Comics : Spider-Man: Doctor Octopus - Year One #2

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Far from being another quick-buck movie tie-in, the first issue of this Doc Ock series showed that "Year One" was clearly the work of a pretty dedicated Ock fan. Let's see what issue two has to offer.

In Detail...

Spider-Man: Doctor Octopus - Year One #2
Aug 2004 : SM Title
Editor:  Warren Simons
Writer:  Zeb Wells
Artist:  Kaare Andrews
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Articles: Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius)

Now part of the military machine, Otto has created some clumbsy "waldo" arms, controled by levers. While inadequate, it's clear that Otto has already started to imagine the power that such artificial extensions could give him. Still young, arrogant, and much-despised, Otto posseses a strange fascination with the nuclear powers he controls. He alone is able to properly control the experiments he constructs, aided by the strange arms, the controls of which are too sensitive for any other to wield.

The frantic pace of Otto's experiments is too fast even for his eager government masters. They worry that his nuclear investigations may flare out of control, and they are also concerned with Otto spending some much time on the development of the mechanical articulated devices which he sees as essential to the success of his nuclear trials. Otto is becoming unstable, but the research station needs him, and so he agrees to take some time to visit his beloved mother.

It is at his mother's house that Otto first sees Spider-Man, on an early TV show. Octavius suddenly realises that he must increase his power and control by harnessing the power of the atom, and outstepping the limitations of future boundaries before America falls behind the Russians. He proclaims this view to his colleagues, who think him mad. But the military are impressed, and fund the nerve-controlled technology which forms the basis for his incredible arms.

At this time, a distraction appears, in the guise of Alice Anders, a fellow scientist. Alice is clearly attracted by Ock's complicated nature, and in the heat of the moment, makes an untowards advance towards the naive young boy. Otto runs, uncertain and confused. Otto's mother, however, is not confused - and uses her influence to turn her son away from the chance of love, and back to his work. Filled with his mother's loathing, Otto dismisses Alice from the team.

He turns back to his work, and achieves the breakthrough he has sought. His colleagues make him celebrate. Drunk on cheap brandy, Otto returns to tell his beloved mother of his success - only to discover her with another man. Otto confronts his mother, violently. Finally, he returns back to the first public demonstration of his new technique, aided at last by his fully-developed arms. It seems that success will finally be his. Except, as we know from Amazing Spider-Man #3, for the accident...

In General...

It's very easy, when writing a "year one" series to simply do what Byrne did with "Spider-Man: Chapter One". I.e. simply rewrite the story in "hey, I would have done it like this" mode. Far more challenging is to actually take what has already been revealed, and add layers and depth to the story without detracting from what has gone before.

Zeb takes the events from Amazing Spider-Man #3, adds what we know about Alice from Spider-Man Unlimited #18, and then gradually molds and reworks Ock into a convincingly disturbing character. By doing this gently, and subtly, Wells has ensured that long-time readers will accept the change. He avoids the temptation to invent a "new" history for Ock, which would almost certainly end up on the "abandoned continuity changes" scrap-heap along with much of what Byrne, Mackie and friends did during the worst excesses of the 90's.

The result is to present us with the same Doc Ock we have always known and loved, but beautifully restored, refreshed and enhanced. Bravo!

Overall Rating...

I love what this series is doing for Ock. Four webs.