28 Jan 2013 09:41 am

Dr. Strange Ock or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Superior Spider-Man

If you've been following "Spider-Man" lately, you know there was a big shocker on the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man #700". One of Spider-Man's long-time foes Doctor Octopus was dying of cancer, so he succeeded in transferring his mind to Spider-Man's body. Peter Parker, in Doc Ock's body, tried to reverse the change, but died of Octopus' illness. Meanwhile, Doctor Octopus found the transfer was a two-way street - while he has all of Spider-Man's powers, he also has all of his memories, including the "with great power comes great responsibility" bit. So living inside Peter's body, Doctor Octopus has set out to become the "superior" Spider-Man - but unbeknownst to him, Peter Parker is still present as a spirit capable of influencing Ock's actions.

This happens a lot in comics. Usually, the most creative storylines occur after the death of a major character for one of two reasons. First of all, the death of a major characters always brings the media bandwagon. And secondly, death is rarely permanent in comics. In the past, we've seen Bucky take over as Captain America, the first Robin take over as Batman and even Spider-Man himself take the Human Torch's spot on the Fantastic Four, but it's mostly been hand-waved way with the return of said deceased character.

Of course, when the news broke, I had dozens of people telling me Spider-Man was gone for good. About a month ago, I saw friends even posted long eulogies for poor Peter Parker on Facebook, ignoring the obvious. They were quick to point out that Peter Parker died and stayed dead in "Ultimate Spider-Man", a different re-telling of Spider-Man set in an alternate universe. The difference with "Ultimate Spider-Man" is that the Ultimate Universe was, after ten years, all out of tricks, and you could see it in the writing. The series needed something new, and found it with Peter Parker's replacement, a African-American youth named Miles Morales.

But Doctor Octopus is no Miles Morales. Overlooking the "ick" factor of seeing Doctor Octopus on a date night with Mary Jane, there's no way this status quo can continue indefinitely. On a purely pragmatic note, we've got less than 15 months before the release of "Amazing Spider-Man 2". Marvel will definitely want a jumping-on point for new readers, one that probably doesn't involve Doctor Octopus in the driver's seat.

Story-wise, the premise requires more than the average amount of suspension of disbelief. The biggest problem is that Doctor Octopus doesn't sound anything like Peter Parker. I'm still waiting for the moment when Mary Jane cold-cocks "Peter" for acting so strangely, and for using words like "fiend" and "thwarted". Daredevil already noted something was off about Spider-Man on issue, and I'm sure other heroes will too. What I'm really worried about is the whole situation being resolved too quickly. Magic has always been something of a deus ex machina in Marvel Comics. What's to stop Doctor Strange from noticing Peter's spirit hovering over his body, snapping his fingers, and setting everything right?

For me, the most compelling thing about this story and find out where the characters go from here. Can Peter Parker retake his body without effectively killing Doc Ock? And what effects with Doc Ock's tenure as Spider-Man have on Peter's life? It's already been implied Spider-Man will be fired from the Avengers, most likely for Ock's use of extreme force. What bearing will Ock's actions have on Peter's employment at Horizon Labs, or Peter's relationship with his loved one? Personally, I think the richest parts of the story will see Peter trying to recover from the damage done by Doctor Octopus.

While it's a not perfect set-up, it's one that has been hooked, thanks in no small part to the writing of Dan Slott. I've been a fan of his since "Spider-Island". Slott writes the web-slinger as genuinely funny, but also genuinely human - he's probably one of the best writers to get the core of Spider-Man in at least a decade - if not more. Where ever Slott - or more specifically Doc Ock - takes Spider-Man, I'm happily along for the ride.

(That's it for this rant. Blue Yonder returns February 13th!)

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