An Elderly Doc Ock Makes His Final Attack In Spider-Man: Life Story #4

by James Ferguson

You’d think being bitten by a radioactive spider and getting super powers would be a blessing, but for Peter Parker, it’s turned into more of a curse. While he’s now the head of his own company, he’s all alone. Mary Jane left him, taking their two kids as far away as possible. Aunt May is dead. To top it off, a crazed and elderly Doctor Octopus has learned his secret identity and is preparing his ultimate revenge.

The wall-crawler is no stranger to tragedy, but some of some of those adventures tend to fade over time, particularly the more embarrassing ones. Spider-Man: Life Story puts them all together, showing the effects they’d have on a single man. They wear him down to the point where he’s at the end of his rope.
One key differentiating factor in Spider-Man: Life Story is how Peter conducts himself in costume. The quips are gone. Usually when he’s behind the mask and the pressure’s on, you can’t shut the guy up. He’s quieter now, focused on staying alive instead of cracking jokes. Since this is one of the key defining traits of the character, it gives you an understanding of just how serious this is.

Writer Chip Zdarsky weaves a number of major Spider-Man storylines into this book. He can pick and choose what he wants to use over the character’s decades-long history, so it was interesting to see that Ben Reilly was a part of this series. Zdarsky takes one of the biggest blunders Marvel Comics made in the ’90s and turns it on its head. Put into the context of this story and Peter Parker at this point in his life, this is a pretty cool twist.
I absolutely love how artist Mark Bagley has updated the designs for not just Spider-Man’s costume, but the other characters as well. As we’ve gone through forty years of their lives at this point, they’ve grown and changed over the years. Doc Ock is just as menacing as ever. Otto is an old man and it shows. His green costume hangs around him like a hospital gown. It gives the appearance of someone that just escaped from a mental institution. The maniacal look on his face certainly backs that up.

Bagley also updates Spider-Man’s costume in new and sleek ways. Since it’s the ’90s, it could have been covered in pouches which would have been funny, although impractical. The costume is updated to help a Peter Parker who’s now in his 50s. It’s a little thicker with armor, although not to the extent that it limits movement.
Andrew Hennessy’s inks highlight the wrinkles in the characters’ faces. Peter is showing his age around his eyes while Otto is practically a prune. The two men wear their years differently. Although he’s faced tragedy and adversity, Peter’s wrinkles are more like laugh lines, while Otto is shriveled up and heartless.

There are two deaths in Spider-Man: Life Story #4 that mirror one another. It’s interesting to see how these two could be so close physically and emotionally, yet so different in their hearts. These are some very touching scenes that further solidify Peter’s next steps. Letterer Travis Lanham adds to the emotion with some last words that are a struggle to say. The word balloons are weak and jittery as the font gets smaller and smaller.
The tone of Spider-Man: Life Story is mostly dreary and dismal. Colorist Frank D’Armata creates a grey cloud over Peter Parker as things go from bad to worse for our hero. This changes by the end of the issue to a brighter outlook. It’s like the sun peeks out again, shining a ray of hope down on him, coinciding with a big decision.
Since we rarely get to see super heroes grow old, Spider-Man: Life Story has provided us with a unique look into one of the most iconic characters in the industry. Yes, it can get a little dark at times, but so does life. This puts Spider-Man into the same kind of troubles we all face as we get older, however with a much deadlier spin on them because he has mad scientists attacking him all the time. This issue wraps up in a beautiful fashion that could have ended the series. Knowing that there are two more chapters left makes me wonder what else could possibly happen to Peter Parker.
Spider-Man: Life Story #4 from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: