Comics : Untold Tales of Spider-Man #19

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

This is a classic comic tale very much in the tradition of Lee & Ditko. We have the villain Doctor Octopus escaping from custody and scheming as grandly as ever, while Spidey struggles with finding a way to put him back in prison while trying to earn money photographing the local street party!

In Detail...

"Eight Arms to Hold You"
Untold Tales of Spider-Man #19
Mar 1997 : SMURF 016.800 : SM Title
Summary: Doctor Octopus
Editor:  Tom Brevoort
Writer:  G.L. Lawrence, Kurt Busiek
Pencils:  Pat Olliffe
Inker:  Al Williamson
Cover Art:  Pat Olliffe
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Articles: Watson, Anna, Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, Harrison Thompson, Jameson, J. Jonah, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn

We join the story at a courthouse, just as the trial of Doctor Octopus is about to begin. Peter is there to take some photos for the Bugle, and he has brought "the gang" along with him. This includes Flash, Liz, Tiny, Jason and Betty. As usual these days, Liz is paying a lot of attention to Peter, with Betty acting extremely jealous.

No sooner has Doc Ock managed to trick the judge into releasing his mechanical arms, than he has donned them and made good his escape! Peter, worried about exposing his secret identity, can only take photos. Later, at the Daily Bugle, Peter sells the shots to JJJ, and is assigned a job photographing a school fundraiser in Forest Hills.

Peter, now at the block party, is frustrated because Doc Ock is still at large. He sneaks off to change into Spider-Man. Meanwhile, we see Doc Ock robbing an Engineering Supply Warehouse, not far from the street party. Spidey swings by and notices Doc Ock in the warehouse. But Octopus was expecting him, and tumbles a heap of crates and barrels onto Spider-Man, causing him to black out. By the time Spidey comes to, Doc Ock is long gone, and the robbery is pinned on Spider-Man.

Aunt May informs Peter that she bumped into Doctor Octopus in the street, and has invited him over for Dinner! Peter realises that Octopus must be holed up in Forest Hills, and takes a punt that he's in the abandoned ACME warehouse. After a quick change to Spidey, he webslings over to confront Doctor Octopus. Sure enough, Octopus has just finished building a flying bomb, with which he plans to bring the city to its knees.

Spidey and Octopus go at it, and end up aboard the flying bomb which Ock had just launched. After an extended struggle aboard the bomb, one of Doc Ock's tentacles accidentally smashes the rotor on the bomb, and it falls (with Spidey and Ock aboard) into a lake. The shock of the bomb's detonator exploding knocks Octopus out cold, and Spider-Man emerges from the lake dragging the unconscious Otto Octavius behind him. Spidey hands Octopus over to police custody once more.

In General...

There are a number of points in this issue which serve to reinforce the era in which this series takes place. To start with, there's no way that Octavius's arms would have needed to be released from the glass display case before attacking the bailiffs. Then there's the coincidence of the Engineering Supply warehouse being so close to the block party where Peter happened to be. Thirdly, there's the scene where Aunt May meets Octavius in the street! And then invites him to dinner! Of course, then there's just the reminder of the classic "old abandoned ACME warehouse" where Octopus has holed up; it's the same warehouse where Spidey cornered the thief who had killed Uncle Ben!

You can view these instances as corny or weak story-telling, but I think they are EXACTLY the sort of thing that used to happen in the early years of Amazing Spider-Man, and therefore serve to take the reader back to those days, where incredible coincidences were common place in comics. I love the innocence May is shown as having, since she cannot even distinguish that Doctor Octopus is a dangerous criminal!

I've never been too fond of Doctor Octopus in general, but this comic had all the sub plot and hair-brained schemes of a crazy villain that you could hope for, and a flying bomb to boot! JJJ was even there, bagging Spidey in one of his more public displays! This is classic Spidey, guys!

Overall Rating...

I'll award this issue with a solid three webs, since it had all the ingredients, but didn't make the earth move for me!