Amazing Spider-Man #20
Written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith and Jason Keith
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Doctor Octopus returns… again!
Two issues after explaining how Otto Octavius jumped into the robotic mind of the Living Brain, writer Dan Slott teams up co-writer Christos Gage and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli to tell us the story of… how Otto wound up in a human body! Admittedly, coming so soon after an Otto-centric issue, Amazing Spider-Man #20 might have you feeling a bit of deja vu, delivering answers to plot twists you probably didn’t question in the first place. But while the actual necessity of this story might be a little questionable, it’s hard to dismiss the sheer skill that went into telling it, with Camuncoli’s artwork providing a strong foundation for Slott and Gage’s engaging character work.
With The Clone Conspiracy serving as Marvel’s current flagship Spider-title, Amazing Spider-Man finds itself in some strange waters, suddenly having to play second banana to an event book. For now, Slott and Gage’s solution is to bounce between the two books, with the Amazing title providing the exposition behind The Clone Conspiracy’s over-the-top action. How did Otto Octavius go from being trapped in a futuristic wristband to returning to the flesh? The answer takes up the majority of this issue, and while you can’t help but feel seven pages worth of story stretching to fill the issue’s full page count, Slott and Gage acquit their pacing with some strong character beats.
Since Slott took over the title officially, he’s cannily repositioned Otto Octavius to be Spider-Man’s true rival, always jockeying to be “superior” and railing against Peter Parker’s perceived wasted potential. Slott and Gage return to that clever dynamic here, revisiting plot threads dropped from Amazing Spider-Man #700 and closing any logical holes involving Otto’s initial brain switch gambit. Having Otto confront Peter Parker in the arena of his own mind is a nice callback to Superior Spider-Man, but it’s tempered by the fact that the conclusion is already foregone - we know Otto will be victorious, and we also know this isn’t the “real” Peter Parker, but a copy of his brainwaves. Still, Slott and Gage get this opportunity to remind us what makes these two characters tick - while Otto is all about self-preservation and ego, Peter is about perseverance and heroic selflessness.
But ultimately, what gives Amazing Spider-Man #20 the strength to move forward has to be Giuseppe Camuncoli’s artwork. Even when Slott and Gage’s story drags a bit, such as the lengthy explanation of how Otto’s body went from a graveyard to a buyer to the Jackal’s hands, Camuncoli and colorist Jason Keith keep things energetic, such as Otto and his digital assistant Anna-Maria looming across a red-tinged corridor of cyberspace, or a great callback to Humberto Ramos’ work at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #700. Yet Camuncoli’s greatest skill has to be when he draws quiet moments of conversation - and inevitably, this is a talky issue. Camuncoli gives his characters such expressiveness, and even the Jackal, who now wears an Egyptian-inspired mask, still has a sardonic sense of humor as he watches Otto fight for his life.
At the end of the day, Amazing Spider-Man #20 might feel a little superfluous against the grand scheme of The Clone Conspiracy - it might be considered a necessary evil for completists, but there’s still a little bit of evil nevertheless. Had this backstory come alongside some forward movement in the greater saga, this might be a bit more essential reading - but that said, even though Slott and Gage feel the need to (over)explain Otto Octavius’s return, they don’t skimp on the characterization or motivation to make Doc Ock’s journey a compelling one.