This post features mild spoilers for PS4’s Spider-Man.
I’ve been rather busy as of late; it’s a busy period at the cinema due to it being half term, I’ve been trying to keep my other blog up to date with new reviews and posts, and I’ve also been doing the ’31 Days of Horror Challenge’ over at Cultured Vultures.
But I haven’t forgotten about New to Comics, so this week we return with Last Legs, the story from The Amazing Spider-Man #600, which marks a turning point for Doctor Octopus, and the changes within, in turn, would go on to influence the super-villain’s portrayal in the new Spider-Man game.
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: John Romita, Jr.
Real Name: Otto Gunther Octavius
Affiliation: The Sinister Six
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #3 (July 1963)
A brilliant scientist, Otto Octavius used his scientific prowess to become a master in both atomic physics and mechanics. Combining these skills, Otto created a set of four mechanical tentacles, resistant to radiation and able to function to an incredibly precise degree, to aid him in his nuclear experiments. However, during an accident at his laboratory, Octavius was caught in an explosion that fused his artificial appendages to his body, driving him to a life of crime. As the founder and leader of the Sinister Six, Doctor Octopus has plagued Spider-Man on many occasions, but in recent years, outdid all of Spider-Man’s other foes by swapping minds with the wall-crawler and dubbing himself the ‘Superior Spider-Man’. Now returned to his own body, Otto uses his skills as a super-villain to continue his life as an anti-hero, in the hopes that he can be remembered for something other than being defeated by Spider-Man, and to prove he is ‘superior’ to all those around him, hero and villain alike.
WHAT’s THE STORY?
Amazing Spider-Man: Last Legs is the milestone issue set during the Brand New Day era of Spider-Man comic-books. A point where the comic was coming out multiple times and month and had a brain-trust of sorts, who worked together to deliver Spider-Man stories at a heightened rate.
It was a point, post-Civil War, where Marvel were taking Spider-Man back to basics. They’d retconned his unmasking during the aforementioned event, along with his long-standing marriage to Mary-Jane Watson. Other changes included the resurrection of Harry Osborn. Now free to move in new directions, the majority of early stories focused around Spider-Man in combat with new super-villains like Mister Negative. However, around Amazing Spider-Man #600, the Spider-Man brain-trust started bringing back some of Spider-Man’s older villains. They’d made appearances prior to now, of course, but Last Legs was the grand reintroduction of Doctor Octopus, and in subsequent issues, other villains like Electro, the Rhino and Kraven the Hunter would be similarly revamped.
When it came to choosing a story for this week, I wasn’t sure where to go. At first, I thought of Dying Wish – the story in which Doctor Octopus finally defeats Spider-Man by swapping minds with him, as it was a chance to literally get inside the mind of one of Spider-Man’s greatest villains; something I think the new game did especially well. Then I thought why not go the whole way and check out Superior Spider-Man, the subsequent run where Doctor Octopus cements his place as Spider-Man, using gadgets and suits not unlike the video-game version of the character.
Then, after having a ton of fun reading Learning Curve, I toyed with the idea of just continuing on with Ultimate Spider-Man, as the next arc, Double Trouble was the modern day reintroduction of ‘Doc Ock’. But all the while, my copy of Amazing Spider-Man #600 had been sitting on my desk, watching me make all these decisions, and I realised that it was perhaps the perfect choice.
As I mentioned previously, Last Legs sees a reinvention of Doctor Octopus, showing readers what happens when a man with no powers gets repeatedly punched in the head by super-heroes.. his body begins to fail. This in turn would be adapted into the Spider-Man game, as one of the driving forces in Octavius’ turn to villainy is the fact that while his mind is as sharp as ever, his body is slowly wasting away from a degenerative disease.
Similarly, this comic-book also showcases the importance of Aunt May in Peter’s life, has Mary-Jane return to confront Peter after a long absence, and also has one of Spider-Man’s major foes in the role of Mayor of New York. Not Norman Osborn, like in the game, but former Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
Peter Parker’s doting Aunt May is getting married! With her upcoming nuptials mere days away, the Parker and Jameson clans are hard at work to make sure everything goes according to plan. But with Spider-Man’s classic ‘Parker Luck’ in the mix, things are destined to go wrong, and the days leading up to the wedding just so happen to coincide with another world-dominating plan from Doctor Octopus.
After years of suffering trauma at the hands of super-powered beings, Doctor Octopus is on his last legs and more reckless than ever, and the only way for Spider-Man to make sure his Aunt’s wedding is a success is to stop Ock from taking over New York and indulging his petty desires, such as ruining his ex’s wedding!
Yeah, that’s right, Aunt May and Doctor Octopus used to be engaged. That’s comic-books for you.
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
Yes and no. Thanks to the aforementioned Brand New Day, Spider-Man’s status quo, whilst having been returned to something resembling his classic stories, definitely features a lot of changes that someone jumping in wont be familiar with.
Peter has a new roommate, he works at a different newspaper to the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson’s the Mayor of New York and Aunt May is engaged to Jameson’s father, who wasn’t present in the comics until after Brand New Day came into continuity.
However, the simplistic nature of the story doesn’t really require any background reading. Sure, there are new supporting characters that you won’t be familiar with, but at the end of the day, this is a story about Spider-Man, New York City, Aunt May and Doctor Octopus, all of whom are stalwarts of many Spider-Man stories, and really the only ones you need to know about.
WHAT’s THE VERDICT?
I really dig this story. If someone told me to pick out one single issue of Spider-Man to give to someone who had never read a Spider-Man comic-book before, I would consider this one. It’s penned by a Spider-Man writer who has been on the title for years, it features art from one of the major Spider-Man artists, and tells a well-rounded Spider-Man tale. It’s funny, it’s emotional, and it demonstrates all the main traits of Peter Parker, from his tardiness to his amazing intellect.
Plus, it really builds up Doctor Octopus as a force to be reckoned with, both visually and mentally. The changes made to Ock in this comic would slowly build over the next 100 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, and take things in a brand new direction come Amazing Spider-Man #700. In fact, the fall-out from Ock’s impact on Spider-Man’s life, as seen in these comics, is still being felt to this day (and at this point, we’ve moved past issue #800).
On top of that writing and the integral nature of the story to Spider-Man cannon, it also features some great art. John Romita, Jr. is an artist who varies in quality, and I think his strengths lean more to Spider-Man than they do say, the Avengers (I have his run on Avengers somewhere, it looked pretty messy). But here, he really shines, in part due to the inks and colours by Klaus Janson and Dean White, respectively. I don’t talk about the inkers and colourists much on this blog, but they really can make or break and comic-book. The combination of these three artists really makes these pages pop. It’s vibrant and fun, and I really love the way their styles mesh together (especially when the Human Torch is on the page).
It’s just great art, with a great story that can be enjoyed by itself, or as part of a larger tale, that I would definitely recommend. Plus after the main story there’s a ton of fun smaller stories that pad out the issue that are worth reading in and of themselves.