THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #131
"My Uncle... My Enemy?"
Miles from Manhattan, way out of Spider-Man country, faced by an army of Doctor Octopus' thugs, with Aunt May's life at stake, Spider-Man faces no way to stop the secret marriage ceremony between his own Aunt and his worst enemy. Doc Ock is marrying Aunt May! As Spider-Man tries to figure out a way out of this situation, his spider-sense starts to tingle, something is about to happen, and Ock senses it too.
Following several loud crashes in the hallway, Hammerhead bursts into the scene followed by his yellow jumpsuit wearing gang armed with 'stun-pellets'. Hammerhead's objective is to burst in, knock everyone out, and split with the "Parker Dame". Octopus has plans of his own though. Brushing aside Hammerhead's thugs, he and Aunt May adjourn down a secret passage, and emerge from a secret tunnel beneath the estate where Spider-Man has been waiting for them. Octopus throws Spider-Man aside long enough to activate an elevator from his underground hanger, making his escape helicopter available. He and Aunt May complete their getaway as Hammerhead's goons arrive on the scene. With Spider-Man secretly clinging on the underside, Hammerhead's group give chase in their own helicopter.
While our web-slinging hero pauses for a moment's introspection, let's glance in on the party Spidey abandoned last issue. Jonah hogs the spotlight of the party telling boring tale after tale about New York's political scene. While Ned, MJ, and Betty hide out in the kitchen, Mary Jane complains about Peter giving her the cold shoulder earlier and wonders where he hid off to. Ned and Betty tell MJ to give Peter some time to come around, but Mary Jane thinks Peter could be a drag on her party-loving scene. As MJ leaves, Joe Robertson enters and cautions Ned and Betty that people find their own way without eager friends assisting.
As Octopus' helicopter heads north into Canada, Hammerhead follows. Apparently, Aunt May has something that Doctor Octopus wants. Octopus and Spider-Man know what this is, but at this point, the readers and Hammerhead have no clue. Despite not knowing what the wedding is about, Hammerhead merely figures that anything Octopus wants so badly would be useful to him as well. Meanwhile, Spider-Man, freezing from the frigid temperatures, clings tightly to the underside of Hammerhead's copter.
An so, twenty minutes later, Octopus lands on "crummy Canadian Island". It's not just any island, rather, it is holds one of the world's richest supplies of uranium found in nature and one of the world's most sophisticated nuclear breeding reactors to match! Yes, this is the terrible secret: May parker has inherited the most modern, privately-owned atomic processing plant in the word. A plant that, in the wrong hands, could produce weapons powerful enough for a madman (like Doctor Octopus) to wreak incredible havoc.
As Octopus and Aunt May exit their helicopter, Hammerhead's helicopter, spraying gunfire, dives in to ram Octopus' helicopter. Spider-Man leaps off the helicopter, narrowly avoiding impact, and enters the fray, taking down Ock's gun-toting thugs. He and Octopus then battle it out over who's going to carry Aunt May to safety. After taking several licks from Ock's tentacles, Spider-Man gets the upper-hand, and leaves Octopus stunned in the snow as he carries Aunt May to the safety of the factory complex.
But, not thirty seconds after Spidey's parting line has ceased to ring in his opponent's ears, Octopus recovers and leads his men in pursuit of Spider-Man followed closely behind by Hammerhead's gang.
Things finally go Spider-Man's way as he finds a supply plane in the factory's hanger. Luckily, the controls are simple enough for him to comprehend, and he and Aunt May blast off back home to New York. Meanwhile, Octopus finds the atomic breeder reactor. As he examines the system, Hammerhead charges in. Ignoring Octopus' warnings about starting a fight so close to the reactor, Hammerhead charges! BradabaBOOM goes the entire island in a huge fireball. The noise awakes Aunt May who, terrified at finding herself in the clutches of that horrible Spider-Man, immediately faints again.
Epilogue: It's almost dawn in New York, and the city is painted white by the snows of Christmas. In the lobby of an East Side apartment building, Mary Jane, abandoned at the party, walks home alone saying, "Tomorrow is another day!"
Thank god for the Embassy Suite's happy hour. It gives me something to live at the end of the day. With any luck, I'll get to bed at a decent hour tonight and not be so tired tomorrow.
Overall, an entertainingly bad story this issue. I wondered how the writer was going to top himself with badness after the debut of the Spider-Mobile last issue, but it seems that he was up to the challenge. There's so much wrongness about this issue, I'm not sure I can cover it all.
Ok, the story picks up after last issue. We have Aunt May marrying Doc Ock. Never mind that Aunt May isn't quite such a doddering old fool that she'd get married without telling her friends and family. Never mind that Aunt May is blind to the Otto's strange mechanical arms flailing about. The real silliness is yet to come!
So, Spider-Man is left to wonder how he's going to put a stop to the proceedings with all those arms thugs about and fretting about May's safety. Luckily, he's saved from having to do something drastic by the timely arrival of Hammerhead and his crew. My first question was, "Spider-Man had to sneak past armed guards to get outside the window, how did Hammerhead and his army of thugs get this far without making a commotion?" Unfortunately, the answer raises more questions. Instead of toting tommy-guns or other typical gang-war weapons, Hammerhead's crew are armed with silenced 'stun-gun'. This could've been a HUGE strategic error on Hammerhead parts if Octopus' crew outgunned them with real weapons, but fortunately, not one of Octopus' entourage pulls a single weapon. When you've got a publicly-known, secret hideout (oxymoron, I know), why bother arming your guards?
Octopus takes advantage of the chaos to hustle his bride-to-be through a hidden doorway and out the secret exit in back of the hideaway. There we're treated to the sight of Aunt May, staying in a snowbank, in freezing weather, wearing nothing but a flimsy wedding dress. If she's really so frail as to pass out at sudden shocks, what affect does being plunged into freezing weather have on her?
