This one doesn't even dare use the title of the original story since it has so thoroughly skewed the plotline as to make that title unworkable. It also begins with an out and out lie. "Because you demanded it... he's back!" reads the first line in touting Doctor Octopus, as if it was reader demand and not the sequence of the original Lee/Ditko stories that brought about this tale. Not a very promising beginning, though the issue turns out to be a vast improvement over the previous one. Not that that's saying much.
|Plot:||Stan Lee, Steve Ditko|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man: Marvel Age Digest #3|
Thank goodness cell phones were invented so that they could be used to drive this plot along! First Peter uses parts from old cell phones to create his first spider-tracer and then Betty steals her brother Ben's cell phone so that he has to come back for it. Unfortunately, he brings Dr. Octopus and Blackie Glaxon with him. Blackie has just lied to Ock about 2.6 million dollars he has stashed away to con Doc into busting the both of them out of jail. (Doctor Octopus is in "Spider-Man 2" movie characterization in this story... only interested in escaping and getting the money to finance his researches and get "back in the good graces of the scientific community".) Ben, Blackie, and Ock kidnap Betty and take her to a boat (the "San Romita") moored out in the river. Blackie tells Ock the money is stashed there but it actually houses an entire crew willing to tackle the super-villain on Blackie's behalf. (How a loser like Blackie can command a whole crew of tough sailors is not explained. It might make sense if he was the gang leader he is in the original story but... he's not.) Spider-Man follows his tracer to the boat but it takes him a while to get there because he has to row himself out in a rowboat. Once he gets there, he fights Ock, who ultimately appears to die in a boat accident. Meanwhile, Ben comes to his senses and protects his sister by grappling with Blackie. Both men go tumbling overboard to their apparent deaths.
At a certain point, they should just dispense with the credit that reads "Stan Lee and Steve Ditko: Plot" and change it to something like, "Stan Lee and Steve Ditko: Created Something Remotely Resembling This". The original story is entitled "Turning Point" because it deals with events that bring about Betty's severe aversion to Spider-Man. In the story from ASM #11, April 1964, Bennett is killed when he steps in front of Betty and protects her from a bullet fired by Blackie Gaxton in his struggle with Spider-Man. Betty's immediate reaction is to pound on Spider-Man's chest and blame him for interfering. Suddenly Spider-Man is damned either way. He ignored the Burglar back in Amazing Fantasy #15, August 1962 and Uncle Ben died. This time, he gets involved and Bennett Brant dies. This terrible dilemma is magnified as Betty, ignorant of his secret identity, hugs Peter and then tells him that she never wants to see Spider-Man again. It's not the most complex characterization in the world but it's "The Brothers Karamazov" compared to the new version which sidesteps all those tricky complex emotions in favor of a simple story of heroism which leaves Betty feeling nothing more subtle than sorrow. And none of the bodies are even recovered, making the survival of all three characters a distinct possibility. How much more can these old stories be watered down anyway? I'm constantly amazed at the way this series seems to want to protect kids from plot threads that originally took place in a comic book written for kids. And all the complexities are regularly stripped away as if we're concerned that decades of video games have ripped the very concept of nuance out of the heads of our children.
On the plus side, there are some nice touches. I enjoyed Logan Lubera's drawing (on page three, panel six) of Peter putting his arm around Aunt May with May oblivious to the webbed glove on the hand that is resting on her shoulder. Spidey forced to cross the river on the "razza frassin' stupid rowboat" is fun as is this exchange between Spidey and Ock: "Okay Doc, I know you don't want to hurt those kids, so here's the deal... you put them down and take me hostage instead." "Do you think I'm crazy? You would just try to get away and stop me!" "No. No, I wouldn't. I... Aw, who'm I kidding? You're right." But there isn't anywhere near enough of this stuff to save things.
I'm giving this one two webs. And, believe me, it feels like I'm being generous.