"Spider-Man Versus Doctor Octopus"
Amazing Spider-Man #3
Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Steve Ditko
Inks by Steve Ditko
Two months on and we get another certified classic. Sure, I’ve panned other “classics” so far (most notably Fantastic Four #1), but my number one priority in reviewing these oldies is not just to reward significance, but overall storytelling quality. The thing with these classics though is that much of the narratives are stilted and work on a very basic comic book level as a result of Stan and company still struggling to find their own voice. With The Amazing Spider-Man however, now three issues in (and four appearances for Peter in total), it feels with every issue that the voice that would separate them from their competitors and set them up as something more than a mimicking cash-cow investing into Superhero stock again—that the voice they’ve been getting closer to with the best of the Fantastic Four issues, is coming into sharp focus every couple of months when Lee and Ditko go all out and deliver classic after classic (and classic, in the right sense of the word!)
This month, things are admittedly a little more straight forward than they were previously, but with a few added ingredients to keep things interesting. First we have the now infamous Doctor Octopus getting his origin story; it’s simply told and relies perhaps a little too heavily on the now riddled cliché of radiation and mad doctors or scientists, but it’s told with enough restraint and pacing through Ditko’s panels that it still flows and comes off as vibrant and alive as The Vulture's story from issue number two. What's far more effective however is the battle between Spidey and Doc Oc which sees Parker take a fall this time around and have himself slapped around by the doctor’s relentless tentacles. So much so, that he walks away… defeated. Yup. Some superhero this guy is, right? Right. And it is such a great move on Lee and Ditko’s part.
Reinforcing the idea that Parker is by no means a miracle worker, the pair do well to create a fully realised character arc not just for the maniac doctor himself, but for Spider-Man who has to do battle with himself after he gets beaten up by his foe. I don’t know which is more brutal; seeing him being tossed out and window and into a tree trunk, or watching him sulk into himself cursing his apparent weaknesses only reinforced by his snarling teenage peers. For 1963, this was some ballsy stuff, and it pays off. Not only is it amongst the best work Marvel has put out thus far, but it would stay that way for a long time coming; both in terms of pure storytelling and significance.
MY SCORE: 8.0 (out of 10)