Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #158

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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...

We continue with the second part of the three-arc third three-way battle royal between Spider-Man, Hammerhead and Doc Ock. Is that all clear? Oh, never mind, just settle back and enjoy our review of this classic tale.

In Detail...

"Hammerhead is Out!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #158
Jul 1976 : SMURF 158.500 : SM Title
Summary: Ghost of Hammerhead, Dr. Octopus
Arc: Part 2 of "The Ghost That Haunted Octopus!"
Editor:  Len Wein
Writer:  Len Wein
Pencils:  Ross Andru
Inker:  Mike Esposito
Cover Art:  Gil Kane
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #135
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #7
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), Glory Grant, Hammerhead, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

So, here's the web-slinger plummeting to his doom or so he implied at the end of the last issue. Actually, he is in such little danger that he takes time to contemplate his choices. He could create a parachute out of his webbing but he would land far from Manhattan and it would take him too long to get back. Instead, for the first time, he puts together a web hang-glider and uses it to steer himself right back to the Big Apple. (Note, however, that Spidey used up both web-shooters and only replaced one cartridge last issue and now has both working to put together the hang-glider. A pretty silly thing to pick on, I'll admit, considering the absurdity of the idea of Spidey constructing a perfectly aerodynamic glider, but, hey, back to the story.)

He glides over the city but then the wind picks up. Spidey realizes that he must bail out or risk being blown out to sea. He jumps, which puts him back into the freefall he just escaped a few moments ago. Now, however, he can use his webbing on buildings. He shoots his web and prepares to "descend gracefully" only to discover he is closer to the ground than he figured. With a "bwhomp!", he lands smack into a garbage-filled dumpster. "At least I'm alive" says the trash-covered hero, "but it looks like I'm gonna make Blackwell's Ten Worst-Dressed Super-Heroes List again."

Spidey fails to find a trace of Ock and Aunt May so he heads to his Chelsea apartment, turns on the police radio band to listen for any Ock sightings and works on stitching up his costume. (At this point in time, Pete's apartment is virtually devoid of furniture. He has a rug on the floor, his radio, and a telephone that sits on a wooden chair. Pete himself is sitting on the floor. As far as I can tell, the place has been like this since Pete rented it back in ASM #139 (December 1974). Pete, time to get some furniture, man!) There is a knock on the door just as he finishes repairing his Spidey suit. He tosses it into the bedroom before answering. The visitor is his neighbor Glory Grant. She has a cake in her hands, which she gives to Pete and tells him to cut it while she makes coffee. ("Hey, love the way you've furnished this place", she tells Pete. Actually, this furniture-less condition is rectified by a "Please-Provide-For-Peter-Parker's-Pad" surprise party Glory gives in ASM #163, December 1976.) Just as Pete takes a knife to the cake, his doorbell rings. He leans out the window and sees it is Mary Jane at the outside door. Pete lets her in.

MJ is wondering why Pete is sitting around so casually having cake with Glory Grant when his Aunt's apartment looks like a disaster area, with "furniture overturned [and] a big hole in the wall". "Why aren't you out looking for her?" MJ says in one of her few comments, pre-retcon, that could be interpreted as revealing that MJ knows Pete is Spider-Man. Pete lies and tells her he doesn't know what happened to the apartment but that he knows Aunt May is safe with a friend. (And he hopes that this is the truth.) He invites MJ to have some cake "before it's all gone". (Seeing as Glory Grant hasn't left the kitchen since Pete starting cutting that cake, we have to assume that he's chowing it all down by himself.) As MJ and Glory form a mutual admiration society over their outfits and jewelry, the phone rings and Joe Robertson down at the Bugle orders Pete to come down right away. He takes off, asking the two ladies to lock up when they leave and to "leave me an extra piece of that cake, okay?" (I was going to put in a terrible pun about him being a "bottomless Pete" where that cake is concerned but I restrained myself and then, as you can see, did it anyway. Sorry, everyone.)

Pete arrives at the Bugle, asking Robbie what is up. "The President fall on his slalom again", he asks, "or has Ronald Reagan changed his brand of toothpaste?" (The President referred to is Ford and he gained a certain reputation for being a bit clumsy. The Reagan reference just refers to his well-crafted image.) It turns out the sole reason Robbie has asked Pete to come over is to tell him some news he could have easily given to him on the phone. The word is that the Daily Globe, "our chief competition", has just been purchased by K.J. Clayton. No one seems to know who Clayton is (and no one will find out until ASM #210, November 1980 more than four years later) but the publisher is "hiring away the Bugle's top talent almost faster than we can keep track". Robbie wants to know if Peter has been contacted. J. Jonah Jameson interrupts this conversation by bellowing at his new secretary. (Betty Brant is off in Paris with her new husband Ned Leeds.) Miss Pringle is "a week out of secretarial school" with blonde hair in a ponytail and glasses so that she looks very much like Debbie Whitman. She has accidentally called "Truman's Trusty Truss Company" for Jonah when he wanted Truman Capote and hasn't yet brought in the half-dozen legal volumes JJJ asked for "two whole minutes ago". Jonah is looking for a law that will prevent Clayton from hiring away his employees and he is on the rampage.

