Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #157

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Ghost That Haunted Octopus!"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 2001.

Background...

This is the third Spider-Man/Hammerhead/Doc Ock story. The first one kicked off in Amazing Spider-Man #113, the second began in Amazing Spider-Man #130. So, let's see what has happened between that most recent battle and this one we are about to cover. Well, Liz Allen and the Molten Man returned, the Tarantula made his debut, the Punisher re-appeared, Harry Osborn became the Green Goblin and blew up his and Pete's apartment, the Mindworm and Grizzly were introduced, Pete moved into a new place and met Glory Grant, the Danny Berkhart Mysterio tried to drive Spidey mad and caused him to drive his Spider-Mobile into the drink, Pete went to Paris and faced off against the Cyclone, the Scorpion, Professor Smythe, the Shocker and the Sandman all came back for more, a new writer took over, and Spidey matched wits with a killer computer (aren't they all?). And something else... what was it... oh yeah! Something having to do with clones and stuff!

Anyway, this one picks up where the previous issue (Amazing Spider-Man #156) left off. PPP. Ned and Betty have gotten married, Mirage has been defeated, and the mysterious derelict arrived at Aunt May's house and revealed himself to be Dr. Octopus.

In Detail...

"The Ghost That Haunted Octopus!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #157
Jun 1976 : SMURF 157.500 : SM Title
Summary: Ghost of Hammerhead, Dr. Octopus
Arc: Part 1 of "The Ghost That Haunted Octopus!"
Editor:  Len Wein
Writer:  Len Wein
Pencils:  Ross Andru
Inker:  Mike Esposito
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
Staff Only
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Review
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #134
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #7
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), Flash Thompson, Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Hammerhead, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn

It is a late winter's night with a breeze that can cut right through you, yet Spider-Man is diving off a dock into the Hudson River. It seems that our hero was perusing the Daily Bugle personals when he came across an item from Corona Motors, threatening to sue the wall-crawler if he didn't produce the Spider-Mobile "and pronto!" The problem is Spidey succumbed to an illusion cast by Mysterio back in ASM #141 (February 1975) that caused him to accidentally drive his car into the river. Which is where it should still be.

He swims to the bottom of the river and turns on his spider-signal so he can see through all the crud. Something glints in the light. On closer examination, it turns out to be the S-Mobile's side-view mirror. But the rest of the car is nowhere to be found. This puzzles Spidey since he knows the auto was too heavy to get carried away by the current. "So how did it disappear?" He heads to the surface with the intention of grabbing another "lungful of air" and then keep searching but when he gets to the surface two policemen (named Kelly and Cohen) are standing on the dock and they are pointing their guns right at him.

Apparently, Spidey is still wanted for questioning and these men aim to bring him in. They tell him to put his hands up. The tricky wall-crawler complies but also shoots webbing as he does so. In an extremely nifty move, he snags the hands of the cops and pulls them both into the water, even as he uses the webbing to flip back up to the dock himself. Then, he web-slings away, leaving the cops wondering "what're we gonna do when we have to explain this to the Sarge" down at headquarters.

Meanwhile, on the Upper East Side, Flash Thompson, in a purplish car, picks Harry Osborn up from his therapy sessions. At this point, Harry is back in public life after cracking up and becoming the second Green Goblin. He is currently rooming with Flash Thompson (but don't ask me to tell you just when that team-up occurred). In the car, Harry tells Flash that he "can't remember anything that happened during the weeks right after my father died" (which is a good thing for Mr. Peter Parker) but that Dr. Banning says he is adjusting well. (At some point, Dr. Banning is replaced by Dr. Hamilton and then look out!) During the conversation, Flash hasn't bothered to budge the car from its parking space. This allows Liz Allen to knock on the window on the passenger side. Harry, in his shy, hesitant, post-Goblin state, calls her "Miss Allen" and tells her it is nice to see her again. (And I just noticed he's got orange eyes! What's the deal with that?) "Please Harry, call me Liz", replies Miss Allen. She reminds him that he tried to protect her from the Mirage in ASM #156 (May 1976), then asks if he will buy her a cup of coffee. Harry agrees. Arm-in-arm, Liz and Harry take their leave of a surprised Flash.

