Avenging Spider-Man #15.1
Writer: Chris Yost
Pencils: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Dave Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Paolo Rivera
Spidey Team-up: um… Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius)???
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. SERIOUSLY***
THOUGHTS: Full disclosure: I did not read ASM #700 (nor do I really have any intention of doing so) prior to this review, and, despite the warning in the credits page, you don’t really need to read that issue to understand what it’s going on.
The subject of the purpose of Point One issues has been discussed elsewhere, so I don’t intend to get into it here. That being said, Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 accomplishes what it sets out to do: sell me on the idea of a Spider-Man who is actually one of his greatest villains, Doctor Octopus.
Everything leading up to this point, from Doc Ock succumbing to cancer to his mind-switch with Peter Parker and their final battle, is recapped through Ock’s narration in the first couple of pages. His thoughts throughout the rest of the issue are a critique of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He understands what makes him a hero (“with great power comes great responsibility”). He derides him for never being disciplined or going farther with his intellect. He is in awe at the inate abilities of Parker’s body. He realizes that Mary Jane is a liability, but at the same time calls him a fool for letting that woman go. I like the duality here: despite committing himself to continue living exactly as Parker did, he fully disapproves of his wasted potential and what he’s done with his life so far.
Occasionally, his memories and those of Peter Parker get jumbled, such as when he recalls the first time he (not Parker) sewed his costume.
A pivotal scene then takes place. Ock makes his way to one of his underwater bases to use his technology. He is forced to sneak in and then battle his own machines because his security doesn’t recognize him. If you were to remove the narration, this scene would look just like any classic battle between Spidey and Ock’s machines. But what makes this different is that this is Ock, as Spider-Man, battling himself. It is here that he realizes that his genius was never enough to beat Spider-Man. After deeming Peter Parker inferior, he realizes that he himself, as Doctor Octopus, was always inferior to Spider-Man. It’s clear at this point that he holds a certain amount of self-loathing, which will undoubtly propel him as he makes Spider-Man superior.
And because of the great characterization Chris Yost gives this Superior Spider-Man, I greatly enjoyed this issue far more than I thought I would and look forward to the upcoming issues of Avenging Spider-Man as Yost takes over writing duties for this series. The art team of Medina, Vlasco, and Curiel did an excellent job here. Every character, every splash page, and every panel looks incredible.
Say what you will about Dan Slott (always within this site’s guidelines, of course), but while his writing efforts may leave much to be desired in the minds of the fanbase, he has developed intriguing new ideas that, in the hands of expert writers, have become surprise hits. Flash Thompson bonding with the Venom symbiote or Kaine recovering from his degeneration and becoming the new Scarlet Spider would have sounded, well, silly a few years ago, but Rick Remender and Chris Yost, respectively, took those developments and made them into the most critically-acclaimed Spidey-related books. I’m reminded of something Peter David said in one of the Crawlspace’s early podcasts, that good execution can turn a “stupid” idea into a great story (or something along those lines).
And, if you ask me, I’m all for Superior Spider-Man right now. It’s definitely not an original idea, though it seems it takes pieces from several others. Kraven in Kraven’s Last Hunt tried to be a better Spider-Man. Ben Reilly briefly took over for Peter Parker. Sandman, Black Cat, Venom, Rhino, and currently Kaine have all tried to reform. Norman Osborn posed as a hero whilst still being decidly villanous. But, as I’ve always said, I don’t care much for these sales stunts (because I’m not that naïve and know Peter will be back) as long as good stories come out of them. I don’t know about Slott, but I trust that Yost will deliver on the premise, given his track record.
Also, since he writes Scalet Spider, I wanna see Ock interact with Kaine, his assasin. Fingers are definitely crossed.
FAVORITE LINE: As Doc Ock invades his own lair, his original self appears on-screen ranting:
DOC OCK: [on screen] You have made a fatal mistake invading the domain of Doctor Octopus!
SPIDER-MAN: …Is that really how I sound? Like an underwater walrus.
VERDICT: Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 firmly establishes the future tone of the series moving forward. Chris Yost delivers a simple yet enjoyable issue featuring a compelling Doctor Octopus as he struggles with his new identity. The art alone makes this a must-buy. 4.5 Webheads out of 5.
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~My Two Cents