Sunday, 10 January 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #157. Dr Octopus and Hammerhead

Amazing Spider-Man #157, dr octopus attacks spider-man from a helicopter flying over the streets of new york
(Cover from June 1976.)

"The Ghost That Haunted Octopus!"

Words by Len Wein.
Pencils by Ross Andru.
Inks by Mike Esposito.
Lettering by John Costanza.
Colours by Glynis Wein.


Just as in real life, people in comic books can change.

Admittedly, in the mighty world of Marvel Comics, they tend to change after being bombarded with radiation.

Dr Octopus is no exception. The difference being that, rather than changing into a big green monster, or a man with elastic limbs, Dr Octopus has changed into a drunken bum. That's nuclear accidents for you. Despite everything you might hope, they're rarely your friend.

Admittedly, the change in Octopus was wrought by the aftermath of the accident, rather than the accident itself but, aww, who cares? Nuclear accidents, I like to blame them for anything that goes wrong in Marvel's version of New York City.

But what about that atomic explosion? Wasn't Doc Ock blown to pieces the last time we saw him? He was but you can't keep a good villain down. He survived by climbing down a shaft and wrapping himself in his tentacles. Now he's back and determined to yet again become the fine, upstanding member of the community he's always been.

But more than just his lifestyle seems to have been rejigged. Dr Octopus's attitude has too. He's still a ruthless villain but now, his internal monologue suggests he really is taken with Aunt May, where, before, the implication's always been that he's been using her for his sinister ends. Maybe I'm a slushy romantic but I'm more than happy with this development. It makes Ock a more developed and complex character than the two dimensional one we've seen over the years. It's also good to see his embarrassment as he sits on the sofa with Peter Parker. Once, he would've warned Peter to, "Keep quiet if you know what's good for you." Now he merely squirms and politely asks him to pass the Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Sadly, no sooner has he told Parker how he survived the nuclear blast, than they have another visitor, as Hammerhead barges in.

Except Octopus isn't the only one who's changed. Hammerhead has too.

Now he's a ghost.

And he's out for revenge.

There's the obvious question here of just what Dr Octopus is frightened of. After all, Hammerhead's ghost seems to have no substance to it at all, meaning it's hard to see what harm it can do to either Octopus or Aunt May. Still this doesn't stop Octopus smashing out through the wall with Aunt May, nor stop Spider-Man from chasing him and trying to fight him. Quite why Spider-Man's so determined to fight Octopus when all Octopus is doing is trying to save his aunt from Hammerhead - the true aggressor in this tale - is something Spider-Man of course doesn't question. It's a Pavlovian response with him. He sees a super-villain, he has to hit him.

On other matters, we learn the Spider-Mobile's gone missing. You have to congratulate Len Wein on this development, as he must be the only person by this stage who actually even recalled its existence.

Liz Allen and Harry Osborn are starting to get friendly with each other, which is nice to see. They've both been under used in recent months, so it's pleasing to see them get some sort of storyline.

Not for the first time over the years, we get a cliffhanger ending that involves Spider-Man falling from a great height. As he managed to survive all his previous falls with ease, I have a feeling he won't be joining Hammerhead next issue in becoming a ghost.

Then again, I could be wrong. Will next month see the first ever adventure of Spider-Ghost?

Time will tell.

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