalisation and he is very upset by that, being fond of May who had always treated him with kindness. Determined, Otto goes back to his work.

 

Another attempt yields results and it leaves Peter alive, if not in his right mind. His reaction to awakening is violent to say the least. As Kaine watches, Peter leaps out of Otto’s lab and leaps from roof to roof blindly, almost falling to his death before Otto catches him, despite his inadvertently hurting Stunner on his way out. Peter collapses, when we wakes up again he is both himself and dressed in his Spider-Man costume and mask. Grateful to be feeling better Peter is feeling good and wants to re-embrace his life again and that means going home.

 

A re-energised Peter swings home, eager to rebuild the life he had abandoned. He dresses in regular clothes and wonders what to do next when Mary Jane walks in. The pair kiss, grateful to be reunited and enjoy a romantic evening together. Then maybe just maybe they can have their happy ever after.

Just kidding, this is a Spider-Man comic. Very soon after this, Otto is looking over his work and realises that the cure he so quickly administered isn’t a cure. It may mask his symptoms, but nothing more than that. Peter Parker is still dying. The next morning, Peter realises this as well and decides to come clean to Mary Jane, so that they may face this bleak future together. This is the moment that Mary Jane decides to get her news in first and tell Peter that she’s pregnant, they are going to have a baby.

 

Notes: Eventually we had to tell the story of Spider-Man trying to be Peter Parker again. Am glad it was sooner rather than later. This story moves the plot along as much as part 1 was about character and that is to this issue’s benefit. The virus story heads towards it’s finale or so it seems and we get a faster paced story that still delivers the odd quiet moment that is a lot more telling. Now I have read a lot of the Green Goblin stories, watched a lot of the Spider-Man movies, but I have never believed in the idea that Norman Osborn is the arch nemesis of Spider-Man. I will consider that he had delivered his worst defeat in Amazing Spider-Man issue 121, but in terms of number of appearances and that whole sense of rivalry, it’s Doc Ock all the way. Both being products of science gone awry, both being misfits who gained powers and both being very fond of May Parker, these guys are more alike than not. Their main difference, Peter’s decency and optimistic viewpoint, is seen as a positive by Otto who relishes the chance to start their battles once more. Given that idea, it makes sense that he would want to save Peter as much as Peter would want to be saved. His moments with Stunner are a snapshot of a love story, with Otto getting the beautiful girl who loves him for his finer qualities. Clearly Otto is punching, but Stunner’s feelings for him are as real as any. Also his reaction to May being ill is quite touching, he cared for her, a person who only saw him as the man he was, not the supervillain he became. A lot of this is Otto’s story and it’s one that I have enjoyed reading.

The dramatic irony dial was put up to 11 here, with Peter dying just as he wants to live and has a greater reason to, but that’s nothing new for a Marvel character. That said, the reunion of Peter and MJ was nicely written and felt uplifted, even if we knew how this would end. There is nothing wrong with any of the writing and it is one of Tom DeFalco’s better Spider-Man efforts.

But the art.

Sal Buscema is a great fill in artist and the workhorse of Bronze Age Marvel. He was a consistent and prolific draftsman who take a rushed deadline story and make it into something pretty good. His work on Spectacular Spider-Man cannot be well regarded enough. Likewise Bill Sienkiwicz is an amazing and innovative artist, who changed what you could do with a comic page and turned New Mutants from a a good comic to a great comic. They are both great, but they are not great together. Bill inking over Sal’s pencils robs the art of Bill’s strengths and dulls Sal’s work as a penciller making this one of the worst drawn Spider-Man stories that I have read in years. And I will be honest, it takes a lot of the joy out of this comic away from me, despite the capable writing.

Writing: 4 out of 5. Solid character based writing that moves the plot along to a predictable, yet compelling finale.

Art: 1 out of 5. Two great tastes that do NOT go great together. I really wanted the art to be better than it was, or at least better than I remembered it, but sadly that was not meant to be.

Overall: 5 out of  10 – A story that I enjoyed so much deserves a higher score, but the art was so very bad.

Next time:  Excalibur, just spelled badly.

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