Amazing Spider-Man #88-90
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #88, Amazing Spider-Man #89, Amazing Spider-Man #90
Dr. Octopus, in a prison in the midwest, summons his arms from New York.
In the saddest display of police incompetence in a comic book ever, the NYC police fail (along with Spidey) to stop the arms or to alert the prison guards that they are coming. So Doc Ock escapes and catches a plane out of Chicago back to New York. Think about how far those arms would have had to travel in order to make it worth Dr. Octopus' while to fly home from Chicago. You could have had the entire state police plus the Avengers waiting near his cell by the time those arms arrived.
Anyway, the plane he chooses also happens to contain J. Jonah Jameson, his son John, and General Su, who is flying to the UN for peace talks (by way of Chicago?) where he will delight the UN delegates with such phrases as "Ah so! There are those who would wish us harm!" and "When the wise man cannot act, he waits... and bides his time!".
It also contains some flight attendants in funky go-go gear. So really, it was a good choice for Doc Ock; he gets a little of everything.
Peter and Robbie show up at the NYC airport in order to get the story, and they find retired police chief Captain Stacy there as well. That old man has his fingers in everything. There's also a bunch of hippies protesting General Su, so i guess he is supposed to be the South Vietnamese representative. When Robbie sees the protesters he snaps, foaming at the mouth and shaking his fist. Clearly, this relates to pent up frustration with his son. Peter sneaks away while Robbie is ranting to attack Doctor Octopus as Spider-Man. In the fight Doc Ock is seemingly killed in a plane explosion.
Issue #88 was drawn entirely by Romita and, coupled with the nicer production values of the one shot it was reprinted in, it looks really nice compared with the issues where he's only been doing breakdowns (again, though, it may be due to the quality of the older Marvel Tales reprints).
The remaining issues are drawn by Gil Kane, who i am not a fan of, but are inked by Romita (and apparently Tom Mortellaro) and look pretty good.
Peter begs off on another protest organized by Randy (against air pollution), despite the fact that Ralph Nader was going to show up.
Peter wants to search for Doctor Octopus instead, but that seems kind of like an excuse because he's presumed dead and certainly not actively raising a fuss.
After searching for Doc Ock for a while (Where? Where? Where? Where?)...
...he finally finds him and, after a preliminary battle that Spidey loses...
....the two of it go at it in a battle on a rooftop. A crowd gathers below, and as Octopus knocks a bunch of bricks off a chimney into the crowd, Captain Stacy pushes a kid out of the way, getting hit by the bricks himself.
Peter defeats Dr. Octopus using a device that scrambles his mechanical arms, and then he rushes down to get Stacy. It's too late to take him to the hospital but with his dying words Stacy reveals that he knows that Peter is Spider-Man and he tells him to look after his daughter.
To the crowd it seems that Spider-Man killed the Captain and then took the body away.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: The Death of Captain Stacy
Inbound References (15): show
With #89, Gil Kane leaves DC for good(or for a few years, anyway)and spends his time doing short runs on lots of Marvel titles--usually receiving worse inking than the kind he professed to dislike at DC (though usually not on Spider-Man).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 13, 2011 12:45 AM
#90 received some criticism in fanzines for allowing the kid to get past a tight police cordon to begin with.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 3, 2013 6:09 PM
Yeah, Marvels 4 has a newspaper headline wondering about the boy. As some fans have pointed out, one has to wonder if this is the same kid that got Jarella killed.
Posted by: Michael | February 3, 2013 6:25 PM
I know this storyline isn't the best but good lord do I just LOVE the fight between Spidey and Ock in issue 90! It has desperation, Spidey tries his darnest but just can't beat Ock this time! Forget the story but that is one great fight and creative fight.
Posted by: David Banes | November 15, 2013 3:36 AM
Well, Tony Mortellaro, and, as per his custom, I imagine he just did backgrounds.
Posted by: Haydn | June 8, 2014 1:34 PM
That Captain Stacy is pretty spry for an old guy using a cane, I'm just saying. Skrull imposter?
(Hey, if they can bring Norman Osborn and Bucky back, I say go for everybody. Continuity is for geeks, right, Quesada?)
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 1, 2014 4:30 AM
This was the first "important" Spider-Man issue I read as a kid, and I was immediately hooked. I had a recent issue from that time that referenced this story and I remember taking the two comics and comparing panels (something I do even today with that kind of stuff).
Posted by: Enchlore♠ | November 3, 2014 8:08 PM
Totally agree with David Banes, the Spidey vs Doc Ock fight scenes are surely the most exciting battles they ever have together. Totally dynamic, with Ock seeming a real threat.
Posted by: Jonathan | July 18, 2015 8:36 AM
I've always liked Gil Kane's pencils and weird angles, and I love his giant monsters. His main weakness IMO is his preference for his own inks. Here he benefits greatly from Romita's inks.
Posted by: James Holt | October 31, 2016 12:09 AM
In #89, I was struck by how Peter Parker is literally just feet away from Doc Ock—who's hiding in an alley and picks up a newspaper discarded by Peter—yet his spider sense never starts tingling. Then he decides to awkwardly change into his Spider-Man costume on a rooftop and go looking for Ock, presumably relying on luck and eyesight alone. It doesn't make a lick of sense. (Forget the fact that there's absolutely no way Ock would NOT have been spotted roaming the streets of the city with his ridiculous tentacle arms. Couldn't he have at least put on a raincoat?)
