It has been two years since Marvel “killed off” Spider-Man by causing a “brain switch” that put Doctor Octopus’ mind inside the body of Peter Parker. Naturally, this created a lot of havoc in the life of Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, including plenty of unheroic behaviour, conflicts with the Avengers, and an “on-again, off-again” romance with Mary Jane Watson. As I didn’t have a chance to read all the issues featuring Doc Ock as Spider-Man, I decided to read the “Darkest Hours” story arc (Superior Spider-Man #22-25) and also part of the “Goblin Nation” storyline (Superior Spider-Man #26) from last year. This was one of the last “Doc Ock as Spider-Man” stories before the return of Peter Parker last year. As I am reviewing these stories, and if you haven’t read these stories, watch out for the spoilers below.
I have to say I was quite impressed with the quality of this story arc. Dan Slott, Christos Gage, and Humberto Ramos do a nice job of portraying the chaotic world of Otto Octavius inhabiting the body of Peter Parker. There are the personal conflicts such as Aunt May’s discomfort with Otto’s new girlfriend Anna Maria and Mary Jane’s suspicions towards Peter Parker’s unusual behaviour. Also Otto Octavius as Spider-Man is a demanding and fearsome boss of Parker Industries.
There is also the surprising development when Otto takes advantage of Flash Thompson’s arrival at a family dinner to take possession of the Venom symbiote, which had previously bonded to Flash Thompson as “Agent Venom”. Otto, with the Venom symbiote newly attached to him, becomes the “Superior Venom”. The Superior Venom definitely looks menacing because it is Doc Ock controlling the Venom symbiote and the Superior Venom takes on Doc Ock’s tentacles/appendages and his self-important personality. Venom proves too much for Otto to handle, and it is Mary Jane who alerts the Avengers to stop the Superior Venom. Cue the big battle scene between the Superior Venom and the Avengers, when Flash Thompson arrives by being disguised in Iron Man’s armour, and he takes back control of the reluctant Venom symbiote. It is here that we see Peter Parker’s mind slowly re-assert its presence in his body by helping Otto Octavius purge Venom out of Spider-Man’s body, but Peter Parker doesn’t fully return for a few more issues.
There are also developments in the criminal world as we see the feud developing between the Hobgoblin (crime lord Roderick Kingsley) and the Goblin King (the resurrected Norman Osborne). This feud finally erupts into a duel between the two Goblins. In this battle, the Goblin King wins and he now has gained control of the united criminal forces of the Hobgoblin and his own army.
Overall, Dan Slott, Christos Gage, and Humberto Ramos have crafted some great issues. They weave interesting story threads but there is so much going on that I found myself lost at times and trying to summarize what happened. Ramos draws some great character faces: the facial expressions are like Manga characters and the characters are good-looking. His action sequences are generally good but I do find some action montages not very smooth and a bit confusing, such as a few of the panels showing the Superior Venom battling the Avengers. I also liked Dan Slott’s portrayal of a manic and controlling Spider-Man. It’s very enjoyable to see Otto Octavius as Spider-Man using surveillance, technology and his henchmen (“Spiderlings”) to fight crime. The surveillance aspect reminds me about how governments get so caught up in fighting crime and terrorism that ordinary citizens rebel against all this surveillance, just as the people of New York City rebel against the intrusive Spider-bots in the story.
Even though the “death” of Peter Parker was incredibly gimmicky and self-serving, meant solely to drum up comic book sales, I found the “Darkest Hours” storyline to be an enjoyable read. This storyline preceded the current “Spider-Verse” craze. I haven’t even started reading the Spider-Verse stories and I am reluctant to get caught up in all of the current Spider-Verse hype. I yearn for the classic Spidey stories that were simpler, elegant, and less commercialized. Current Spider-Man stories often seem to be about marketing new characters and I yearn for the older stories such as “If This Be My Destiny…!” or “Kraven’s Last Hunt”. While, we don’t see these types of classic stories anymore, “Darkest Hours” is still a decent read given the current state of overly-commercialized story threads from Marvel.