Avenging Spider-Man #15.1: Conscience or Not?

No more Amazing, sure, but Avenging is going to hew closer to the events of Superior Spider-Man now.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Avenging Spider-Man #15.1

We may be webbed out today with our dueling takes on Amazing Spider-Man #700, but it's a light comic week, so let's keep talking about the significant development going on in Spider-Man's world – namely, Dr. Octopus pulling a Freaky Friday and taking over his body, complete with learning a lesson or two in appreciating the life his antagonist has led. Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 picks up right where ASM #700 left off, and where Dan Slott left us thinking Otto Octavius had turned over a new leaf, Chris Yost's follow-up has us wondering if Otto is even aware of what constitutes leaf-turning.

Today's social media eruption about the "death of Peter Parker" has also included a conversation about Otto's apparent intentions to hook up with Mary Jane Watson under the assumed identity of Peter, and whether or not that constitutes rape. While the creepiness is there in this issue – including Otto feeling overwhelmed with desire for her despite intellectually considering her a liability – checking out some of the tweets about the topic from the people behind it may allow us to breathe a little easier about whether or not they'll actually deal with that murky morality.

Spider-editor Steve Wacker says "It's a super hero adventure comic about mistaken identity. If you see rape in it, that's on you."

Slott himself says that issue will be dealt with in Superior Spider-Man #2, and hopes we'll withhold judgment until then.

Also promising is Slott telling the LA Times that fans may be ready for this darker turn in Superior Spider-Man after they read the first issue of that. "We still got one more trick up our sleeve." My guess is we get a door opening for Peter's eventual return in some fashion.

So, with that impending crisis tabled for now, what Yost gives us in Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 is the mind of Otto Octavius dealing with what comes next now that he's achieved his goal of defeating Spider-Man once and for all. First, he celebrates his victory with the customary evil cackle. Then, he goes about evaluating the life Peter has left in his hands, its successes and failures, and what he'll do to put his own stamp on it. After a weirdly instinctive crimestoppers moment, he begins the rude alienation of his Horizon Labs cohorts in a fit of arrogance. He doesn't seem like the guy from the end of ASM #700 who learned about power and responsibility, but then again, one doesn't change one's personality overnight.

The shift in perspective starts to come when he returns to one of his old bases and realizes his defense systems treat him as an intruder… and he gets to experience a fight against a ranting video-taped Doc Ock from Spider-Man's perspective, and realizes just how much of a failure he was in his former life. His disgust and disavowal of his past self in favor of becoming The Superior Spider-Man serves to wipe the slate somewhat clean. The former Otto is charting a new path, one that neither Peter Parker nor Octavius would ever have attempted, and one has to wonder how much of the Parker conscience is going to carry over into this new state of being – or, for that matter, the Parker luck.

This all just feels really weird. Intriguing, but also very uncomfortable.

Yost always tells a good story, and Octavius learning humility while never losing his arrogance is uniquely compelling, but maybe it's just my lack of general investment in Ock that's putting me off a little. Paco Medina's artwork is solid as well, particularly in the sequence where Spider-Ock listens to his former self with contempt and dismissive disgust.

The question is just whether or not Otto Octavius can carry a book (let alone two) for however long Slott and Yost need him to do it. He's one of Peter Parker's earliest villains and he's certainly stood the test of time, but he's also been a portly, bowl-cut joke for most of that time. Slott's been building him up over the last long while, especially with his nearly-successful scorched earth plot earlier this year, and now it's finally time to take Dr. Octopus seriously. The only way to do it seems to have been to put him in a less portly, less bowl-cutty body. His archenemy's body.

Having the villain score the ultimate victory over the hero and then ask 'what now?' feels like something you only see in alternate realities, but here, Slott and Yost have put it into the main 616. Despite my reservations, those two writers have earned more than enough trust from me to believe that they're not going for some cheap stunt, but rather doing their damnedest to elevate Otto Octavius into the upper echelon of legitimate, competent supervillainy… or, more interestingly, superheroism, a place no one ever expected the little egomaniac spud to go.

The result so far is that I'm interested. I can't say I'm excited yet, but I'm interested. Let's see what trick is pulled in Superior Spider-Man #1.