Monday, January 13, 2014

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #12

This is it, true believers! The exciting 12th issue of The Amazing Spider-Man! Assuming a monthly schedule, this means that we've hit one year's worth of issues, or by this website's review schedule, three full months worth of coverage. This one is the second part of a two-part story started in issue 11, so I recommend reading that write-up if you haven't already. If you're already caught up, or if you figure you'll just put it together as you go, join me as we dive into the first public unmasking of Spider-Man and another epic battle against Doctor Octopus!

After getting away at the end of issue 11, Doctor Octopus is back to continue his crime spree! Meanwhile, the splash page tells us that wild animals are on the rampage, Evil Overlord May will continue to manipulate Peter's life, and J. Jonah Jameson will rant about Spider-Man! That.. sounds pretty par for the course, so let's see what Stan Lee's writing and Steve Ditko's art can do to change things up a little.

We start the actual issue with the front page of the Daily Bugle telling us that Spider-Man is an overrated crime fighter and that Dr. Octopus escaped him. In a nice touch of continuity, the by-line even states that the story is from Philadelphia, PA, where the last issue took place. I have to admit, I'm loving the new tendency for one issue to affect the next. It really adds to the overall stakes to have a story that grows over time.

Peter is bothered by the news article and decides to do something that's never, ever worked against him and goes to confront Jameson about the article. He gets there just in time to see his secretary quitting just in time for Betty Brant to show up and want her job back. It's actually a pretty clever scene, with Jameson wondering why secretaries keep quitting on him just because they don't want to be yelled at. That Jameson is nothing if not a charmer.

Seeing Betty, Spider-Man decides not to attack Jameson and instead changes clothing and goes to see how she's settling into her job. Jameson welcomes him with an open invitation to leave (such a charmer!) as Betty tells Peter to call her later at home. Well, that was riveting.

Thankfully, we have Doctor Octopus to push the plot along, and the next page shows him moving from city to city, pulling off various cons and robberies. He admits that his escapes are getting more and more narrow, but he's desperate to pull off enough crime to gain Spider-Man's attention. The master plan is to get Spider-Man to.. uhm.. ambush him, apparently, and then destroy him.

Yeah, Doctor Octopus is an extremely lazy villain. He waits for the villain to come to him.

And why isn't Spider-Man attacking Dr. Octopus?  Why, Evil Overlord May, of course!! She thinks he might have a fever and a cold, so she forces him to stay home, where he broods over the fact hat he can't afford the fare to get to the last place that Doc Ock attacked, even if his Evil Overlord allowed him to.

Stuck at school, he walks up just as Flash Thompson defends the reputation of Spider-Man and Liz Allen ponders again just who the masked marvel could be. The Bugle goes so far as to publish a close-up picture of a spider just to make it look even more dangerous and ruin Spider-Man's reputation. Fox News has nothing on Jameson!
Flash decides that Peter must know about spiders, since he's a science geek, so they ask him what he knows about them. In order to protect his identity, he declares that spiders are icky and he doesn't even want to talk about them. So, anyone with knowledge of spiders could be Spider-Man? Seems like a bit of overkill, but then I don't have a secret identity to protect. Who knows what it could drive men to do?

Saved by the class bell, Peter kicks himself and trudges off to class as Betty gets a phone call that quietly hangs up on her. Hilariously, it's Doc Ock using his tentacle to prank dial Betty and verify she still works at the Bugle. The idea that he is so lazy he uses his arms for dialing is just amazing to me. That Doc is a pimp!

Betty believes that the caller sounded like Dr. Octopus, but continues working through the day regardless. Peter swings by to take Betty home just as Doc Ock busts through the window, calling Peter "sonny" and declaring that he has his own plans for Betty. *shudder* I don't even want to think about that one! At least he isn't trying to marry Evil Overlord May!

Wait, what's that? Oh.. oh, that'll be fun to write about. *shudder shudder*

Anyway, Doc Ock snatches up Betty, Jameson, and Peter and holds them away from them as Peter is crippled by the fact that he's dressed in normal clothing. (For the record, this page also features the second half-mask face of the issue) Octavius tells Jameson to run a story in his paper that he has Betty at Coney Island and that Spider-Man needs to show up to save her, and show up alone. Of course, he can also send one photographer, and Jameson quickly decides that it will be Peter, leaving him to wonder how he can be both Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Gasp!

Still, Peter isn't about to leave Betty in trouble, so he accepts the photography assignment. The paper issues its special edition, and Peter quickly changes clothing, pops back into Jameson's office as Spider-Man and shines his *sigh* Spider-Light at him.

After pointlessly highlighting Jameson in red light, he heads off to Coney Island, only to notice that he isn't sticking to walls as well as usual, deciding he must actually be getting a cold. Despite his unexpected handicap, however, he keeps heading toward Coney Island as Jameson decides that he can't take the chance of Peter screwing up the pictures and heads off to Coney Island himself.

 At the top of the roller coaster, which looks astoundingly like a Ferris Wheel (oops), Betty panics that Spider-Man won't bother to show up, so Doc Ock dangles her off of the Ferris Wheel (look, I'm not going to pretend that it's a roller coaster) and threatens her life as he kills some time.

Villainy - 10% evil, 90% bored.

Meanwhile, Peter is feeling worse and worse as his sickness takes him over (or Evil Overlord May poisoned him. It's one of the two) but refuses to stop, so he launches himself at Dr. Octavius from behind, grappling with him. He knows he's too weak for a long battle, so he tries to end it quickly with an epic punch, but he can barely even manage a love tap. Doc Ock isn't sure what's up, but he's suspicious, thinking that Spider-Man is trying some sort of trick.
Dr. Octopus isn't hindered by any virus, so he just sucker punches Spider-Man as he tries to figure out what Spider-Man's plan is. Unable to fight back at all, Spider-Man sucks up all of Doc Ock's punches and ends up practically unconscious as Betty, Jameson, and a couple of cops look on. Figuring there could only be one explanation, he tugs off Spider-Man's mask and reveals Peter Parker!!

