Monday, November 11, 2013

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #3

Ah, Dr. Octopus, one of my favorite villains. Dr. Octopus is fairly unique in the world of comics. He's overweight, which is something that Marvel embraced far before DC, with characters such as Blob and Kingpin. He doesn't start off as a villain, either. In fact, it is the accident that gives him his abilities that also robs him of his sanity. It's an interesting dichotomy between him and Spider-Man, in that case. Spider-Man gains his powers from a radioactive spiders, but maintains his own personality along with the increased powers. What, however, would happen if he were driven insane from the radioactivity and became one of the greatest villains? Dr. Octopus lets us find that out!

Debuting in Amazing Spider-Man #3 as one of the best Spider-Villains yet, here comes Dr. Octopus!
We start off the issue with another great Ditko splash page, declaring Dr. Octopus to be the only foe to every defeat Spider-Man in his long career of about four issues. He definitely won't be the last, however. Spider-Man 3, I think, is easily his biggest nemesis. Punching Mary Jane, creepy dancing, and going emo? There's no real coming back from that. Dignity must be maintained at all times!
Yeah.. ok, getting back on target here. Spider-Man starts off intercepting a robbery, and using his Spider-Light for great effect. This is, as you might recall, the light built into his Spider Belt that shines a light that looks like his webbed head. He wipes the floor with the thugs pretty quickly and then brags that it's all become far too easy for him, and that he almost wishes he had a real villain to fight. Sigh. Spider-man - Never knows when to shut up.

We shift scenes to a laboratory, where Doctor Octopus is preparing for work at the subtly named Atomic Research Center. It quickly established that he's called Dr. Octopus because of the multiple arms that he invented which allow him to do several tasks at one time, and that he's the only one allowed to wear it. Real name Otto Octavius, he's a mild-mannered scientist the "radiation meter goes whacky" (Stan Lee - Master of all things science) and the experiment asplodes, sending him to a hospital where they discover he has undetermined amounts of brain damage and point out that he's grafted to the arms.
OK, side note here - I have to give credit to Sam Raimi. For all the flaws in Spider-Man 2, he stuck very close to the origin of Dr. Octopus, and that is definitely impressive. There is no random wife getting killed here or Super Mega Science Sphere he is trying to master, but the good doctor to bad villain? All intact and very faithful. So bravo to Raimi for that!

Utterly paranoid, Doc Ock breaks out of his hospital bed, amazed at how he can now control his arms.

As all of this is going on, we shift over to J. Jonah Jameson's office, where he now runs the.. Daily Bugle?? I suppose the NOW Magazine angle was either dropped or forgotten, which happens when you write about ten comic books a month, but I was hoping to see some kind of shift over. Nope. From now on, it'll just be the Daily Bugle. Less hip, certainly, but much more respectable. Jameson is asking for pictures of the new Doc Ock from Peter Parker, who is still definitely the owner of the upper hand in the relationship. He sets the terms and collects the pay, and it gives Spider-Man a reason to bump into Doc Ock for the first time.

As usual, Spidey's solution is to do some breaking and entering. That bad reputation of his? It's pretty well deserved, I think, at this point. He brags a bit about how powerful he is and how easy it is for him to stop crime, which leads very quickly to an over-confident encounter with a raging Doc Ock. He is attempting some kind of experiment while holding hostage others in the hospital just as he is interrupted by the web-head, who manages to put out a few smart alec remarks. With each issue, we get closer and closer to the Spider-Man we know and love!

The fight - well, it goes terrible for Spider-Man. After only a few panels of trying to fight every arm at once, he gets captured by Doc Ock, bitch slapped, and tossed out the window he came in. It's incredibly embarrassing. I suspect that his enemies pay a fortune for the security camera footage of the fight. As I've mentioned before, this is a very inexperienced Spider-Man who makes mistakes and pays for them, and personally I love it!

As the disheartened and disillusioned Spider-Man slinks off, Doc Ock breaks into the Atomic Research Center with the master plan of.. uhm.. blowing up half the building and then rebuilding it to his own specifications. I guess he's an evil interior decorator? Not much of a plan here, but it is what it is. Peter has given up on being Spider-Man and even tells Jameson that he won't be able to get the pictures promised. Still moping, Peter goes to campus the next day and stumbles across a speech being given by Fantastic Four member, the Human Torch (Johnny Storm).

Actually, the story is that the government asked the Fantastic Four to help stop Doc Ock from creating a nuclear meltdown. Well, the FF were busy with something else, so they sent the Human Torch, who had used his flame so much lately that he'd have to wait a few days to be strong enough again. So, naturally, as everyone awaits the inevitable meltdown, the principal asks Johnny to give a lecture to the school. He does a few parlor tricks to distract the kids from their inevitable demise, and then sermonizes them on the importance of never giving up - just the thing that Spider-Man needs to hear!
Peter thanks Johnny for having such a crappy power that he can't even stop a guy with metal arms, regains his mojo, and prepares for the rematch! With his usual strategy of breaking and entering, Spider-Man manages to get the jump on Doc Ock, but has to escape in order to come up with a plan that, you know, involves thinking and stuff. He makes it to the Chem lab, his home away from home, and mixes up a special cocktail and some electrical wiring. He uses these to fuse two of Ock's arms together, then gets in close for a nice web in the face, a spider right hook, and Doc Ock is down for the count.
In the end, Johnny gets a clean bill of health and gets ready to go beat Doctor Octopus, only to hear from Spider-Man that it's already done, and couldn't have been accomplished without his help. A confused Human Torch flies off, Peter gets mocked by Flash Thompson, and a broke Peter Parker goes back home, never having gotten the photos he promised.

Steve Ditko nails Dr. Octopus. He absolutely knocks it out of the park. Once again, this is a character not really considered before, or stolen from another comics company, but he makes it feel natural. The movement is well thought out, right down to Doc Ock walking on his metal arms, and the fight scenes are organic and fascinating to read. There is an astounding amount of detail for the time frame, and I applaud him greatly for that. Stan Lee took a few shortcuts with this issue, from the radioactive device going whacky to Spider-Man coming up with just the right chemical to fuse the metal in Ock's arms, but it is nice to see Spider-Man get overconfident and get knocked right back down. The best Spider-Man is a humble Spider-Man.

Three issues in and three five spider reviews. Will we ever see an issue lacking in perfection? No doubt - but not just yet. Next up is the Sandman!


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