Welcome to our "British History" lecture series. Our goal is to shed some light onto the murky history of one of Spidey's lesser known current titles... the alternate universe UK-only series Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine).
Started in 1995 as "reprints plus filler", it transmogrified itself a few years later and swapped that reprint content for 11 pages of original story content written by UK creators.
It's still running currently (in 2010). But we only started regularly reviewing from issue 100 or so (and even then we had a break for a couple of years during the #120's and #130's). Now, thanks to the joint miracles of eBay UK and international shipping, we're planning to track down and review all those other stories that slipped through the cracks the first time around.
This issue, we're at part two of a Doc Ock arc that threatens to... Unmask Spider-Man? Surely not!
Scene: Evening. Manhattan.
Spider-Man is swinging around dodging the police as he wonders how he can get out of this mess he's in. As we read last issue in Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #95, Spider-Man tackled Doc Ock and The Eraser at a swank society party, and ended up sharing the blame for the resultant mess. Naturally, Jonah Jameson has the Daily Bugle hard on Spidey's case, and a visit in person by the web-head does nothing at all to help matters.
What's more, some kind of flying tentacled robot (a bit like the ones in the tunnels of the Matrix a few years earlier) is tailing Spidey, watching his every move. Somehow, while the robot seems to be making Spidey a little unsettled, it doesn't trigger a full-blown alert of the web-head's Spider-Sense. Naturally, Ock is behind the tentacled technoid, and is watching via remote camera.
But wait, we have a couple of pages to fill. So cut to Electro sitting in prison, reading the papers and waiting his chance to get free and join Doctor Octopus. Cut again to some agents of Hydra on a rooftop. They're out looking for The Eraser. Remember, old wipeout-hands was supposed to be working for Hydra, but he swapped villainy-sides. The Agents of Hydra have a bit of bad luck when Spidey swings past and spots them. Their crime? Wearing green while standing on a rooftop. Their punishment? An unprovoked beating at the hands of our "hero". Some nearby cops cheer him on.
Enough vigilante-ism. Let's try some free-enterprise. The Lord helps those who help themselves, so they say - so Ock and The Eraser are helping themselves to a bunch of loot from an armored van. Spidey swings down to get involved, but the cops attending this scene obviously didn't get the same message as the other ones. They point their guns at Spidey, giving the true villains the chance to escape with their not-particularly-hard-earned cash.
Bah. Peter Parker has had enough. He finds a nearby alley and pulls of his costume... all while Ock's Robot watches. And... there we go! It has a clear shot of Peter's face. What's more it sees him heading into "The Silver Spoon" cafe to meet his friends at Flash's birthday party. Hey, look who else is here! Isn't that... Otto Octavius... the guy with all those arms?
Otto steps up to a stunned Mr. Parker and rips open Peter's shirt to expose his Spidey outfit beneath. Then right on cue the cops arrive, along with photographers. Ock and The Eraser leave the scene precipitously for the second time this issue (and the third time in a row this arc). Peter Parker, meanwhile, has many problems. (a) His photo as Spidey is on the front page of the Bugle, (b) he's going to jail, and (c) he hasn't got the slightest idea what he's going to do to fix things up.
Well, Ock certainly is playing things smart this time around. Rather than standing around for profitless battles with Spider-Man, he's going for the cut-and-run with the profits, picking the time, place and circumstances for his battles. Clever guy. Full marks there.
In fact, the only complaint I have with this story at all is... how come the robot didn't set of Peter's Spider-Sense. We know that being watched as he changes will trigger his senses. That's how he gets into his apartment every night without being accidentally spotted. It's well documented. So, maybe a senses-dampening gas? Well, no, because five minutes later Spidey's senses go full blast just seconds before Ock crashes the cafe party.
Sorry folks, but I just can't see how this story makes any sense.
If the fundamental point of your story involves contradicting Spidey's basic powers without explanation, then you've got a real problem.
Maybe there's an explanation coming. Maybe there's not. I'm going to give it three webs for now. At the end of the arc I'll come back and either upgrade to 4+ webs if we get this explained satisfactorally, or downgrade to next-to-nothing if we don't.