Credits: Written by Tom DeFalco, breakdowns by Sal Buscema, finishes by Bill Sienkiewicz and edited by Mark Powers.
Cast (Living) Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Dr Otto ‘Doctor Octopus’ Octavius, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Stunner and Kaine.
Cast (Dead) Ben Parker, Mary Parker, Richard Parker and Harry Obsorn
Plot: Peter’s spirit meets with his uncle Ben and his parents Mary and Richard who welcome him to his rest, an existence free of pain. But he can’t go with them as in the physical world, Doctor Octopus, an enemy of many years is trying to re-start his heart. Just as his spirit leaves to return to his body, he is delayed by his old friend Harry Osborn, the second Green Goblin who offers him the chance to remain, but Peter wants to go back, to pain, to regret and insecurity, in short he chooses life.
Peter is awakening, Otto sends Stunner away, confident that they will be reunited. Peter puts his Spider-Man mask on, expecting anger and violence, but finds Otto is very happy that he is alive and well. Spider-Man braces himself for battle, but Otto has planned ahead and called the police. A SWAT team arrives and arrests a very compliant Otto, who simply wants to give Spider-Man time to recover before they begin their dance. again. Everyone is stunned as the dreaded Doctor Octopus walks gleefully into the police wagon.
Spider-Man leaves, he is exuberant as he realises that he is indeed cured and now, has so much to live for. He goes home, Mary Jane is already there, full of worry over how they will get their lives back on track, but Peter’s mood and the DIY project of a crib convince her that yes, this is all going to work out.
Speaking of everything working out, Stunner is about to free Otto from imprisonment as per his plan (explaining why he so easily allowed his arrest) but this plan is foiled by Kaine who gasses her and goes after the police van himself.
In the van, Otto is amused by the police’s idea that they arrested him, rather than gave him a well-timed exit. He sees the roof torn off, but is shocked when he sees Kaine and not Stunner. He demands to know where she is, Kaine replies she is safe and he bears neither of them ill will, but he must die. Kaine battles, then kills Otto and leaves him on the street, to be found by a heart-broken Stunner whose world has fallen apart, just as Peter’s life has come back together.
Notes: This story ran parallel to the Web of Life story which featured Scarlet Spider. As a result, there are a lot of simliarities. We have the hero at a crossroads, the villain focused on a goal, backed up by a willing accomplice/loved one and we get Kaine killing the villain for reasons/reasons unknown. Out of the two of them, this was the strongest story. We get Peter able to live after finding something worth living for as well as being cured of the virus given to him by the Vulture many issues prior. We also get a great character study of Doctor Octopus. This man is a thinker, but very aware of his emotional ties. He thrills to the game between him and Spider-Man, he loves passionately his partner Stunner and believes utterly in himself and his abilities both mental and physical. It’s these three drives that propel him through the story and makes his part of it more interesting than Peter’s. I enjoyed the scene where he surrendered and really liked the drama of the final pages. If Web of Life ended with a damp squib, then Web of Death ended with triumph.
Writing 5 out of 5: From Otto’s performance and dialogue to the dramatic final battle between Otto and Kaine, this issue kept my interest mostly through the writing. The emphasis on Peter accepting his pain and fears as a necessary part of life and choosing to live it, brought back the Spider-Man of old and as a reader, this was echoed through Otto. It was a better issue than expected from Tom DeFalco.
Art 1 out of 5: I will say this no matter what anyone else thinks, Bill Sienkiewicz should not be on this title. He has done great covers and his work on New Mutants is iconic, but he doesn’t fit this comic in the same way that a olympic level high-jumper maybe shouldn’t be in the 100m sprint. His Peter and Mary Jane look off model and his Otto has gained a ton of weight since Amazing 398. It’s too sharp a turn from Bagley’s more traditional work, so having them share a story doesn’t really make the pieces fit and sadly is Spectacular that suffers as a result. If Bagley did all four, or Buscema and Sienkiewicz did all four, it wouldn’t have been a problem. There’s also how dark everything looks and the fact that Otto’s clothes all change colour.
Overall: 6 out of 10 – While the art is the weak link in this comic it was still an enjoyable experience and hit all the relevant emotional beats and by the end I was really happy with how the whole thing ended up and it made me eager to see what happens next.
Next: Back to the Age of Apocalypse.