Credits: Danny Fingeroth (writer), Greg LaRocque (penciler), Vince Colletta (inker), Phil Felix (letterer), J. Ferriter (colorist)
The Plot: Dr. Octopus undergoes therapy while in prison, but his progress is derailed when he notices a spider inside his cell. He sends a mental command to his metal arms, which break out of their holding facility. Spider-Man hears word of the arms’ escape and travels to Dr. Octopus’ prison to stop them. The arms destroy part of the building, forcing Spider-Man to hold debris while Dr. Octopus escapes.
The Subplots: Peter Parker tries to sell “eerie” photos of Spider-Man fighting thieves in the shadows, but Robbie Robertson declares they’re too dark to be printed in a newspaper. J. Jonah Jameson is interested, revealing that he’s reviving NOW Magazine, which is “one of” his secret projects.
Web of Continuity: NOW Magazine goes back to the earliest issues of Amazing Spider-Man. Jonah Jameson was the editor of NOW when Peter Parker first began selling him photos. After going back and forth, Stan Lee just decided to make the Daily Bugle Jameson’s official publication.
*See _________ For Details: Peter is aware of some problems Betty Brant is experiencing. A footnote points towards Peter Parker#100 for details (Good Lord, how many things happened in that comic? I think it’s been referenced in every issue of this comic so far). In Fantastic Four#267, Reed Richards thought that he could cure Doc Ock’s mental problems. Ock flashes back to an embarrassing defeat in Peter Parker#79, and his terrifying encounter with the Molecule Man from Secret Wars #12.
I Love the ‘80s: Spidey declares that he feels like he’s on Hill Street Blues while fighting the thieves in the dark.
Creative Differences: John Byrne's original cover for this issue was rejected. It eventually showed up in Amazing Spider-Man (I believe it's this one).
Review: I’m assuming Louise Simonson wrote the first three issues to finish off her contract, because according to Christopher Priest’s site, Danny Fingeroth was always supposed to be the regular writer of this series. He also says that Jim Shooter hated Fingeroth’s writing, which lead to Priest (then Jim Owsley) taking on Fingeroth as some sort of “project” (in the letters page of this very issue, Owsley says he’s staying late on a Friday, working out the next issue with Fingeroth). Fingeroth doesn’t last long, and having read Priest’s “confessions” as Spider-editor years earlier, I wasn’t expecting much from this run. However, this isn’t bad at all. The opening scene has Spider-Man hiding in the dark, taking out a band of fur thieves one-by-one. It could be a clichéd action opening, but Fingeroth uses the shadowy setting effectively, playing up an aspect of Spider-Man that really only appeared in the Ditko run. The idea of mentally troubled supervillains has been done to death over the years, but I don’t think it had been played out by this point. Whether or not Dr. Octopus could reform is an interesting question, since he was just anti-social and rude before he gained powers, and not evil. There’s also some “typical Parker luck” here as Spidey is unable to stop a runaway truck before it damages some civilian’s car, and he’s forced to let Ock escape because he has to save the prison staff from the falling debris. Vince Colletta does show up as inker, although most of the pages don’t have that rushed, lazy look people now associate with his work. Aside from the occasional panel where Spider-Man looks fat, or his hand is way out of proportion to the rest of his body, this looks fine.