Since the events of Amazing Spider-Man #700, the world has believed that Otto ‘Doctor Octopus’ Octavius was dead. The world is wrong: Otto did not die, but only seemed to. In fact, he used Big Science to make a psychic attack on Peter Parker, taking over Peter’s body and leaving him to die in Otto’s expiring form. Now Otto has become the Superior Spider-Man, a better superhero than Peter ever was... by Otto’s lights, anyway.
Deep in their common brain, some part of Peter survived Otto’s attack, and has even attempted to re-exert control over his body. Last issue, when Peter tried to prevent Otto from recovering a neurolytic scanner that Cardiac had stolen in an attempt to save a young girl’s life, Otto became aware of Peter’s presence. And now, armed with that scanner, Otto means to eliminate that presence completely.
In his lab at Horizon, Otto monologues to himself. It seems that the reason Peter continues to lurk like a ghost in the machine is that Otto chose to retain Peter’s memories, and that memory cluster has “created a version of [Peter] running around inside this head”. To dispose of this ghost-Peter permanently, Otto will have to delete those memories, but that’s a trade-off that Otto is willing to accept.
The Peter-fragment won’t submit to Ock’s coup de grace, and actively fights Otto, at first with Otto’s own left hand, and then with sheer grit. This leaves Otto with no choice but to ‘enter’ their common brain, a la the Christopher Nolan film Inception, and ‘kill’ the memory fragment personally.
At first, this looks like a mistake on Otto’s part, as the fragment is able to summon up simulacra of Peter’s friends and family to battle Ock. Unfortunately, two can play at that game: in response Otto summons up simulacra of Spider-Man’s greatest foes. At least, that’s what they look like, but that’s only a metaphor. They are really (if ‘really’ is the word I want) Peter’s “fears and anxieties! ...doubts and failures! Every ounce of dread and panic! All given form and brought to life!”
These monsters are no match for Peter’s allies, which are themselves metaphorical representations of Peter’s memories. As the supervillains kill them, Peter forgets: Mary Jane goes, Captain Stacy goes, Uncle Ben goes... “I know I had an uncle!” Peter screams. “What was his name?!”
As Peter Parker’s life vanishes, the memory fragment uses the only weapon it has left: Spider-Man’s life. Dressed again in the red-and-blues, Spider-Man attacks Doc Ock, who is terrified at this apparition. Otto tries to defend himself, but his own fear, and Spidey’s righteousness, give Spider-Man the initiative. If Otto was truly the hero he now claims to be, says Spider-Man, he wouldn't have tried to kill the memory fragment, but would rather have restored it to control over Peter Parker’s body. The fact that he didn't do that shows he’s still a supervillain at heart.
Otto takes this charge seriously, for a moment. Then he rallies. He strips off his old Doc Ock self and dresses himself in the red-and-blues. Is he a villain? No, he’s the Superior Spider-Man.
When he was in the driver’s seat, says Superior, the Amazing version did a bad job. Amazing let the Vulture escape, and he returned to begin using child soldiers. Amazing let Massacre live, and he escaped to murder thirty people, including Amazing’s friend Dr. Kafka. Superior was going to operate on the girl in Cardiac’s clinic and save her, but Amazing tried to stop the procedure. Why?
“You were about to get the scanner,” Amazing admits. “ You'd find me. Know I was here. Couldn’t risk...”
Game and match, Superior. “You don't deserve to be Spider-Man. You understand that now... Commencing mind-wipe!”
His will to live sapped, Amazing can’t resist Otto’s neuralytic scanner. “I’m Spider-Man! Know who I am... I’m Peter! Peter P-- Parker? Palmer? I - I don’t know-- my name! Don’t know my... I’m... I’m...”
Fade to black. Amazing is dead. Long live the Superior Spider-Man.
So Peter Parker is in an interior, mental world, where he encounters his memories, anxieties, and Dionysian urges, all of which are appear, metaphorically, in the guise of his friends and enemies.
Again with this?
I quite enjoyed this the first time I read it, in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #21. I enjoyed it the first time Dan Slott told this story, in ASM #655. I accepted when Slott told it again in ASM #700, though I was surprised he was already going back to that well. And now we're doing it yet again, nine issues later?
(To say nothing of the fact that Christopher Yost just did his own take on this story in Avenging Spider-Man #19...)
Look, the artwork was nice. And Otto’s seizure of the initiative from Peter was well done: Peter’s got an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, and Otto exploited that very well indeed. Heck, even Peter recognized that his abortive attempt to prevent Otto from saving the girl in Cardiac’s clinic was simply a moment of weakness, and one that Peter would have overcome. But Otto used it to persuade Peter he wasn't worthy to continue to being Spider-Man. This from a man who caused the little girl’s infirmity to begin with when he attempted to wipe out all human life on Earth! You have to admire Otto’s audacity.
But all of that is not enough to breathe life into a tired plot. Let’s put “Spider-Man is lost in a strange dreamscape” on the shelf for a few years, please.
I’m glad to see Ghost Peter gone, as he slowed the story down. To Slott’s credit, he never wanted Ghost Peter in the first place, but was forced to include him for the first few issues by editorial mandate. With Otto firmly in charge, I expect Superior Spider-Man will go into overdrive.
Too bad Slott removed that plot complication with a story that’s now been done to death. Two webs.