Comics : The Amazing Spider-Man vs. Doctor Octopus (Origin Storybook)

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This review was first published on: Nov 2012.

Background...

This book is square-bound card, 8" x 8", and 24 high-quality full-color pages. It is one of a pair of illustrated story books produced in 2011 which share a general look and feel with the Spider-Man origin retelling featured in the Marvel: Origin Story Books which came out around the same time. Clearly the intention is to expand on the Spider-Man Origin story by producing similarly reworked versions of classic super-villain encounters.

This version of Spider-Man features Peter still at Midtown High School. The youthfulness of our protagonist is matched also by a simplistic (almost childish) clarity in the writing, and with a similarly refreshing art style which offers a generally soft appearance reminiscent of water-color brushwork. It isn't water-color though, as the occasional panel which breaks out into a bright strength and clarity of line reminds us from time to time.

Despite being a supposed high-school student, there is a confidence and alertness in this young Peter Parker which owes very little to the mopey, moody young Peter which Steve Ditko was so fond of emphasizing in the original.

In Detail...

The Amazing Spider-Man vs. Doctor Octopus (Origin Storybook)
Feb 2012 : SM Title
Find ISBN 9781742832326
Publisher:  Scholastic Australia, Inc.
Illustrator:  Storybook Art Group
Cover Art:  Brian Miller, Pat Olliffe
Adaption:  Tomas Palacios
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 Adapted By: The Amazing Spider-Man Origin Storybook Collection (Story 3)
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man: Storybook Collection
 Adapted By: Marvel Spider-Man: Read and Listen
 Adapted By: Marvel Spider-Man Take-Along Tales: Doctor Octopus (Book 2)
 Adapted By: Spider-Man: Lift-A-Flap Sound Book

Peter Parker is heading to the Daily Bugle to find some work. Being part-time student, photographer and Super-Hero makes for a busy life. But with only 24 pages we need to keep this story moving, so we cut scene across town to the laboratory of eccentric but brilliant nuclear scientist Otto Octavius.

This Marvel Universe seems to be very laissez-faire when it comes to laws protecting the good citizens of New York from radioactive exposure. I suspect that in the "real" world, experimenting with explosive nuclear elements might be the kind of thing you would do somewhere on the edge of town. But in Marvel, you're allowed to play with that kind of stuff in the heart of the city. Just be careful that nothing goes BOOM.

BOOM!

Yeah, it's inevitable. Ock's experiment goes bad. "Not even Octavious's robotic arms could save him from being exposed to the radiation." Hmm... could flexible metal poles protect anybody from radiation? I guess it's possible that perhaps the arms might be lead-lined, and if they were quick enough they could have conceivably wrapped around Ock to form some sort of coccoon. So let's be charitable and give them that one.

But I'm not feeling so forgiving about the fact that Doc's surname "Octavius" has been mis-spelt as "Octavious". Wouldn't that be Rule #1 of getting to know your classic characters before you write about them. First learn to spell their name correctly? Octavius means "The Eighth" (Child) and is from the Latin, not from the French!

Following the original plot from Amazing Spider-Man #3, Ock is dutifully taken to a hospital where we discover to no surprise that (a) his arms have bonded to his body and are now under his mental control, and (b) Ock himself has turned into a raving megalomaniac loony.

And what of Peter Parker? The news of Ock's Accident has reached the Daily Bugle, and Peter has been sent to get photos of the sick man. Because teenage boys are always allowed into the private hospital room of famous scientists with radioactivity poisoning. Naturally.

As Peter approaches the hospital, he sees through the window that Ock has gone mad and is assaulting the medical staff. So Peter becomes Spidey and battle ensues. True to the template, Ock is victorious. Spider-Man is defeated for the first time in his career. Well, apart from his defeat at the hands of the Vulture in ASM #2. Or being captured by the Tinkerer in ASM #2.

How will Spider-Man deal with the torment of his humiliation at the hands of his latest foe? Well, he changes back to his civilian clothing and mopes around for a page, then decides that he has to go and try again. A true hero always gets back up to fight another day. Except for those true heroes who are dead, of course. They just lie there.

So in the next page we see Spider-Man back in costume. He "tracks down Dr. Octopus's laboratory" where he finds his foe. The fight once more, and Spider-Man wins this time. Yay. Go Go, Team Good Guys! Ra Ra Ra!

In General...

All the basic elements of the original are here in this re-telling. The only thing that is missing is the soul of the story. That indescribable mix of light-hearted innocence and deep dejection which permeated the Lee/Ditko masterpiece of the 1960's is utterly and entirely absent.

The artwork is fresh and modern, and I can't fault it at all. So the missing element must be in the scripting which despite best intentions just seems to be lacking the necessary spark of life.

Perhaps part of the problem is the near-complete lack of dialogue. This story contains not a single uttered word by either Ock or Spidey. The only spoken line is courtesy of a security guard who provides a stilted exposition concerning the purpose of Ock's mechanical arms. Ock does "think" a line, but nothing is said out loud by either of the two protaganists. Perhaps the idea is to make things easy for parents who don't like having to make-up voices when reading aloud, but it doesn't do any good for the overall liveliness of the tale!

Overall Rating...

I really did want these books to succeed. And perhaps as bed-time reading for a five-year old Spidey-Fan tucked up in their Spider-Man pyjamas, these stories will do an acceptable duty. But for all their modern production values, these re-tellings sadly fail to escape the long shadow cast by the mightly classics from which they are derived.

Two webs. Nice try, but no cigar.