Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #18 - November 1997

All My Pasts Remembered!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Joe Pimentel (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Jack Morelli (letters)

The Plot:  In Queens, Peter and MJ discuss the past of Dr. Octopus, as do obit writer Dilbert Trilby and Ben Urich at the Daily Bugle.  Inside Dr. Octopus’ underwater headquarters, Lady Octopus also reviews the career of Dr. Octopus.  Due to the gaps in his memory, Dr. Octopus must rely on Lady Octopus’ recaps of his life, which help to fuel his hatred of Spider-Man.  

The Subplots:  None.

Web of Continuity:  
  • Matt Murdock is established as Dr. Octopus’ original lawyer after his first arrest, which I believe to be new information revealed this issue.
  • This is unexpected...the ultra-obscure Dilbert Trilby was used years later as a part of the viral marketing campaign for Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
  • Lady Octopus reveals that Kane killed Dr. Octopus before she could update his most recent memory files, which is why Dr. Octopus doesn’t know Spider-Man’s secret identity.  Lady Octopus was keeping Ock’s memory files so that he could one day use a VR avatar like Stunner’s.

Review:  I doubt stories like this did much to discourage Unlimited’s reputation as filler, but I do have some fondness for recap comics.  Before the days of abundant reprint volumes and digital downloads, recap comics were often your best bet for finding out the details of comics published before you were born.  I can remember rereading the Jean Grey funeral issue of Classic X-Men numerous times and never growing bored as a kid.  This was the entire history of the X-Men (at that time) all summed up in one comic.  That’s a big deal to a kid.  If you’re a fan of Doc Ock but don’t know too much about his early appearances, or the retconned origin material, then everything you would want to know is here.  I also have to give Joe Bennett credit for his work during the flashback material.  His interpretations of Spider-Man are still occasionally inconsistent, but most of his pencils this issue are solid.  The splash page of a ‘90s style Spider-Man swinging past a montage of angry Dr. Octopuses looks great; I wish we could’ve seen this Bennett during those endless Amazing Spider-Man fill-ins.

The story also works in the origin of Lady Octopus, explaining in detail how her past intertwines with Ock’s, which is something I personally appreciate as someone who never read her origin story and only vaguely remembers her from the Clone Saga.  The character work isn’t as strong as DeFalco’s previous Dr. Octopus story in Unlimited #3, but Otto Octavius is still fleshed out fairly well during the issue.  He’s violently anti-social, yet has a soft spot for non-threatening females, especially ones that play to his ego.  This helps to explain the blind devotion of both Lady Octopus and Stunner, two characters Octavius seems to genuinely care for.  I’m not sure why DeFalco felt the need to revive these characters, but if they’re going to be around, it’s nice to have their motivations summarized for everyone who couldn’t keep up with the clone insanity.  

The Secrets of Dr. Octopus!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Pat Olliffe (penciler), Al Williamson (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Jack Morelli (letters)

The Plot:  The details of Dr. Octopus’ metallic arms are revealed.  

The Subplots:  None.

Review:  I’ll defend the main story, but this really is filler.  The last thing you should follow a recap story with is one of those instructional back-ups, even if it’s done in the retro-style of Untold Tales of Spider-Man.  These primers can also be fun for new readers, but I tend to think they should only be attached as back-ups in comics with an original story.  As is, the reader is getting essentially nothing new out of this comic.

Her Name was Stunner!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Joe Pimentel (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Jack Morelli (letters)

The Plot:  Dr. Octopus watches the comatose Stunner and reflects on her life.  He leaves her a rose.

The Subplots:  None.

Review:  More recaps!  Doc Ock stares at Stunner and reflects on how similar her past is to his.  There is something to the Ock/Stunner relationship, the idea that she’s essentially a female version of him that’s been remade as a Playmate bodybuilder with technology, that has potential.  Not that a four-page back-up is really going to explore those depths.  The extra pages this issue really should’ve been dedicated to an actual story.

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