Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #77-79
Issue(s): Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #77, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #78, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #79
Spider-Man feels like this may be the big one where he may die, so issue #78 is devoted to him saying goodbye to all of his family and friends. And then #79 is the big battle.
The reason Spider-Man is taking this so seriously is that Doc Ock's strength has been increased with the restoration of his mechanical arms.
After leaving the hospital after Doc Ock's initial warning attack, when he should be resting up and prepping for the coming battle, he gets mixed up in an event with the Gladiator. A group of low level criminals bust into the Gladiator's costume shop and mess with his head, telling him that just because they showed up he's already mixed up in their crimes (which included killing a police officer), so he might as well just fight the cops for them. This triggers a dissociative episode for the Gladiator but Spider-Man is aware of his mental problems and is able to talk him back to reality.
If you accept that A) one can simply be talked back from a psychotic break and then be ok afterwards and B) that the police have no problem letting a guy that was attacking them go because he's "only" mentally ill, it's a good story that ends with Gladiator repairing Spider-Man's costume for him.
Cool opening splash in #77, with caricatures of all the creators involved.
Issue #78 is the "long goodbye", with Peter putting his affairs in order ahead of the fight with Doctor Octopus that may be the death of him.
He briefly meets the Black Cat's mom, and is shown getting real support from Jean DeWolff and the police.
He's unusually assertive about getting paid for his recent photos, and gets a big check from JJ, half of which he gives to his Aunt to help with her boarding house.
Mantlo also heavily foreshadows Peter's decision to quit grad school.
Peter then goes out to lunch with some of his friends. It's ridiculously depicted as the Last Supper.
And then he says goodbye to Aunt May.
Finally, he returns to the Black Cat, and nearly de-masks in front of her, but she stops him.
After all that build up (the Last Supper!), we have no choice but to anticipate that this will be the most awesomeist Spidey/Doc Ock battle ever. And i had my own expectations for this as well, because prior to reading this i had already read later Doctor Octopus stories referring to it, where thanks to this battle he became too terrified to face Spider-Man anymore. I'd argue that, allowing for Al Milgrom's art being what it is, it just barely lives up to the build up, but it didn't meet my personal expectations.
I guess it makes sense that Spider-Man starts this fight with his webshooters empty. A point of the battle with the Gladiator fight and lunch with his friends was that those things were keeping him from prepping for this battle. You'd think that replacing his web cartridge would be a basic thing that he could've done while in transit, but that's Peter Parker for you.
The battle begins outside the hospital...
But moves inside, with the police one step ahead of Doc Ock, transporting the Black Cat (who apparently couldn't be moved until the last minute due to her injuries).
Why is this lady enjoying her x-rays so much?
Continuing the fight.
When the fight moves back outside the hospital, Jean DeWolff rams her signature car into Doc Ock.
The fight moves to a train depot...
...and then a construction site. And this is where a different sort of artist might have helped make this a lot better. Because in concept this is kind of cool. Spider-Man gets up in the girders of an under-construction building, and taunts Doctor Octopus.
And when Ock's arms get close, Spider-Man amazingly bends the girders, trapping the arms. And then Doc Ock pulls back, causing the entire building to come crashing down on him.
That scene should have required all of Spider-Man's strength, and the building collapse should have been awesome. But as Milgrom draws it, it's all kind of "meh".
But with the building's collapse, Spider-Man has to rescue Doc Ock...
...and then he tells him that he beat him again, and he's always going to beat him and he might as well never try again.
And that's where my personal expectations come in. I anticipated something a lot more awesome. Something to top Spider-Man ripping off Doctor Octopus' arms in issue #76. Something devastating, humiliating to Octavius. Instead it's all pretty matter of fact. Mantlo hits the right notes in the script but again Milgrom's art is failing. And to be fair to Milgrom, it comes on kind of suddenly. A more one-sided fight throughout the battle, with Spider-Man constantly having the upper hand, might have made this ending make more sense. But that would have been a problem after the big build-up for the fight in #77-78.
Regardless, this certainly was an issue-long fight, and it will have serious ramifications for Doctor Octopus.
While all of this is going on, Boomerang is taken to prison. He's absurdly in full costume as he's taken to his cell.
One might argue that it's just a shortcut to show villains in their costumes while in prison, because without his costume Boomerang is pretty nondescript. But surely we expect better from Marvel. And Boomerang wasn't in costume during his court appearance in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #73, so why put him back in costume now?
He's back in a regular prison suit next issue, when the Punisher tells him that they're going to have a little break-out.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this between Amazing Spider-Man #239-240. These issues all take place across a two day period. Pushed back a bit in publication time to allow Marvel Team-Up #129-130 to take place before the Vision is disabled in Avengers #233.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): show
i read 78 as a kid. I remember being surprised at the structure, a whole issue when spidey ties up loose ends and says good-bye. My non-cynical self was kind of moved. Of course i never got issue 79, but I still managed to figure out spidey survived.
Posted by: kveto from prague | August 6, 2013 1:35 PM
I thought the same thing about Boomerang being in full costume. I think the prison did it for publicity, since they knew that there would be so many media members present. As you stated he is in a prison uniform afterwards and it didn't seem like it had too many super criminals yet, so they were trying to make a statement about being tough enough to house super villains.
Posted by: Fred Myers | November 23, 2013 1:15 AM
Just realized that that x-ray panel shows that Doc Ock really is big-boned. And here I thought big-boned was just a bunch of rubbish.
Posted by: kveto from prague | November 23, 2013 3:48 AM
"I'll always find a way to beat you!" "You'll never win! Never!" Ugh. Seriously did Mantlo write that?
Posted by: Mike | August 11, 2014 12:32 AM
I thought "Very funny! Your gravestone shall note that you died laughing." was actually pretty funny, if you read it with Doc Ock saying it with increased frustration.
Posted by: Gary Shawtown Taylor | February 28, 2015 10:57 PM
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