Over "in a pleasantly-decorated apartment in Forest Hills" (An apartment? Okay, I'm completely confused. Where does Aunt May live now?), May Parker offers a parcel tied up with string to her guest, Otto Octavius, currently garbed in his ragged derelict outfit. The parcel contains clothing belonging to him that May has held on to all this time. She orders him to wash up while she fixes some tea. Otto takes a shower (with his shades on), shaves, combs his hair, opens the parcel, and puts on his familiar green jumpsuit. As he does so, he thinks about what a good woman May is, how she has taken him back "without question, without hesitation" after he "virtually stranded [her] at the altar on our wedding day" (If Ock would look back to ASM #131 (April 1974), he'd know that he didn't strand her at all. He had to flee from Hammerhead's attack and then he got blown up.), and that he will use the "faith and confidence of one sweet, gentle woman" to stand up to the shadows that pursue him. Now, back in his old outfit with his old confidence, he scoops May up in his tentacles and declares, "Doctor Octopus lives again!" "Oh, Otto, you're such a tease", says May.

An hour later, Peter Parker shows up at his Aunt's place with a bucket of fried chicken. May introduces him to her guest and Peter is stunned to see Doc Ock sitting on the couch, one metal arm holding a cup of tea, another holding a napkin, a third holding a plate of cookies and the fourth raising a cookie up to his mouth. An embarrassed Ock puts all the stuff down, shakes hands with Peter and tells him it is "nice to see you again". Peter is still just trying to figure out how Octavius can still be alive. Pete decides that he needs to get his Aunt out of harm's way, so he asks May if she will bring him his red sweater. May wanders off trying to remember where the red sweater could be. (So, May is now living in an apartment but she still has all of Peter's stuff? What's up with that?)

With his Aunt out of the room, Pete tells Doc to come clean or "six arms or otherwise, I'm gonna wring your chubby neck". Ock swears he means no harm to Pete or his Aunt. He takes a drumstick from the bucket of chicken, starts chowing down, and tells Pete his story.

Ock tells Pete about the confrontation he had with Hammerhead in the nuclear plant on the Canadian island back in ASM #131. Hammerhead ignores Ock's warning that any "vibration could set off a chain reaction" and he charges headfirst. Ock dodges and Hammy's head crashes through the atomic breeder's control panel. But, surprisingly, "the reactor didn't explode on impact", though the chain reaction has begun. Hammerhead's head is stuck in the control panel and he cannot get loose. He asks Ock for assistance but the good Doctor runs for his life instead. He finds one of his henchmen who has found a "safety shaft... in case that breeder gizmo ever went haywire". It is a metal tube sunk in the ground with a lid that looks like the entrance to a submarine. Using one of his metal arms, Ock grabs the man and yanks him away, then punches him in the nose, callously leaving him to die in order to save himself. With the henchman begging for help, Ock climbs into the shaft and seals it. He wraps his tentacles around himself as further protection and prays. At that moment, Hammerhead manages to get his head free but the critical mass is reached and the island explodes. Out of all the men on the scene, only Ock survives, as he winds up "washed ashore on the mainland". It turns out his arms helped him to withstand the blast but "the explosion had grafted them to my flesh once more, permanently". Later, he "returned to New York to re-establish [his] criminal empire" but something began tormenting him, driving him to drink and the life of a derelict. He now tells Peter that only Aunt May can help him.

(This is how it's done, by the way. There should be a rule in super-hero comics: If you can't figure out a good way to bring a character back to life, then you can't use that character. Doc Ock's method of survival here answers all of the questions. I think the upcoming resurrection of Hammerhead works too. Well done, Len!)

At that moment, May returns and tells Peter she has just remembered that he doesn't own a red sweater. (Way to go, Pete. Take advantage of an old lady's bad memory.) Then she turns and sees something that shocks her. Peter sees it too. A figure enters the room, walking right through the wall, a figure that looks very much like Hammerhead. It speaks to Doc Ock, saying, "There is nowhere you can go that Hammerhead cannot find you... You murdered me and you're going to pay." Now we know why Octavius has been living in fear all this time. The ghost of Hammerhead is haunting him.

Predictably, Aunt May passes out. Then all hell breaks loose. Ock scoops May up (declaring, "I don't care what you do to me anymore but I won't allow you to harm this gentle innocent woman"), knocks Peter, the coffee table, and the bucket of chicken over and uses his tentacles to smash right through the brick wall. He flees through the night, determined to escape Hammerhead while Hammy does a fade-out, swearing, "wherever you go, I follow". Peter doesn't know what's going on with either one of these guys but he does know his Aunt could get badly hurt in the process. He changes into his Spidey togs and takes to the webs.

