Monday, January 6, 2014

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #11

In another week, we'll have journeyed through the first year of The Amazing Spider-Man together, and it's been a heck of a ride so far. This issue, we have the return of Doctor Octopus, who first made his appearance in the third issue of this comic, which means he waited eight issues to come back! So far, that's a record! This is a big issue in a lot of ways as it helps to continue building the legacy of Spider-Man that is still followed today, so let's not waste any more time! Bring on Doc Ock!

Once again drawn by Steve Ditko with plot and dialogue by Stan "The Man" Lee, the splash page tells us that the title is "Turning Point" and that Betty Brant hates Spider-Man and is perfect okay with punching him a few times. In the background, of course, is the looming shadow of Dr. Octopus! This can't possibly end well!!
What cracks me up, however, is that both of the boxes below the art start with "None but..." followed by various, glowing credentials. Stan Lee was never lacking in ego and showmanship, make no mistake! The man always did think very highly of himself, and with good reason. He was redefining an entire industry by this point in his life and beginning to see it really pay off for him.

Anyway, on with the show! We start the issue with Peter in his room dressed as Spider-Man, moping over Betty Brant having left town in the last issue. Yes, we are officially in continuity land! From here on out, events from earlier issues are going to affect later ones! Cool!

He can't figure out why she left, and knows that he'll never stop searching for her. As he is thinking about it, he hears on the radio that Doctor Octopus is being released from prison. He's understandably horrified, realizing that non-violent drug offenders are serving much longer sentences than a dangerous criminal with robotic arms that nearly killed him. Well, he never actually mentions the non-violent drug offenders, but I'm sure he thought about it off-panel. He flashes back to his fight with Doctor Octopus and getting his butt handed to him, and quickly pulls on his mask and heads out to swing through the city, feeling better with the freedom of web-swinging.
Moments later, he ends up at the prison, trying to break into prison. In moments, he's shining his "awesome 'calling card' against the wall. It's his.. sigh.. spider light. Have I mentioned how much I hate the thing? Yeah, I still do. It's just idiotic, especially since he just comes through the window a moment later anyway. It just doesn't serve any purpose! Spider-Man tries to convince the warden not to let Doctor Octavius go free, but the warden points out that he's served his time and that masked adventurers will never dictate the law while he's warden at the municipal prison. See there, Dr. Arkham? That's how you maintain control against costumed vigilantes! You could learn something!

Meanwhile, in Dr. Octopus' special cell where he spent all of about three months in, the doctor pats himself on the back for not trying to escape and therefore getting time off for good behavior (I'm guessing about 30 years off?) and enjoys the fact that he's managed to get much better at using his extra arms, guaranteeing that he'll never be captured again.

Meanwhile, Peter heads home and gets to work on a new gizmo that he hopes will help him keep track of Dr. Octavius (oddly, he's only referred to as Dr. Octopus, even by the law enforcement community) just in case he gets up to anything wicked.

But what device could it be? Why, it's a tiny, transistorized spider that can send back coded messages to a receiver, allowing Spider-Man to track it! It's a spider tracer! Hooray! These things actually are awesome and come in handy all the time! Maybe the birth of the spider tracer will signal *hehe* the death of the Spider Light! We can only hope, true believers!

Anyway, Spider-Man hides out in a tree as Dr. Octopus leaves the prison, scoffing at the idea of getting a regular job and instead getting into a yellow car driven by.. gasp.. Betty Brant!! What is she doing there? As they drive off, a road map fell out of the car, so Spider-Man rushes to retrieve it, knowing that he can't possibly keep up with the car.

Using "spider-powered muscles" (no, I'm not making that up..) he manages to plant the tracer on the car before taking a look at the road map, still shaking his head that Betty Brant was the driver of the car. It turns out that the map is of Philadelphia, causing Spider-Man to plan his trip as Betty's brother is show in the city of brotherly love, talking with a man named "Blackie" about his gambling debt. Oh! That's why Betty was in the car! Well, it all makes sense now!

Turns out that Betty's brother is Blackie's brother, whom he also owes a gambling debt to. Not sure the Bar really approves of that kind of thing, but whatcha gonna do. Maybe Mr. Brant made a name for himself getting sentences reduced from three weeks down to three days for serial killers and bank robbers.

On the next page, we get the rest of the story, with Blackie obviously being in prison and Bennett Brant (there are those double letters again.. the story is that Stan Lee had a terrible memory, so the double letters helped him remember all the different characters he created) visiting him. Doctor Octopus is supposed to help break Blackie out of prison, since I suppose he doesn't want to wait the full three days before his sentence is up. Or, maybe Blackie is a non-violent drug offender serving three consecutive life sentences. Who knows in this screwy legal world of Spider-Man's!

I know, I keep hitting on that, but seriously! How does Dr. Octopus get released in such a short amount of time? I just can't get over it!

OK, regaining focus - the male BB walks into his apartment to find Doc Ock attacking the female BB for not talking to him on the drive over from New York. Wow. This guy really wants to be social. Betty cowers until she sees Bennett comign through the door, hoping that he'll save the day.

All that really happens, though, is Doc Ock slaps him and tells him to meet the doc in the other room to talk business. After a touching exchange between siblings, where Bennett reassures Betty that he'll make her proud of him, he still feels trapped in his situation and goes off to help plan Blackie's escape.

Meanwhile, back at home, Peter is hanging out with Evil Overlord May, telling her that he's thinking of taking a trip to Philadelphia. Somehow, she's totally okay with that! Not one fight or insistence that he be accompanied by J. Jonah Jameson or any other crotchety adult. Instead, she apologizes for not going along with him. I guess her swingers' club is meeting that weekend. Who knows what evil people get up to in their own time when not busy overlording.

