Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: John Romita Jr (p), Scott Hanna (i)
The book opens under the rubble of the building that collapsed at the end of the last issue, as where we find Spider-Man is fighting a desperate battle to keep himself alive. As he fights the crushing weight of the building above him, deals with the lack of breathable air, and the constantly shifting rubble, we see the only thought that dominates Peter's mind is that before the building came down on top of him, he overheard the new Doctor Octopus was heading to the movie studio where Aunt May & Mary Jane are located. We then see that as luck would have it the evil villain has arrived at the very building where Peter's loved ones are located, and the man picks Aunt May as the hostage he'll kill to convince the police to take him seriously. However when the original Doctor Octopus arrives on the scene, and he's eager to hand this young upstart his head. Meanwhile we see Spider-Man has freed himself from the rubble, and he arrives at the studio in time to help Otto defeat the new villain. As Otto Octavius escapes in the confusion, we see a battered Peter finds his way to a dinner with Mary Jane & Aunt May, where we see Mary Jane's not quite ready to return to New York, and Peter's not about to press the issue.
Ever since the classic Steve Ditko sequence in Amazing Spider-Man #33 (volume one), the one staple action scene the Spider-Man books has been the one where our web-slinging wonder gets himself buried under the ruins of hundreds of tons of rubble & through sheer will power Spider-Man is able to rise to the occasion & free himself. Over the years I've must of seen this scene, or a scenario similar to it dozens of times, and I must admit it still works. I mean take the original scene that inspired them all, as entering the issue I knew Spider-Man would be able to free himself from the Master Planner's flooding lab, as he had a couple hundred issues to star in by the time I got around to reading the issue in reprint form. However, Spider-Man's ability to continue to try when most would give in is one of the more appealing elements of the character, and J. Michael Straczynski does a very good job of capturing the spirit of the original, even if his bid to generate the mortal danger that inspires Peter to press on does feel a bit contrived. However, there's nothing in comics that can quite match the awe inspiring impact of a victorious Spider-Man emerging from the rubble.
The other element that this issue captured perfectly is its use of Doctor Octopus, as there's some great little moments in this issue, from the scene where the good doctor makes his timely arrival when Aunt May is about to be killed, to the wonderful little exchange where we see Spider-Man openingly wonders why Otto would help him in his fight against the new guy. I also have to credit J. Michael Straczynski for the cute little scene where Aunt May finally keys into the fact that Otto Octavius is Doctor Octopus, though one has to wonder why she didn't take note of the metal tentacles when she married him, or the half dozen other times she's encountered him over the years. Still, the scene was rather amusing and I for one hope that it allows Otto to finally put the pieces together regarding Spider-Man's secret identity, as Otto is suppose to be a genius, so having both May Parker & Spider-Man running around in Hollywood at the same time should send up some red flags. My only quibble with this issue is that Doctor Octopus didn't get a better showing during his tussle with the little upstart. Still, Doctor Octopus has always been a better villain when he's working from a plan, and in this story he was caught napping, and was acting on the spur of the moment.
John Romita Jr. has been with the Spider-Man books for long enough that I do believe he's delivered the Spider-Man buried under a collapsed building at least twice before. I do have to say that this time out rates as the most impressive, as J. Michael Straczynski give him the pages he needs to convey the urgency of Spider-Man's situation, and that final double-pages sequence where Spider-Man makes his final push is absolutely magnificent, as is the following page where we see him emerge from the rubble. Now I would be pleased a punch with this opening half, and J. Michael Straczynski could've made the rest of the issue talking heads, but after this great opening sequence, we get an equally impressive finish. The opening tussle between Doctor Octopus & the new guy is a great look at experience versus raw power, as the art makes it clear that all of Otto's attacks were strategical in what they targeted. One also has to love the scene where the new guy is defeated, as it's a great looking visual (though I do have to ask why Spider-Man's webbing was colored red). Also while it's a little detail, I do like that Peter does look banged up in the aftermath of this battle.
I do feel that there are certain ideas in the Spider-Man cannon that will never run dry matter how many times a writer decided to draw upon them. This issue offers up the classic scenario that has Spider-Man buried under a collapsed structure, and a nice sense of urgency is developed thanks to J. Michael Starczynski's well crafted dialogue, and John Romtia Jr.'s artistic brilliance. The issue also offers up a pretty solid battle between the two Doctor Octopus', and the issue also displays a wonderful understanding of the character Otto Octavius, with one little exchange between him & Spider-Man being particularly impressive. As for the whole Mary Jane situation, I do like that the two are back on speaking terms, and Kevin Smith doesn't have a huge hurdle to overcome in getting them back together. Still, Mary Jane does come across as a bit self centered during her final speech, and Peter's "until the stars turn cold" response is almost cringe worthy, but since J. Michael Starczynski isn't the one that going to resolve this situation, I'm not overly concerned.
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