Ok.. Moving on, moving on, moving on. Spidey takes advantage of Octopus fleeing the scene to confront the Doctor mano-a-mano. Octopus gets in a couple of good licks, and rather than pursuing the battle, Spidey decides to lay low for Aunt May's sake. There he witnesses Octopus summoning his helicopter from it's underground hanger via a hydraulic lift. Instead of taking this time to give chase, Spider-Man WATCHES them board the helicopter and take off. Showing even less sense at this time is Hammerhead who, having just arrived on the scene, instructs his crew to shoot down the copter with their stun-guns. The futility of this plan is quickly evident, and Hammerhead's crew prepares to give chase in their own helicopter. Luckily, by this point, Spider-Man realizes that his only chance to rescue Aunt May is aboard one of the helicopters, and he hitches a ride. He's clinging to the outside of the vehicle, in freezing cold weather, and both whirly-birds head even further north into Canadian airspace, so it's lucky he's wearing his 'weather-proof' skin-tight, Spandex outfit!
Back at the party, that Peter bailed out on last issue, Ned comments on Peter's disappearance to Mary Jane. Mary Jane doesn't seem so hot on Peter when he's not around, but when he was there, she could hardly keep off of him. Typical behavior for Mary Jane though. I think it's decent characterization. Joe Robertson reminds Ned that poking his nose in other people's love-lives is only going to cause problems, and with that, we're back to the chase!
To recap, Doctor Octopus is fleeing by helicopter with his bride-to-be Aunt May. Hammerhead's crew is in hot pursuit in their own copter, and Spider-Man is hitching a ride on the outside of Hammerhead's ride freezing in the cold winter air. Finally, Doctor Octopus' ultimate plan is revealed! It turns out Aunt May has inherited her very own island complete with her very own nuclear breeding reactor (whatever that is) to boot! Please don't try to figure this out. The first time I read this story, I needed a few minutes to allow the bleeding in my brain to stop.
Octopus lands with his small crew and, unaware they were being chased, they unload their right. Hammerhead announces his presence in dramatic fashion by ramming his helicopter into Octopus'. As Octopus is already off the plane, this move on Hammerhead's part only makes sense if you assume that Hammerhead has some sort of death wish. Or maybe it's always been his dream to be stranded on a frozen island off the coast of Canada someplace. Whatever. He succeeds in only destroying the only two obvious rides off this island, but, in the true Comic Code fashion, no one is injured in the crash.
Spider-Man avoids taking the brunt of the impact by bailing off the helicopter at the last minute, and immediately leaps through a couple of Octopus' thugs to confront Doc Ock and Aunt May directly. This time, for whatever reason, he's not nearly about May's frail condition or the shock to her system, and he goes full-out against Octopus. Octopus gets in a couple of early licks, but Spider-Man recovers nicely by tossing his foe to the ground, leaping past his reaching arms, and giving him a few good shots to the chin.
After Octopus is stunned, Spider-Man carries off a collapsed Aunt May to search for a safe place for her to hide out during the battle. Chase scene #2 begins with Spider-Man, Aunt May in tow, swinging off towards the nuclear complex, Octopus and his men running and taking pot-shots at them, and Hammerhead's thugs with their stun-guns close behind.
By incredible coincidence (there's been so many this story, what's one more?), Spider-Man finds an abandoned, yet fully fueled supply plane, and by another stroke of luck, it's controls are so simple even HE can figure out how to use the plane to fly back to New York! Wasting no more time on this lame story, Spider-Man immediately flies off into the sunset!
But what of Doctor Octopus and Hammerhead? Hammerhead confronts Octopus in the heart of the facility by the 'atomic breeder'. Disregards Octopus' cries to be reasonable, Hammerhead charges causing a massive nuclear explosion consuming him, Octopus, and the entire island! Framed by a rosy red sunset and a rising mushroom cloud, Spider-Man and Aunt May (who recovered just in time to collapse again) head for home.
Left out in the cold (figuratively and literally) is Mary Jane. After being stood up at the party, she plans on worrying about her and Peter's relationship another day!
I think my brain shut down at the sight of Spider-Man and Aunt May flying a jet plane away from an island engulfed in an atomic explosion. I don't recall any particular complaints about the art except for the usual 'henchmen wearing bright yellow jumpsuits' and 'futuristic looking helicopters'. Actually, Ross Andru's art in the issue was pretty standard, but he does do a good job of showing scenes from different perspectives and such.
Well, there wasn't a lot of action early on in this issue. We had a two-panel scene of Hammerhead's men storming Octopus' hideout, and another short skirmish between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus. The fight on the island though featured a classic battle between Octopus and Spider-Man highlighting each foe's advantage and disadvantages when facing each other. The victor was never in doubt, and aside from that two-page battle the action mostly consisted of chase scenes. Not a particularly fulfilling issue.
Spider-Villain lessons 101:
Stun pellets??? STUN PELLETS??? Good grief.. What's wrong with plan old bullets? Hammerhead's ridiculous use of 'stun pellet guns' comes back to haunt him as the stun pellets aren't going to bring down Hammerhead's escape helicopter. Tip #3:
We've all seen Spider-Man susceptibility to cold- and ice-based attacks. However, he is apparently immune to freezing temperatures and wind chills as he clings to the outside of Hammerhead's helicopter as it flies over Canada in the wintertime. Tip #3:
Two important things to remember about nuclear plants. One, be careful because they explode in an atomic fireball at the slightest disturbance. And two, they apparently come equipped with a hanger and an 'escape jet' designed so that "even an idiot can pilot it". My thoughts are that this issues writer would still crash and burn.
©2002 Samuel Smith
Spider-Man and all images © 2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.