It made me consider that this issue was likely plotted by Gil Kane, and that Romita probably deserves a lot of credit for the strength of the storytelling in the previous issues. The art is good, but I didn't care for the pacing or action in this issue.
Posted by: Groove25 | July 2, 2017 5:13 PM
Peter's Spider-Sense has been portrayed inconsistently over the years. In some cases, it's triggered by criminals who have been violent in the past but aren't doing anything illegal at the moment. In other cases, it's only triggered by people who are only on the verge of attacking him or his friends and relatives. Kurt Busiek has said he favors the latter interpretation. One possible explanation is that in a city the size of New York, there are so many murderers, rapists, child molesters, wife beaters, etc. on the loose at any given moment, that Peter is constantly getting "noise" from his Spider-Sense- and I think one writer has suggested something similar.
Posted by: Michael | July 2, 2017 6:56 PM
Yeah, I'm no expert on "spider sense", but I'd been reading Essential Spider-Man, Vol. 4 and enjoying the way the power is used to make it conceivable that Spider-Man could actually roam an entire city to hone in on bad guys and criminal activity.
It seems to be missing from #89, and I'm tempted to attribute it to the change in artist. I don't know if Kane would have been plotting or Stan, but I definitely suspect that Romita had been in the driver's seat before this. I get the sense that plotting and breakdowns were not easy for Romita and that he took it very seriously, which is probably why he backed off penciling many issues.
Sensing an unexpected dangerous presence and combing the city for bad guys are two instances where "Spidey sense" is often invoked, and both activities come up here, back-to-back, with nary a mention. It even popped up twice in the preceding issue (#88), first when Spidey stumbles upon Doc Ock's tentacles as they're running amok in the street, and then again when he's atop the airplane, trying to hone in on Ock's exact location.
And that "Where? Where? Where?" panel? It shouldn't have been necessary. It comes off as a cheap ploy to ratchet up tension. I like Gil Kane; I just didn't think this was a very good Spider-Man issue. It's not just the art that's different but the understanding of the character, which seems weak and makes the story come across kind of generic and arbitrary. The entire second half of the issue is a single battle scene.
Posted by: Groove25 | July 3, 2017 12:25 AM
While the plot is light, I think the fight's choreographed very well, one of Spidey & Ock's best. As for spider-sense, I prefer the "imminent danger" interpretation. A hero who's constantly receiving sensory input which he filters to get the info he wants... well, I've just described Daredevil. We don't need these two swinging street-level superheroes sharing another shtick.
Furthermore, while Matt's senses are defined, it's nebulous what spider-sense even is. It can detect Doc Ock just because Ock's a villain? If Octavius had had a change of heart, the sense would somehow know? And it picks up criminal acts that are no threat to Spider-Man all over the city?
The whole thing's too magical. Pete got his powers from a radioactive spider, and none of this is remotely what spiders do. I can buy an arachnid sensing that Joe is about to swat it, but not that Joe is in his basement building a bomb.
Posted by: Mortificator | July 4, 2017 11:49 AM
Again, I was just mentioning "spider sense" as one concrete example of how #89 suddenly differed from the preceding issues, in terms of its absence as a plot device. (And my Essential Vol. 4 ends with #89, so I don't know how things are handled afterwards.) The extended battle scene would be another example. Even the way Peter Parker changed into Spider-Man seemed different—first worried about being seen as he walked up some building stairs to a rooftop and then changing into costume in broad daylight—and his monologue during that scene, as he departed as Spider-Man.
I'm basically meditating on the role of artist as author. If the same writer were in charge throughout, we wouldn't see such a radically different approach to the character and to plotting. And I'm thinking that the stories I was appreciating prior to #89 were really Romita's stories, even though it's tempting to assume he just did the visuals.
Posted by: Groove25 | July 4, 2017 3:53 PM
I'm pretty certain that Captain Stacy is the first significant supporting character death in modern Marvel Comics. In saying that, I'm ignoring any heroes or villains who apparently or "actually" died (and I count Bucky and Frederick Foswell among them), but in terms of characters who had actually been part of the supporting cast for awhile, Stacy's the first to die, isn't he? After this, there starts the annual trend: Dorma, Jarella, Gwen Stacy.
Posted by: Michael Grabowski | April 9, 2018 12:03 AM
Professor X in X-Men #42.
Posted by: AF | April 9, 2018 4:41 AM
Janice Cord in Iron Man #22; she'd been around since issue #2 and was Tony's love interest in his new series.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | April 9, 2018 5:17 PM
Pamela Hawley died yet earlier, in Sgt. Fury #18.
Her death was preceded by the death of Dr Storm in Fantastic Four #32. But he had only been introduced the previous issue.
Junior Juniper died in Sgt. Fury #4, but I suppose he counts as a hero.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | April 10, 2018 7:03 AM
Thanks for the corrections. Franklin Storm I knew about and ignored because he was only around for one issue and seemed destined to die, and Junior Juniper seemed like another character created to be killed pretty quickly. I didn't consider Prof X at all but he didn't really die (though it may have been the intent at the time it was written) plus he's not exactly a supporting character. However I forgot about Hawley and I've never read that stretch of Iron Man comics & had never heard of Janice Cord, so I rescind my claim. Thanks!
Posted by: Michael Grabowski | April 15, 2018 11:29 AM
Does anyone have any estimates for how heavy the water tower Spider-Man lifts in #89 might be? You always see these water towers in Spider-Man comics of the time, but it's clearly a Master Planner-type effort for him.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 26, 2018 12:17 PM
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