Sunday, 29 November 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #131. Dr Octopus & Aunt May's wedding

Amazing Spider-Man #131, Aunt May, wedding dress, Dr Octopus
(Cover from April 1974.)

"My Uncle... My Enemy?"

Words by Gerry Conway.
Pencils by Ross Andru.
Inks by Giacoia and Hunt.
Lettering by Artie Simek.
Colours by P Golderg.

Telly Savalas. He knew of what he spoke.

So, Spider-man flings itself as far into the realms of the unlikely as it could have done had Peter Parker discovered the entrance to Narnia in the back of his wardrobe. Maybe Gerry Conway was saving that storyline for later. It turns out that, unknown to her, Aunt May's inherited a Canadian island containing a nuclear reactor - as you do - so it's off to Canada for the lot of them.

Dr Octopus, meanwhile, seems somewhat confused. We're initially told he wants the island because it contains a nuclear reactor with which he can create weapons to terrorise the world but then, later, he's startled to discover the island contains a nuclear reactor. If he didn't know that, why was he so desperate to get the island in the first place? For that matter, Hammerhead clearly doesn't know the place contains a nuclear reactor either (or even seem to know what a nuclear reactor is!) so the pair of them seem to be battling over a barren lump of rock without either of them having any reason to think it's worth having.

For that matter, where are the plant's workforce? Since when is a potential atomic bomb left unattended?

On top of that. Only last issue it was established that Spidey can't drive. Now he's flying a jet.

And what's happening with Hammerhead? Here, he leaps, feet first, into the world of the lame. After last issue's partial rehabilitation, where he was happy to kill people - even his own flunkies - this issue his men are armed only with stun guns. Stun guns? This is supposed to be a ruthless killer.

Aunt May's stupidity hits new levels as, even as Doc Ock is calling his men dolts in front of her and threatening to have them done away with, she still doesn't seem to register that he might not be the nicest man in the world. Even Octopus producing a secret helicopter - and a secret island - from nowhere doesn't seem to make her seriously question him.

And since when can, "the slightest vibration," cause a nuclear reactor to explode? What idiot designed that thing?

Mary Jane Watson leaves the party, Amazing Spider-Man #131The odd thing is that, despite the ludicrousness of it all, I actually don't mind this story that much. I mean, I could tear it apart all day long but it's a comic book and comic books are an odd sort of art form. Where novels, movies and TV shows can be destroyed by silliness, comic books are strangely immune to it. In fact, they often feed on it. Let's face it, Galactus and the Silver Surfer are pretty ridiculous but that never stopped their first appearance in the Fantastic Four from being a classic. In truth, my real gripe would be that this issue's pretty much action from start to finish, whereas, the appeal of Spider-Man has always lain most in its quieter moments.

This means that the true highlight for me is actually well away from the action.

Back in New York, at the tale's finale, Mary Jane and Betty Brant discuss MJ's relationship with Peter Parker. In a masterful piece of visual story-telling, Ross Andru uses light, shade and a few snowflakes to unveil a darker, more troubled side to MJ than we've ever seen before. I told you Telly Savalas was right. A picture really can paint a thousand words and, here, Ross Andru proves it.

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