They Call the Doctor…Octopus!
Script: Gerry Conway
Art: John Romita
Art Assists by: T. Mortellaro, J. Starlin
Lettering: Artie Simek
Originally published: October 1972
Doc Ock is back and this issue starts out with a big fight, during which Spidey is unmasked. Luckily, through some quick thinking, he’s able to temporarily blind Ock with some webbing. This gives him enough time to escape with his secret intact. Soon after this close call, though, Pete begins suffering from incredible stomach cramps. He chalks it up to not taking care of himself – constant worry, lack of sleep and food – and heads home to rest it off. Harry and Gwen get Doc Bromwell over, and he diagnoses Peter with nervous exhaustion and an ulcer. The poor kid.
Interesting note on the art – I’m pretty sure that nobody’s ever had nipples in Spidey comics before now. But there they are when Pete takes his shirt off for the doctor, clearly visible. Woot. He doesn’t seem to have a belly button, though.
Octopus’s plan is kind of mysterious, but it somehow involves a ‘Mister H’. This Mister H seems to be some kind of crime boss, and he’s preparing a trap for Octopus. Doc Ock figures it out, though, and shows up fighting. We don’t really see in detail how it turns out, but Dr. Octopus comes out on top.
Later, Ned Leeds gets a lead on where Aunt May might be, so Peter heads off to find her. As Spider-Man, which makes no sense. He even has to steal a new mask from a costume shop, because his got lost in the fight and picked up by Randy Robertson. On his way to find Aunt May Spidey runs into Ock again and they fight some more. Spider-Man is pretty weak, but he manages to find and strap himself into some kind of strength-augmenting harness that Octopus had one of his hoods using. With this new-found advantage Spidey is able to beat Ock. Oh, but what’s this? The harness had actually run out of power! Spider-Man did it all on its own! Oh my gosh how nice! WHAT. THE. EFF. That’s the lamest. Why even include the damn harness in the story then? Ugh I hate trite garbage like that.
After the fight with Doctor Octopus, Mister H shows up. He is Hammerhead, and seems to just want to run the crime in the city. Or something.
The writing in this had some potential, but it Conway kept ruining any momentum he had going. The Mister H stuff with Doc Ock was pretty interesting, and I was digging the mystery, but that got abandoned fairly quickly. Conway focused on Spider-Man’s troubles – his health, his Aunt May, his issues with Doc Ock – even though these were far less interesting than the Hammerhead/Doctor Octopus back story. The writing was also marred by Conway’s hamfisted, melodramatic, over-the-top narration. Thankfully this didn’t appear often, but it was still far more often than I’d like. Then there was that bullshit with the harness…
I would like to give this issue a good rating, but the problems were just too much for me.