Arms and the Man
Written by Keith R. A. DeCandido
The Plot: Biographer Randall Andros decides to write his next book on Dr. Octopus, focusing on his past as respected scientist Otto Octavius. After interviewing former colleagues and Daily Bugle staff members, Randall is unable to attain a firm idea of who Octavius is. Unexpectedly, Octavius gives Randall an opportunity for an interview. He ends the interview after a few questions, and when Randall returns home that evening, he’s shot by one of Octavius’ henchmen. Spider-Man arrives, hoping to warn Randall away from Octavius, in time to save him.
Web of Continuity: This story is set immediately after Amazing Spider-Man annual #15.
Review: Told from the point-of-view of Dr. Octopus’ unwise biographer, this is an extensive character piece on the villain that attempts to reveal who exactly Dr. Octopus was before his accident. There is actually some controversy amongst fans on this subject, mainly because different writers have different interpretations on who Otto Octavius was before radiation infected his brain. DeCandido makes those contradictions a story point, as Randall interviews any living person he can find with a connection to Octavius and finds that no two people have the same opinion of him. Was he merely arrogant, or truly megalomaniacal? Did Octavius have compassion for other humans, or did he always view them as annoyances? Most importantly, is he crazy or genuinely evil? There’s a lot of great character work in this piece, and it’s heartening to know that DeCandido looked into one of the few previous attempts to flesh out Dr. Octopus, Spider-Man Unlimited #3, and used that story to his advantage. Of course, once modern Marvel took a look back on Octavius’ past (conveniently at the time of Spider-Man 2’s release), all of this work was bulldozed.
My Enemy, My Savior
Written by Eric Fein
The Plot: Jonah Jameson, recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year honor, is kidnapped by Alistair Smythe and the Scorpion. Strapping Jameson inside a Spider-Slayer, they send him to the Daily Bugle building to wreck havoc until the robot self-destructs. Spider-Man arrives, fights off Scorpion, and rescues Jameson. Later, Smythe berates Scorpion for blowing their scheme. Their fight is interrupted by Spider-Man, who followed the tracer he left on Scorpion. That night, Jameson attends his award ceremony and refuses the honor, citing his role in creating Scorpion and the Spider-Slayers. However, he pledges to continue his crusade against costumed menaces like Spider-Man.
Web of Continuity: This story is set in “recent Spider-Man continuity” according to the Continuity Guide. “Recent” would be 1997, although Kate Cushing appears in the story as a Bugle editor, and she was written out of the books a year earlier during the final days of the clone saga. Unless we’re to believe this story took place during the Pursuit/Shrieking/Scarlet Spider days, it would have to be set some time around Amazing Spider-Man #375.
Review: I wonder why the “Untold Tales” in this book skip all the way from 1980 to 1997? That skips over the Roger Stern Amazing era, the debut of the alien costume, the Black Cat days, and the early marriage years. And after a seventeen-year break in continuity, this is what we get -- a generic Jameson vs. Villains He’s Created story? Jameson works when he’s over-the-top absurd, or unexpectedly poignant on those rare occasions. He’s neither here; even having him refuse his Humanitarian of the Year award because of his past mistakes is muted by the story’s admission that Jameson had already faced the legal consequences of funding Scorpion and the Slayers years earlier. It’s hard to discern what the point of the story is supposed to be, and it’s not as if we haven’t seen this basic premise numerous times before.