Comics : Spider-Man: Doctor Octopus - Year One #1

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

If you thought that the recent pair of Doc Ock series ("Negative Exposure" and "Out of Reach") were a bit of over-exposure of the eight-armed villain, you'll be even more impressed to see a third limited series hit the stands! Had enough yet? We here at Spider-Man never cry Uncle, so here we are, bravely reviewing for all to read!

In Detail...

Spider-Man: Doctor Octopus - Year One #1
Aug 2004 : SM Title
Editor:  Warren Simons
Writer:  Zeb Wells
Artist:  Kaare Andrews
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Articles: Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius)

The details of Otto's youth and early manhood have been covered to some extent in previous stories. Certainly, we already knew of his overbearing mother, Mary, who had great hopes that her pampered son would grown in to a strong, wise, and erudite gentleman. His ignorant father, Torbert, preferred to taunt and bully the bejesus out of his tubby and generally unpopular son. Life for the young Octavius was miserable at home and at school.

At that school in post-war New York, fear of nuclear attack was a recurring theme. Otto's life echoes that, as he lives in a pretty much permanent state of fear from the brutal bullying of his classmates. Mary dresses her precious, overweight son in miniature suits and bow-ties. Heh, not surprising he collects all sorts of hassle! Still, Otto can amuse himself by imagining his fellow students being destroyed by nuclear devastation.

At home, Otto's dad takes over the tormenting... until Otto finally comes of age, and gains entrance to M.I.T. By this stage, Otto is a fair snotty little jerk, still bullied and despised, but starting to develop some defences. But it is not until his true genius is recognised by the professorial staff that he realises that he at last posseses some leverage to control his own destiny.

There's a little cut-scene here which implies perhaps that Otto had some hand in creating the public experiment which gave Peter his power. However, it also suggests that Flash and science teacher Mr. Warren were present at that experiment, so that would imply that it was in fact a different exercise.

Meanwhile, Otto's dad has been killed in a factory accident. Otto takes the time off to thank the machine that crushed his father. Heh, children, you gotta love 'em. Otto then manages to add some spice to his father's funeral by taking the opportunity to explain to the priest just exactly what kind of jerk his dad was.

Shortly after, the military latch onto M.I.T's most brilliant student, and come to offer the new Ph.D a special spot. Otto insists on bringing his mother along to his new job... while dreaming of the giant destruction that he will soon one day create. Truly, young Otto is not a well boy.

In General...

So many of the characters in the Spider-Verse end up with cruel parents, and miserable upbringings. It can be a hugely off-putting cliche. However, in the case of "Year One", Zeb Wells approaches the whole exercise with a great deal of understanding, and creates a most real and disturbing flesh to hang on the bones of what we already new.

This is even more impressive because Zeb, as well as avoiding the perils of cliche, also manages to navigate the minefield of adding new elements to a historical story without trampling what has been told before. This requires a large element of skill, but fortunately Mr. Wells seems to have this in plenty.

Art is by Kaare Andrews, and is done in a slightly disturbing, over-perspectivised ink-heavy style which lends an eirie nightmare quality to many of the scenes. Kaare's work nicely compliments the dark nature of the story being told.

While the previous two Doc Ock stories had the feel of being "cash-in" books aimed at the casual movie-goer looking for a tie-in, by contrast I kind of feel that this book will appear more to the more established Spidey reader. The character-driven plot aims to satisfy an existing curiosity to know more about the Ock from the comics, and is clearly unrelated to the Octavius from the film. The moodiness of the story is slightly demanding, and may not appeal to casual readers. Basically, this one is for you, Spider-Fans. Enjoy!

Overall Rating...

Splendid stuff from Wells and Andrews. Not at all what I was expecting when I saw yet another Ock Limited Series turn up at the comic shop. Four webs.