Ock is so spooked and reckless that he leaves an easy trail for Spider-Man to follow... a series of traffic accidents. Spidey swings around the corner of a building and spots him. He moves in for the kill, telling Otto that Peter Parker got in touch with him, to throw the arch-villain off the scent of his secret ID. But his attack backfires because Doc isn't interested in fighting. He's only interested in saving May Parker from Hammerhead. So, instead of fending off Spidey's maneuver, he simply... ducks. A surprised Spidey can't check his momentum and ends up crashing through the window of an apartment bedroom. Inside is a woman in curlers, sitting on her bed, doing her toenails, in the company of her police dog named Fang. When she sees "it's that Spider-Guy wanted by the police", she sics her dog on him. Spidey quickly gets his butt out of there.

Ock and Aunt May are long gone, of course, but his trail is still visible to Spider-Man. The route goes from "Queens Boulevard, across the 59th Street Bridge and straight into midtown Manhattan". Finally, the web-slinger catches up to his quarry, "turning down 42nd Street". This time he decides to try the direct approach. He swings up to Octopus and asks him if he's "gotten tired of carrying the little lady yet". Otto responds by smacking Spidey in the jaw with a tentacle. Spidey lands on a building and decides to take the kid gloves off.

He webs his way over and uses the old trick of blinding Doc with a blast of his webbing. Remember the "chemical enzyme, a solvent of my own invention" which allows Ock to remove the webbing in seconds back in ASM #113 (October 1972)? Well, it's hard to say if he still has it at this point. He doesn't make a mention of it but he certainly gets the glasses cleaned off in a hurry. For, soon after Spidey swoops down and snatches Aunt May from Ock's clutches, the Doctor is back in business using his tentacles to try to grab May right back. The webster has placed a still unconscious May on a rooftop, then he grabs the two tentacles that have reached up to take his Aunt back and holds onto them for dear life. Ock can see (because there is no trace of webbing on his face or glasses at all) that Spidey is having trouble maintaining his grip and he uses his leverage to dump him down to the street.

Ock retrieves May and continues on his way. Spidey's head is "ringing like a glockenspiel" (that's what it says!) and he has trouble finding his feet. Four bystanders who think they are big shots decide to take advantage of the wall-crawler's weakness and pounce on him. They recall that the Daily Bugle is offering a reward for the webhead's capture and they figure on collecting. Right. "You couldn't collect unemployment without help", says the webbed one, as he shoves the four men aside and takes to his webs once again.

Ahead, Ock has reached the Pan Am building and is scaling it. (The same place he picked up a helicopter ride back in ASM #130, March 1974, remember?) Spidey comes up right behind. One good blast from his web-shooter, he thinks, will wrap Octopus up. But he tries the left hand and the web-shooter is empty. Then he tries the right hand and (guess what?) that one's empty, too. He manages to safely land on the wall of the building but now he must run up on foot and he knows that Ock and his arms can scale much faster than he can hoof it. At least, Spidey assumes, there is no place for Otto to go once he reaches the roof. Then he looks up and sees a helicopter preparing to land at the roof heliport.

Spidey can't believe Ock's luck. The Pan Am heliport is supposed to be closed down and yet here is a copter using it. "Whoever's landing here must have a whole lot of political clout!" And, yes, the copter is here to pick up a Senator and his assistant. They are just climbing into the chopper when Ock arrives on the roof. With his metal arms, he yanks the two passengers away from the helicopter then climbs in himself, carrying a still unconscious Aunt May with him.

By the time Spidey arrives, the helicopter is already lifting off. On the run, he pulls a web cartridge from his belt, loads it and shoots. His webbing snags the bottom of the copter, making him the third unscheduled passenger. He briefly considers climbing up into the helicopter to battle Doc Ock but decides against it. Aunt May is safer if he just tags along for the ride.

Inside the bird, Otto has one metal claw grasping the pilot's head to ensure his cooperation. The arch-villain wonders why they aren't moving faster and is told that they "seem to be carrying extra weight". He looks out the window and sees Spider-Man, then casually loops one tentacle down underneath the helicopter and snips Spidey's web lifeline. Suddenly Spider-Man finds himself a mile up in the air with nothing to grab with his webbing. "Face it, hero" says our lovable pessimist, "this time you've bought the farm!"