The era of Superior Spider-Man is over, but one thing was noticeably missing from its ending in Superior Spider-Man #31: our main character Otto Octavius. Fortunately for Doc Ock fans, in Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #12, the creative team delivers a series swan song that not only gives Otto his much-deserved final moment in the spotlight, but also adds some rich new layers to his character.
We pick up this issue in the middle of a flashback Otto is having during his time behind the Spidey mask. A potential dream team-up years ago between the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus has come crashing down after Norman Osborn infected Otto’s one true love with a deadly disease.
If the last issue was a comedy about the similarities between Ock and Gobby, Superior Spider-Man Team Up #12 is an action ride that focuses on their differences. Writer Kevin Shinick stresses that the core difference between the two is Rage vs. Reason. But if Otto is supposed to represent reason, you wouldn’t know it in this issue. All we see is Otto’s rage in full display. Norman doesn’t have as much of the wit and humor of last issue, but he’s still having sick fun at Otto’s expense. Norman even predicts that he won’t even remember this entire episode in the future (perhaps a little wink to the fact that none of this unfinished business came up at their sit-down in Superior Spider-Man #27?)
As the issue culminates, it becomes clear that these events won’t just scar Otto; they’ll change the path of his life. He’s inspired to become the “superior” enemy, not only because of his hatred of Spider-Man, but also his hatred of Norman. Doesn’t that make the events of Superior Spider-Man #30 even more tragic for Otto? While Ock did “kill” and replace Peter, he could NOT defeat Norman. And his inability to defeat Osborn ultimately caused Otto’s “death.” One could argue that means Norman is still the Superior Nemesis. Although Peter himself argues that Otto’s creation of a cure for the Goblin Serum makes him the ultimate victor.
The art of Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #12 doesn’t just make the issue a success; it makes it an instant classic. There are more than 5 pages devoted to beautiful Ron Frenz/Ron Buscema single and double spreads. Frenz finds great ways to let the art create its own panel lines, whether it’s Ock’s tentacles or a bridge in the background. The art flows in a natural direction, so it’s rarely confusing for a reader to follow. The classic, iconic look of Spider-Man makes nearly ever pose poster-worthy. It’s hard to believe there wouldn’t be demand for an ongoing Spider-Man series that looks like this.
There are many great little moments in this issue. A double-spread of Otto pummeling Norman is an indirect tribute, at least in emotion, to the great cover image to Amazing Spider-Man #339. Frenz later shows that Otto is ready to kick goblin butt by dressing him in his classic Ditko-era green and orange jumpsuit. There’s even a Scarlet Spider appearance!
There’s a semi-awkward moment at issue’s end, where back-from-the-mindscape Peter delivers a sort of PSA message. He wants readers to know that while he doesn’t condone what Otto has done, he’s not all that angry right now either. Despite being out of action for months and having his life turned upside down, in the new status quo, Peter is “just happy to be back.”
As both a 2-part story arc and a series finale, Superior Spider-Man Team Up #12 is a great success. It was an engaging tribute to Otto Octavius that served as the icing on the cake to this historic time in Spider-Man’s history. Let’s hope there are more Spider-centric opportunities for this creative team in the future.