Current Reviews


Spectactular Spider-Man #9

Posted: Friday, January 23, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artists: Humberto Ramos (p), Wayne Faucher (i)

Publisher: Marvel

The Plot:
As the countdown toward the deadline nears we see Spider-Man sets a plan in motion that might preserve his secret identity, in spite of being backed into a corner by Doctor Octopus' demand that he unmask in the middle of Times Square. Meanwhile Doctor Octopus is busy detailing a story from his childhood, that makes it easier to understand why he became a villain. As the issue ends we see Spider-Man takes off his mask in front of jubilant Doctor Octopus and the waiting crowd of reporters.

The Good:
I like the idea that the sole purpose of Doctor Octopus' plan is to remove Spider-Man from the equation, because it does seem to suggest that the character has realized that there is a pattern to his past failures, and the central element that continually stands in his path is Spider-Man. I also have to give Paul Jenkins credit for offering a pretty exciting cliffhanger as it would appear that Spider-Man has unmasked before the waiting public/media, though Doctor Octopus' declaration of surprise makes it pretty clear that Spider-Man has a final card left to play in this game. Still, aside from wearing a second mask under his mask I'm not quite sure what trick he's trying to pull off, and I suspect it's more clever than a second mask as he made an effort to position one of his neighbors on top a telephone pole with a video camera, and one has to imagine this is tied in to whatever trick Spider-Man is pulling off. However given Doctor Octopus doesn't strike me as a character who is going to admit defeat with grace, or accept whatever ruse Spider-Man is offering up, I'm thinking next issue will feature a big throw-down between the two old enemies, and I've been patiently waiting to see the good doctor's new, improved arms in action, as the little tussle we got in the first chapter wasn't nearly enough of a showcase. In any event, next issue looks like it'll be a lot of fun, and this issue does a pretty fair job of moving all the pieces into place.

The Bad:
One of the problems with this series is that Paul Jenkins has created a supporting cast that aren't exactly grabbing me as much as I suspects Paul Jenkins believes, and this issue takes the next step by directly involving one of these characters in the action. Now the idea of a guy deciding he wants to be a super-hero is a cute idea and having him wear a funny hat makes for an amusing visual, but frankly I'm not particularly fond of humor that exists solely to elicit laughs, as I tend to like more thought behind the gags beyond doesn't this character look goofy in his funny hat. There's also Detective Neil Garrett who looks to be playing the role of the cop who sympathizes with Spider-Man and while this role has been filled numerous times in the past Detective Neil Garrett is a rather flat character, who needs to be fleshed out a bit more, as right now he's little better than a collection of tough guy clichés. This issue also offers up a bit of Doctor Octopus' back-story that I believe hasn't been revealed previously, and while I would normally enjoy new insight into one of my favorite villains I have to say I found the story to be a bit much and the inference that Doctor Octopus views Spider-Man as an obstacle in the path of his resolving a childhood trauma seems to be placing too much importance on this previously unrevealed insight. Still, I do encourage any attempt to explore the motives of this series' villains, even if I don't quite buy into the one that's offered up in this issue.

I think Humberto Ramos is a very talented artist and there are sections of this issue where I'm very impressed by his work, with the arrival of Doctor Octopus in Times Square being particularly impressive. However there's also sections of the issue where I find myself having to actively ignore the downright bizarre stylings that Humberto Ramos has decided to employ, as it's difficult to get fully involved in Doctor Octopus' rather nightmarish look back on his child when the scene looks like a Saturday morning cartoon. Now using the toy trucks to visually symbolize Otto's future was a clever visual, but for every scene like this there's a couple where I find myself drawn out of the story by Humberto Ramos' taffy-like faces and figures. I also have to say that he really needs to work to make Captain Cleeland look different from Aunt May as the characters look virtually identical, while it's fairly easy to figure out in this issue that we're dealing with Captain Cleeland and not Aunt May, it is a bit worrisome that he couldn't have exercised his imagination a little more when he was creating Captain Cleeland's look.

I'm Ready For My Close-Up Mr. Demille:
The idea that Spider-Man would unmask before the waiting media, and thus expose his secret identity to the world is something that would have such a profound impact on the character that one has to imagine Paul Jenkins would never get permission to make this change without first allowing Marvel to promote the heck out of it, and since this hasn't happened, one has to imagine this story will end with Spider-Man secret still only known to his supporting cast and the half-dozen of his deadliest villains who have discovered his secret over the years. Still the idea does make for a nice change of pace as it's not often we get to see a villain setting in motion a plan that is solely designed to remove the hero from their life so they can continue the life of criminal activities unimpeded. Now there are the issues where the villains get it in their minds to try and kill the hero, but this issue has Doctor Octopus smartly realize that he's never going to kill Spider-Man, so instead he's going for opinion B which would be to render him ineffective. It's an interesting plan, and I can't wait to see what Spider-Man did to foil the good doctor’s seemingly foolproof plan.

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