Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #297

Background

Last issue, Dr. Octopus escaped from the South Brooklyn Psychiatric Facility and resumed his criminal ways, despite his crippling fear of Spider-Man.

Story 'I'll Take Manhattan!'

Spider-Man is swinging across the New York skyline. This is not an unfamiliar site. What is an unfamiliar site (or sound in this particular case) is Spider-Man shouting for joy.

After nearly falling to his death (mentioned last issue) because he was out of web-fluid, he decided it was time to redesign his web-shooters. Using the money he earned from photographs of his most recent battle with Dr. Octopus (again last issue), he built the new model out of lightweight, high-density plastics. The major advantage of this change is that they will no longer set off metal detectors.

This new design incorporates two additions. He has a built-in LED to warn him when the web cartridge is nearly empty. The second enhancement allows him to fire his spider-tracers from a wrist-mounted launcher. And the best part of this is - THEY WORK. Beneath his mask, Peter is smiling broadly; he's ecstatic at his accomplishment.

Across town Dr. Octopus discusses renting a helicopter from Al's Air Rents with the owner. The owner declines citing that due to insurance reasons only employees can fly the helicopter. And his only pilot is booked for a month. Octopus kills the pilot and suggests that one of his henchmen be hired temporarily to take his place.

The next morning Peter stops by the Daily Bugle looking for a photo assignment; he is unable to find one. As he leaves, he runs into Robbie, who has some advice for him and is unsure of a tactful way of saying it. He tells Peter that since he has constant financial problems as a freelance photographer, perhaps it's in his best interest to find another line of work. Robbie adds that he's only looking out for Peter's best interests. For his part Peter is stunned and a little hurt by this suggestion.

A little while later, while web-swinging, Peter takes Robbie's advice under serious consideration. He hears a scream from a nearby penthouse and swings over to find a robbery in progress. The residents are throwing a party that has attracted the attention of four armed men. Spider-Man catches all of the thieves, but breaks a priceless painting in the process. The owner threatens to sue him for the destruction of his property. Spider-Man grabs his automatic camera from its perch and swings away, disgusted at the situation.

While Spider-Man rubs elbows with ungrateful members of high society, Dr. Octopus breaks into a high security military lab and steals a deadly airborne bacterium with the intent of using it to kill Spider-Man. Since he can't do this directly, he has to use alternate methods. If he has to wipe out most of Manhattan to do so, those qualify as acceptable losses.

Back on Chelsea Street, Peter notices a news story about the "non theft" of an experimental biological weapon. Peter realizes that this must be Dr. Octopus and sets out to find him. After a full 24 hours of following leads, he tracks Octopus down to his hideout in the World Trade Center. Ock gives the initiation code to start spraying Manhattan with the bacterium. At this point Spider-Man appears. True to form Octopus goes into a catatonic state.

With Octopus out of the way, he turns his attention to one of his underlings. He tells him that he heard their entire plan while waiting outside and to give the pilot the abort code. The thug informs him that the pilot has been instructed to answer only to Dr. Octopus and only he knows the abort code.

Dazed by this revelation, Spider-Man comes up with a desperate plan. As Doc Ock's arms respond to motion, he allows himself to be hit repeatedly to bring Ock out of his trance. His plan works all too well as Octopus returns to his former self. He leaves the office in a battered state with Octopus close behind. They both reach the roof where an energized Ock grabs him and stands on the edge of the roof with his helpless enemy, poised to throw him over the edge. Spider-Man convinces him to abort the dispersal of the gas to avoid killing the witnesses to his "greatest triumph". Octopus agrees and even decides to not kill him, thinking it's more cruel to live with the same type of humiliation he had to endure. At this point Ock leaves, for which Peter is thankful. In his current state, he would not have been able to do much to stop him anyway.

Peter eventually makes his way back to his apartment where despite his injuries, he considers today a victory.

General Comments

The whole point of this two-part story is to undo the "catatonic Octopus" storyline begun in Spectacular Spider-Man #79 when Spider-Man convinced Ock that he could never beat him; he'd always find a way to win. It occurs to me that those kinds of statements usually strengthen a villain's resolve, not undermine it. I'm not sure why that was considered a good idea in the first place, but I applaud Michelinie & company for restoring Dr. Octopus to his rightful place as an A-list villain.

Two small items:

  • I'm not completely comfortable with the logical leap from "theft of a military-grade biological weapon" to "Dr. Octopus is behind it". It seems something is missing here. I guess one could naturally assume since we know Octopus is free and this is something an evil scientific genius would do, he could be the one responsible. It does sound logical, just a little off for my tastes.
  • The other item is why would Spider-Man wait outside the window until Ock gave the activation code? At this point, he knows what Ock has in mind; it's not like he needs probable cause or anything.

Overall Rating

3 webs. This can be best described as a "corrective" story that undoes a past wrong. Depending on what change has to be undone, it can be either welcome (in this case) or one that leaves that audience scratching its collective head (the Octopus stories that set up this one).