Peter hops a jet that he can mysteriously afford and then swings through Philly, looking for a signal. It takes a while, but he finally picks it up and decides to change into his clothing as Peter to try and find out what is going on with Betty.

Overwhelmed with seeing her again, he tells her that he came looking for her and had heard that Spider-Man was in Philadelphia as well and could help her brother. He decides that he wants to confess everything to Betty once they are back in New York, but first he has to deal with Dr. Octopus breaking Blackie out of prison.
He determines that Doc Ock is most likely to break Blackie out of the courthouse before they have a chance to put him in the more protected jail, so Spider-Man swings over while Dr. Octopus works on earning the $100,000 that Blackie has promised for freeing him.

Unfortunately, he arrives as the alarm is already sounding, and uses his webs to black out a spot-light shining on him to give himself a chance to get away. He knows that because he was spotted, he's likely to take the blame for the escape, but at this point he's gotten kind of used to taking the blame for everything.

It takes him a while, but he finally realizes that Betty might actually be in some small amount of danger and swings back over to where she was staying, but her and her brother have already been moved to a dingy tramp steamer that Blackie is going to use to get away. Turns out, Blackie doesn't really think much of leaving witnesses behind, which surely no one could have possibly foreseen!

Fortunately, they drive there in the car that Peter's (currently unnamed) Spider Tracer is attached to, so he can figure out where they are hiding. as Bennett begs to be released, he takes a solid right hook from Blackie as Betty screams, letting Spider-Man know that she's there as well.

As he hurries to reach her, he rather embarrassingly trips on some rope, spraining his ankle.

Look, let's just admit it. That's not very dignified.

At all.

Still, he's a trooper and surrenders to the two gun-toting thugs, letting them lead him to the bridge of the shop where all the rest are gathered. Not being a complete idiot, Blackie declares that this is a really bad idea and that they probably should have just killed Spider-Man when they found him. doctor Octopus, however, decides that with the money on board he doesn't need anyone else. Being intelligent, Peter takes the opportunity while everyone is making speeches to attack some of the thugs. He uses his webs to keep from having to use his ankle (smart! Almost makes up for spraining it in the first place) and swings around the cabin knocking people around.

Unfortunately, it doesn't last as he ends up wrestling with Blackie, causing him to fire his gun sporadically. Betty tries to get her brother out of the line of fire, but it's too late. Bennett gets in front of Betty to protect her and takes a bullet, saying that perhaps it's better that way since Betty is now free of the whole mess.

Betty doesn't really see it that way, being enraged with Spider-Man and declaring her hatred for him as she punches him over and over again. Unable to do anything about it as Spider-Man, he races off after Doc Ock and the other goons while being absolutely pissed off.

Once Blackie runs out of bullets, Spider-Man rushes him, tossing all of the goons around like canned salami as he forgets all about his ankle or anything but kicking some serious ass. Wading through the chaos, Doc Ock approaches Spider-Man, relishing his chance for revenge against Spider-Man (and even acknowledging that he only spent a freaking year in jail! Crazy!).

Oddly surprised that Doc Ock is attacking him, he tries to keep the distance between the two of them but forgets about his hurt ankle and lands on it wrong, hurting it even more. He tries to surprise Doc Ock, but only ends up getting caught by an arm. He uses the chance to tie a rope pulley around the arms, though, knocking Doc Ock off balance and letting him get free again.
With some fantastic quips, Spider-Man leads Doc Ock into the interior of the ship, using pretty much anything he can get his hands on to keep from being captured, but not able to actually get ahead. It does a great job of showing how canny and dangerous Doctor Octopus is, and gives Ditko the chance to really stretch his action muscles. Spider-Man breaks free to go and find Betty while two nameless thugs take her for a hostage.

Unfortunately, they run into Doc Ock first, who knocks them both out to get the money they stole, and Betty faints as Doctor Octopus spots a launch approaching that expects to pick up Blackie. Before Spider-Man can stop him, Doc Ock lowers himself to the approaching boat, taunting Spider-Man to follow him to the smaller boat, where there will be less room to move around.

Still, Spider-Man can't bring himself to quit, so he swings down to the boat.
They get locked into a brutal, close-range fight on the ship, but Spider-Man is tiring quickly and takes a chance to escape as the boat they are on crashes into a piling, sending both villain and hero flying. Spider-Man kicks himself for letting Doc Ock get away, but knows that checking on Betty is much more important, declaring that the next time he meets his enemy, his ankle won't be holding him back.

Before he can approach Betty, he sees that she's already with the police and there is nothing more that he can do for her. With her brother dead and Blackie arrested and already confessing, Betty is taken away for treatment as Spider-Man retreats back into the night.
Webbing up his injured ankle, he goes to Betty dressed as Peter and comforts her, trying to help her cope with her brother's death. She admits that she was wrong in blaming Spider-Man and that she doesn't hate him, but she could never handle seeing him again as he would just remind her of Bennett. Wracked with guilt, Peter tells her that he understands and walks off into the night in one of the most iconic Spider-Man panels Steve Ditko has ever drawn, the giant specter of Spider-Man looming over the small, helpless Peter. It's absolutely gorgeous.

This turned into a bit longer of a review than I normally do, but it was just a classic issue for all kinds of reasons. The introduction of the Spider Tracer, Peter's first time wanting to tell someone his secret, the escape of a villain and second defeat of Spider-Man (Doc Ock has now been the only person twice to get the best of Spider-Man, although random pile of rope can certainly get some of the credit), and the explanation of Betty's back story that's been building for a few issues. It really defines Peter in a way that none of the issues have before now, giving him a far deeper character than just the stereotypical, down on his luck nerd. It's totally and without reservation getting a rating of:

Oh! And by the way.. want to make a living selling shoes?


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