But, of course, everyone just thinks Peter dressed up as Spider-Man to try and save Betty. Okay, let's be honest here - as far as reveals go, this one is pretty clever. It also is a nice middle finger to DC and their tendency to have Superman or Batman "unmasked" at least once a year, inevitably revealing that it's actually a dream or an alternate world. Trust me - comic book readers of this time period definitely would have understood the jab against the Distinguished Competition. Nicely played, Stan Lee.

Disgusted by the fake-out, Doc Ock tosses Peter at the gathered bystanders and makes a break for it. To the benefit of Peter, everyone thinks it was really pretty brave of him to pretend he's something he's not, and for once he actually gets some praise for his heroics, despite the fact that it's undoubtedly yet another utter failure.

Returned home and back under the care of Evil Overlord May, the doctor assures her that it's just a 24 hour virus. Peter rests, dreaming that Spider-Man visits him and berates him for attacking Doc Ock while weakened, but the next morning he's back to full speed and flipping around the room, so we can consider that plot device effectively finished.

Unfortunately, the police delivered his spider costume to Aunt May's house, which leads to her questioning what he was thinking impersonating that "dreadful Spider-Man", but Peter thinks quick and burns a bundle of rags while claiming that it's his outfit. At school, he is mocked by Flash, who suspects he was just trying to look good and never expected to run into the villain, but praised by Liz who thinks he's just the super grooviest. In fact, she actually defends Peter, which totally blows his mind!

Meanwhile, in his secret hide-out, Doc Ock tears a newspaper to shreds and rants about how he was turned into a laughing stock. To be fair, it was a dumb, overly complicated plan and he kind of deserves the ridicule. Still, he's bound by Villain Protocol to swear revenge.
Smashing a piece of wood because, uhm.. evil? he heads off to the zoo, leaving his basement hideout (basement hideout? Really? A basement? Dude, Doc, you've got to get better at this!!) to set all the animals free in an attempt to get Spider-Man's attention again.

In an attempt to get away from a newly love-sick Liz Allen, Peter changes into Spider-Man and hears some noise off in the distance, discovering a lion threatening a crowd of people. Thinking quick, and in a hilarious moment admitting he's never actually fought a lion before, he hops onto its back and leads it to the police, who quickly net it.

From there, it's up to Animal Control Spider-Man (where's the action figure for that one?) to wrangle a bear and a gorilla before finally being able to get back after Doc Ock once again.. and this time, he's healthy!
Jameson watches as Spider-Man tussles with Doc Ock, wondering for a moment if perhaps it's Peter in disguise again. After a clever dodge from Doc Ock's strike, however, which leads to Jameson being soaked from a smashed water tower, Jameson is convinced he's watching the real deal as Betty wonders if Spider-Man really stands a chance at all.

Spider-Man is equally worried as he climbs up a smoke stack, trying to come up with a way to deal with the robotic arms and very quickly running out of places to escape to. At the top of the stack, he dives off of it, swinging around it quickly and binding Doc Ock to it with his webbing. It only works for a moment before Doc Ock is free once again, though, and the chase is on as Spider-Man pairs his agility against Doc Ock's brute strength.

Sucker-punched by Doc Ock, Spider-Man lowers himself down an air shaft, then makes a web sling shot to launch himself out of it, socking Doc Ock squarely on the jaw in a pretty clever move. Spider-Man struggle to keep Doc Ock off balance, and the battle ends up landing them in the middle of a deserted sculptor's studio.

Doc Ock starts a fire, declaring that this battle will be their last as only one will survive. Peter tries to talk some sense into him, but blinded by his anger, he gets pinned by a falling sculpture. Despite trying to save him, the floor collapses on Doc Ock before Spider-Man can get there, with the flames leaping too high for him to get through.

It's at that moment that he realizes he's spent so much time worrying about Doc Ock that he's forgotten he's in danger from the fire himself. 
He decides he needs to make a fire shield out of his webbing, only to discover that he's run completely empty. This gives Steve Ditko a chance to show the engineering of the web shooters and spider-belt, which is actually pretty well done. (Click on the image above for a larger view) He pulls another web cartridge out of his belt, pops it into place, and makes a large shield and stepping sotnes for him to get through the fire safely.

Free of the building, he manages to change clothes back to Peter Parker and immediately runs into Liz Allen and Flash Thompson, both watching the fire. Flash tries to mock Peter, but he's not having any of it and tells off Flash as Liz holds onto him lovingly.

In the meantime, Doc Ock is discovered by fire fights and dragged out unconscious, where he is arrested and led off to his jail cell, surely to serve another hard sentence of four months or so and swearing revenge as he's led off.

To finish off Peter's good day, Liz Allen asks him to a party that night, and Peter turns her down as he declares he has a date with Betty Brant, whether she knows it or not. Walking off with a newly found swagger, he hands Liz off to Flash, saying that Liz will just have to settle for him.

Liz is a class act, though, admitting that she and Flash deserve the treatment after how they've acted to Peter over the years. Peter retrieves his camera, looking forward to cashing in on the pictures as he celebrates what turned out to be a pretty awesome day. 

That closes out the first 12 issues of Spider-Man! Next issue, we have Mysterio making his first appearance. It's the introduction of a character that absolutely frustrates me. There are times when he's truly awesome and times where he's just totally misused. Where does his first appearance land him? You'll just have to come back next week to find out! In the meantime, I'm proud to give this clever issue..


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