In Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #18 readers were treated to the emotional but unsurprising first half of the story of Doctor Octopus’s quest to put his mind back into… well… any body. With writer Dan Slott teasing Otto’s return for months, the events of the issue regarding Otto were hardly unexpected, but it was the emphasis on the characters and their very specific, emotional motivations that allowed that comic to shine. Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #20 is the second half of that story, finally filling in all the narrative holes left in Otto’s journey to return to the land of the living.
This story begins at the moment the previous adventures in Amazing Spider-Man #18 and The Clone Conspiracy #1 left off; Otto is dangling Spider-Man in his octopus arms for a mere panel or two before the story flashes back to tell the reader how the character got to this point. This issue-long flashback is ultimately not much more than a step-by-step retelling of the mechanics of Otto’s resurrection with a heavy helping of expository dialogue to make sure that all new readers can play catch up.
There are still plenty of joys to be found within this comic, with most of them stemming from Slott and co-writer Christos Gage’s fun body-swapping concepts and ideas about memory and mind manipulation. There’s a real sense of danger that takes over whenever Slott plays with these themes and concepts because surely none of these characters will ever be allowed to purely die. On the other hand, memory and ideologies seem a bit more fungible in comics, especially with memories of the Superior Spider-Man series still lingering on the fringe of readers’ minds, and as such the threat of alterning them is all the more alarming.
Here Dan Slott revisits the moments of Peter/Otto’s death in Amazing Spider-Man #700 before revisiting the concepts that powered the modern, classic Superior Spider-Man #9. In an exciting moment, Doc Ock is pitted against Peter Parker for control of the quickly developing clone body of Otto Octavius, but the fight ends abruptly and exactly in the way one might have expected. There are a number of opportunities within this chapter for Slott to have zigged when readers may have expected him to zag, but everything plays out exactly as one might have expected, considering that this is all a flashback. This lack of surprise is particularly disappointing when Slott reveals the boring identity of the men who stole Otto’s rotting corpse all the way back in Superior Spider-Man #21 (and then just held onto it for over 9 months of time… gross!?) only for it to be two nobodies with dubious motivations.
So there we have it, Otto Octavius is brought back from the dead, has partnered with the Man in Red, and is on a quest to win back the love of Anna Maria Marconi. As with any issue of Amazing or Superior Spider-Man co-written with Christos Gage, when Otto does finally regain control of his body, his disdain for his peers and assured superiority to those around him is deliciously reflected in both his dialogue and thoughts. It is unclear what lies in Otto’s future, but he remains the most consistently written character of Slott and Gage’s run on the book.
Giuseppe Camuncoli returns to provide pencils and aided by colorist Jason Keith as they pay homage to previous visuals in the series while dutifully telling Slott and Gage’s complicated and dialogue-heavy story. It’s hard not to invite comparison between Camuncoli’s depictions of famous scenes originally portrayed by Humberto Ramos and Ryan Stegman and unfortunately Camuncoli’s pencils play as lame reruns. Yet, when Camuncoli is allowed to invent he does so with incredibly relish, crafting a twisted, maniacal, and angry Doctor Octopus who is more terrifying than his haircut might imply. Even better is how Spider-Man’s costume wraps around him during his and Otto’s memory battle. Sure, it’s a pale reflection of earlier battles but it’s a neat visual idea.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #20 often feels like half a comic stretching to fill a full twenty-three pages, without any unique twists or new character revelations, but for completists this will answer all the questions raised in The Clone Conspiracy #1 in a rather satisfying fashion. If this issue is any indication, Amazing Spider-Man‘s role of playing second fiddle to the main event will make it hard for the book to find a way to be anything more than non-essential exposition. However, with characters as fun to read as Doctor Octopus there’s some sugar in the mix to help the medicine go down smoothly.