Credits: Tom DeFalco (writer), Steve Skroce (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)
The Plot: A hallucination gives Spider-Man the strength he needs to escape his bonds. As Delilah tries to subdue him, Stunner volunteers to be the living sacrifice needed to revive Dr. Octopus. Lady Octopus questions if Stunner will work as a replacement, given that her real body is inside a VR matrix. The ritual continues, and both Stunner’s avatar and Master Zei are disintegrated. Lady Octopus downloads a computer copy of Doctor Octopus’ personality into his brain, allowing him to be revived with a bloodlust for Spider-Man.
The Subplots: Madam Qwa reveals that the True Believers are still working with Black Tarantula and plan on double-crossing the Rose. Chesbro, Black Tarantula’s flunky, spies on ESU professor Marina Caches. MJ and her friend Shantal Wilsk are discussing the class Professor Caches teaches.
Web of Continuity:
Madam Qwa refers to Master Zei as her “brother.” Future issues seem to indicate she means this literally.
I believe this issue marks the first appearances of Professor Marina Caches and Shantal Wilsk. Shantal is described as the daughter of a prominent defense attorney, who enjoys speaking as if she’s “from the ‘hood” even though she isn’t. Marina Caches teaches Criminal Psychology, and makes references to a bad relationship with her ex-husband.
Delilah hints that she had a tragic past before becoming an assassin.
The recap page is calling Carolyn Trainer “Dr. Octopus II” again, as opposed to her moniker last issue, Lady Octopus.
I Love the ‘90s: Spider-Man comments that his “game” with the ninjas is pretty entertaining, even if it isn’t Turok the Dinosaur Hunter.
Approved By The Comics Code Authority: Delilah to Spider-Man, during their fight: “Did you miss me, Spider? Sorry for the delay, but a girl likes to look her best -- especially when she’s getting nasty with her man!”
Gimmicks: This issue has a gatefold, wraparound cover, with art by Steve Skroce, John Romita, Sr. and John Romita, Jr. The price increases from $1.99 to $2.25.
Review: Thankfully, this issue is light on ninjas. They’re still around, of course, but DeFalco seems to have realized that Spider-Man has been fighting far too many ninjas lately, so he’s dedicated the bulk of the issue’s action to a fight between Spider-Man and Delilah. That’s not much of an improvement, but there is a novel idea in here, as Delilah forces the fight into an air conditioning duct so that Spider-Man isn’t given enough room to jump around. Skroce does a great job on the fight scene, especially when it calls for him to play around with shadows, so it’s nice to see DeFalco tailoring the story towards Skroce’s strengths. And while the actual resurrection of Dr. Octopus is a fairly obvious copout, given that the character was only recently killed off, DeFalco makes the events feel more like an actual story this issue and not simply a quickie correction of a mistake. Stunner’s surprisingly fleshed out very well in the issue’s opening, humanizing her struggles with low self-esteem and acceptance. Her decision to replace Spider-Man as the sacrifice needed to resurrect Ock could’ve come across as arbitrary, but the choice is set up very well in the beginning of the issue.
So what’s to complain about this issue? I can’t review the story without addressing Shantal Wilsk. I’m not going to accuse the creators of inserting Shantal into the book as a token minority, since I have no idea what thought process went into creating her, but it is hard not to view her as just more wallpaper at the ESU setting. Why are we being introduced to another college buddy of MJ’s when her alleged “best friend” Jill Stacy remains a pathetic cipher? Has any ESU supporting cast member introduced so far during this era done anything to make you care in any way about them? Have any of the writers shown any enthusiasm regarding Peter and MJ’s return to college? And, as a personal pet peeve, I have to object to the revelation that Shantal’s father is a famous criminal defense attorney. Tom DeFalco worked in countless references to the OJ trial during his comics in the ’90s, and I can’t help but to see JOHNNIE COCHRAN in large print when I read that line. I think DeFalco was on his longest No OJ Reference streak when this issue hit the stands, and he just blew it.