Amazing Spider-Man: Died in Your Arms Tonight

Comic books are a little like babies. They have a regular schedule. They cost a lot of money. And most of all, sometimes it takes several years for you to know if it'll turn out all right. This happened to me, for Superior Spider-Man. Maybe you've heard of it, you know -- it's the one where Dr. Octopus forcefully switched his dying body with Peter's healthy body, and in so doing stole Peter's body -- along with his memories and the lesson of great power and great responsibility. So it's the story of how Otto Octavius, as Peter Parker, becomes the Superior Spider-Man.

It took me a while, but I'm really seeing the thought they've put into this story. The whole series recently went on sale, and, well, I couldn't help myself. Dan Slott gets Otto Octavius. Or at least, he presents a really compelling version of Otto. The things that motivate him, the people that he cares about, and his history. It's a great story, and a great character to chew over and compare to Peter Parker.

So we're going to start from the beginning(ish) of his run with Dr. Octopus. We'll start with Amazing #600.

Amazing Spider-Man: Died in Your Arms Tonight
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #600-601, Annual #36
By Dan Slott, John Romita Jr. et al

Issue 600 opens in the weirdest way -- not with Spider-Man swinging across the city, not with Spider-Man saving someone from a robbery. But with Dr. Octopus in the hospital. As it turns out, he's seeing a physician for all of the head injuries he's sustained over the years. In fact, there's even a two-page montage of him getting hit on the head!
What's up doc? Your blood pressure I guess. Eventually the physician gives him the prognosis: not only has he sustained bodily damage over the years, but the radiation from the arms fused to his body has changed him. His body can't repair the damage like it used to, and he only has months to live. The news enrages him, and he lashes out at the doctor:
I refuse to dwindle away into nothingness! I am Otto Octavius!
One of the greatest minds in history! I swear, I will leave my mark upon you--all of you--the whole world!
And when I'm gone, none of you will ever forget the name of Doctor Octopus!

It's a dark transition, and we never get to see what happens. We just see the arms coming out at her, and we never even see his face. This idea of a "legacy" for Dr. Octopus gets dialed up to 11, and we get a sense of where the writers wants to put Doctor Octopus. It's kind of a new place for Dr. Octopus, an evolution of the scheming mastermind that we originally saw, all the way in Amazing #3.

Enough about the doctor. Issue 600 is a milestone, and it celebrates that milestone with the wedding of May Parker and Jay Jameson (the recently-introduced father of J. Jonah Jameson!). Peter assumes that he can web swing over to the dinner rehearsal, only to learn that he's out of web fluid, making him late for the dinner! If only the buses ran on time. This human life is balanced with this "amazing" life, the life of Spider-Man. It's a great chance for Peter to let off steam, to don this "goofball" persona that Dan Slott has nailed.

Later you learn about Dr. Octopus's Plan. He's made millions of little Octo-bots to hijack the city's electrical grid, train system, and so on. He unveils his grand plan via TV, to create New York City as the "City of the Future," a completely automated city that attends to everyone's needs, a city where the buses run on time.

It's just that, well, the Octo-bots are linked telepathically to his brain, and his brain actually kind-of wants to subconsciously kill Spider-Man. Oops. Eventually, Spidey along with his pal the Human Torch track down Otto's lair, where he's broadcasting the telepathic message.

It's never addressed in this issue, what Otto's real plan was. It may very well have been to contribute to society and make a name for himself, but we can't really tell from this issue. Just looking at those few panels, it reads like Spider-Man is bullying Otto. Doesn't it?

Anyways, Spider-Man wins, and the city is free from the malfunctions of the Doc Octo-bots. But there are more Octo-bots that carry the Doc away to safety, safe to scheme once again. Notice how the last panel above, says, "I was going to do something great," meekly. As they carry him off, his tone changes.
I can see now that Spider-Man is not irrelevant. He will always be there to hinder my plans...
...even if they are something great for the entire world. So be it. If he will not allow me to do something great...
...I shall do something great... and terrible!
It's an awful foreshadowing of the events that we'll see 80 issues later, in "Ends of the Earth" (Issue #'s 682-687 of Amazing). But at least for now, the Doc is out of commission, and Peter is free to attend his Aunt's wedding, and deliver her down the aisle. It's a touching moment that they have, where they acknowledge that, no, she may not be your biological mother Peter. But she has mothered you and developed you into the wonderful man you are today. She calls him "son," and he calls her, "mother." Because they are.
It's interesting here how May adds a variation of Peter's mantra on Power and Responsibility. It's almost like her own inflection of the phrase, applied to Peter's human life. Where Uncle Ben's usage of those words spurred Peter to be a super hero, May's usage of those words ground him internally. We have the power to be happy, and it's our responsibility to seize it.
The two lovebirds get married and, there you have it, issue #600 in a nutshell. But not before a surprise appearance from that one redhead -- Mary Jane!

601 is a direct follow-up to this issue. But it almost feels like a commercial break. While you wait for the actual story to happen, you're meant to read the issue in suspense, wondering if Peter will make the appointment that he planned with Mary, for the very next day. The problem is, he had drunk so much at the wedding, that he can't remember where or when to meet her! He goes out at Spider-Man to get some air -- stops a newspaper stand thief there, saves people from a fire here. Until one of his adventures finally reminds him of where they were meant to be -- only, we find out later that MJ was asleep for the whole day and left him hanging! It's a tease of an issue with very little consequence.

601 is followed up with Amazing Spider-Man Annual #36, which is, unfortunately another commercial break. While at May's engagement party in Boston, Peter learns of his cousins (including Ben Reilly!) who live there. He takes down a supervillain, to realize later that Ben had done something to some people, involving arson and perhaps murder. We're not told what it is, so it's really to set up some new storyline with Ben Reilly, who, I guess, has returned? I never really knew his whole story, but if it's good, I'm willing to be on board.
Issue 600 has a number of bonus covers and bonus stories. They're all cute slice-of-life stories about Spider-Man. One of my favorites is a discussion that a couple of schoolchildren have about being Spider-Man while on the playground. One of them theorizes that it'd be super-cool -- that he'd reveal his identity to the public and get all of the attention and glamour. But the other reminds him, Spider-Man has enemies who would just love to pretty on his loved ones! They go back and forth on topics like Spider-Man's costume, and how he would have to launder it, until eventually, they decide. . .
It's just wrong -- that Spider-Man is cool, but being Spider-Man isn't cool. That's like, so totally messed up. 

And, well, that's just a great way to sum up the plight of Spider-Man. It's one of the reasons that I love reading Spider-Man. There's this sense of escape -- you can swing across the rooftops of NYC! The city is your playground! Yet there's this inner conflict that makes him so relatable. Spider-Man -- the hero who could be you.

Next up: More Spider-Man!

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