The Original Doc Ock Returns In Superior Spider-Man #12

by James Ferguson

In a short amount of time, Spider-Norman Osborn from Earth-44145 has destroyed Otto Octavius’ entire road to redemption. He’s outed him as the former Doc Ock, revealing the villain behind the hero. Now he’s put Otto in a no-win scenario. If he wants to save the life of a young boy, Otto must kill three innocent people.

I have to say, I’m a little bummed with how Superior Spider-Man pans out. This appears to be the last issue for reasons made abundantly clear throughout this story. You can’t really have a book about a Spider-Man if it doesn’t actually feature one. Pushed to the breaking point, Otto makes a deal with the devil to return to his old form as Doctor Octopus. This essentially eliminates all of the work and development this character has gone through over the past few years in favor of bringing back one of the biggest, baddest Spider-Man villains ever.
While I love Doc Ock and he’s a great bad guy, his redemption arc was really hitting its stride. Here you had a broken man who was learning how to care for others and see the good in this world. Now it’s all thrown away to have another maniacal man obsessed with showing the world how great he is. I was hoping for more of a continued rivalry between Otto as the Superior Spider-Man and Spider-Norman. These two could have made some legendary encounters, always trying to stop each other.

As it stands, Superior Spider-Man #12 feels a bit rushed, although I don’t know how else it could have gone given the situation. Writer Christos Gage wraps this up in a nice bow, although some things are breezed through, such as the fate of everyone’s favorite new character, Spiders-Man.
Where Gage really excels in this issue is how the others mourn the loss of Otto’s alter ego, Elliot Tollivar, the man they knew and loved. In a way, it’s like a funeral for Superior Spider-Man as a whole. We’re putting all this potential and earnest work to bed. Otto watches from afar and we have to wonder if he’s learned anything from this crazy experience he’s been through over the past few years. One could argue that by pushing everyone away, he’s really protecting them, but I feel like that’s a bit of a stretch.

Artist Mike Hawthorne captures the pure rage at work with Doc Ock. The character’s face is often contorted into a painful grimace, as if his pure existence is torture. This could come from how he sees the world or what he’s been pushed to do. If he truly understands all he’s given up in the pursuit of heroism and being a better man, that would send any normal person into a depressing downward spiral.
There’s some nice shadow work with the lines on Otto’s face, amplified by inker Wade von Grawbadger. You can see this inner turmoil play out with his expressions. It also adds a bit of darkness to him, showcasing the evil that’s returned.

In case you needed further proof that the bad guy is back, just check out what he does to Spider-Norman. You don’t see everything, but you hear it. Letterer Clayton Cowles fills the page with unsettling and painful sound effects, juxtaposed against Otto’s condescending scowl.
Superior Spider-Man #12 ends with a sunset, also playing into the end of this character. Colorist Jordie Bellaire paints the sky a gorgeous and fiery yellow that has a tinge of hope to it even though the issue ends on such a sad note. It’s a literal funeral.

I’m disappointed that Superior Spider-Man ends with what is essentially a reset button. This started some time ago as an absolutely insane experiment. I still remember all the outrage that hit the internet when it was revealed that Peter Parker had died and Otto Octavius had taken over his body. It was ambitious, impressive, and incredibly fun to read. Fast forward to today where Otto stood as his own character, separate from Spider-Man and out to prove himself. That’s a fascinating character study that’s come to a close in favor of bringing back the old, original Doc Ock. Will he be robbing banks or plotting crazy schemes in the near future? Probably. Will he have pangs of doubt or wonder what could have been? I hope so.
Superior Spider-Man #12 from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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