Pete tells Robbie he hasn't heard from Clayton and wouldn't listen to an offer anyway, "unless, of course, the money was good". With Jonah bellowing for a fresh cup to replace his cold coffee, Miss Pringle enters his office with the stack of books and drops them on the desk. She accidentally knocks the cold coffee into Jonah's lap. "Er, ah, w-would you l-like me to brew that f-fresh cup now?" she says. Jonah's look of fury sends her fleeing. "Don't hit me!" she pleads. "Hit you? I'll kill you!" JJJ replies, "How much is Clayton paying you to destroy me? Out, do you hear me? OUT!!" "Well", Robbie sighs, "that's one down".

At that moment, a newsie enters the room and tells Mr. Robertson to "hold the front page". News has just come in that "Doctor Octopus is holding some old lady hostage out at the Brookhaven Labs". Which becomes Pete's cue to sneak into an air duct and change into his Spidey duds.

Brookhaven is an atomic energy lab out on Long Island. The police have acted swiftly to the news of Octopus' hostage and the SWAT team is surrounding the main building. Inside, Otto and May walk away from a guard and the helicopter pilot, both now tied to a post. May is not sure what is going on but she trusts Ock. "Whatever you're doing here", she says, "you're doing for the very best of reasons." She thinks back to the moment in the helicopter when Hammerhead's ghost appeared. (Apparently the ever-unconscious May finally woke up in the chopper.) She recalls that Hammerhead gloated that an atomic explosion couldn't stop him so Ock certainly can't get rid of him. This gave Otto the idea of flying to Brookhaven to set up a little trap for his adversary.

Now, May has found a chair and sits, watching Ock lifting all sorts of equipment with his tentacles, building some sort of atomic energy machine.

Outside, Spidey has hitched a ride to the laboratory and taken to the trees to avoid the squads of police. He doesn't understand why Ock would risk capture by coming to such a place but he knows Ock better protect his Aunt May or there will be hell to pay.

Inside, Hammerhead's ghost has reappeared and threatens to "demolish" Octopus. Otto is no longer frightened. He is constructing a device which he will have working in minutes. When he turns it on, it will "reduce [Hammerhead's] ectoplasm to random scattered atoms!" Just then Spider-Man crashes in through one of the windows and notifies the Doc that he is there to rescue May Parker. Otto lifts May up in one of his tentacles and swears to "defend this dear woman with my life". His other tentacles reach for Spider-Man but the web-slinger avoids them and kicks Ock right in the face. As Otto tumbles backwards, he drops Aunt May, which frightens Spidey so much that he runs to her to see if she is all right. But May cowers away from him and Ock is able to snag the distracted webhead from behind and throw him out a window. Spidey grabs the window ledge with his webbing to stop his fall but the SWAT team outside spots him. They begin shooting at him, trying to "bring that murderer down!" Spidey avoids the hail of bullets and swings back inside, just in time to see that Ock has constructed a circle of machines (his own high-tech Stonehenge) with a floor grid in the center. He taunts Hammerhead's ghost into walking into the center of the set-up.

Spidey isn't sure what Ock's device will do but he decides that "any gizmo that's able to wipe out a ghost can undoubtedly curl my hair as well" so he swings down and starts kicking the various machines over. Doc figures Spidey's actions have finished his chances of nullifying Hammerhead's ghost so he takes May's hand and prepares to escape. Spidey interrupts this plan by shooting webbing over Otto's glasses. The wall-crawler moves in, grabbing both Ock and his Aunt by their wrists. With May calling him a monster and Ock begging May to escape, Spidey starts to look like the bad guy here. Octopus, distracted by his gallantry, is easy prey for the wall-crawler's fists. But this fight is ended by Aunt May's cry for help. She has tried to flee but only ended up cowering on the floor. The ghost of Hammerhead stands over her, his arms stretched above his head in a menacing fashion.

Spidey immediately forgets about Ock and shoots webbing at Hammerhead. The only problem is that the webbing goes right through Hammy's torso. Spidey realizes that there is no there there. "He really is a ghost!" proclaims the wall-crawler. "What's the matter, webhead?" Hammy replies, "You didn't believe me?" The mobster goes on to inform them that he plans to take over New York whether he's alive or dead. Spidey finally realizes that this ghostly menace must be dealt with. Octavius tells him the only way to "deal with Hammerhead permanently" is to put the "particle accelerator" back together. Just like that, Spidey and Doc Ock form an alliance. They rush to reassemble Ock's machinery before any harm can come to Aunt May.

Seconds later, the machine is back up and running. Hammerhead scoffs at it, and at the notion that it can rub him out. Octopus dares him to step on the grid to find out. Hammy strides right in and does so. But Spidey notices "the absolute glee on Hammerhead's face" and understands that this is what Hammy has wanted all along. He tries to stop Otto from throwing the switch but the Doctor repels him with his tentacles. "I've waited a long time for this moment", he says, "and nothing will deprive me of it." He flips the switch and Hammerhead is bathed "in the accelerated energy field". But it isn't Doctor Octopus who basks in triumph; it is his mortal enemy, for the machine does not disintegrate Hammerhead. Instead, it returns him back to normal. The "re-embodied" Hammerhead crows that "It worked!" and "there ain't nothing on earth that's ever gonna beat me again." A dismayed Doc Ock holds his head in his hands wondering, "Dear heaven, what have I done?" A shaken Spider-Man realizes Ock has "blown it with a capital 'B'". And he wonders, "what are we going to do about it?"