It's not such a good day to be Otto Octavius. Dr Octopus is in prison, dying. But he's muttering one name, again and again: 'Peter Parker'.
This is the big one, readers, or so Marvel says. Writer Dan Slott's been joking for ages that he'll have to go into hiding after this issue, because we'll all hate its revelation.
Nah. There can't be any comics savvy reader who'll be particularly perturbed by the idea that >gasp< Octopus has somehow swapped minds with Peter. It's been done to heroes previously, for example in Detective Comics' excellent Blind Justice storyline. And Spider-Man readers are tough cookies - we lived through One More Day (Peter and MJ's marriage history is changed by Mephisto) and Sins of the Past (Gwen Stacey had twins with Norman Osborn. Hang on, that deserves italics and a screamer ... Gwen Stacey had twins with Norman Osborn!).
What I hate is all the hype that had me reading this issue trying to anticipate the shocker. It's impossible to just go with the flow, relax and be taken aback by the climax, when Slott and Marvel have been telling us for ages to not miss this comic nudge nudge wink wink (it worked, I've been off this book for awhile - it's $3.99, twice a month - and here I am).
Given the unnatural reading experience, it's to Slott's credit that I didn't guess the ending. It was only afterwards that I recalled seeing the mind swap idea posited in various places. I had noticed that Peter was off, strangely unconcerned about his Aunt May being in hospital. His speech patterns were slightly different, he dons a suit to go to MJ's club, he checks out girls ...
So the deft reveal is appreciated; suddenly the little changes in 'Peter' add up, and I'm immediately re-reading, with the knowledge of Octopus's occupancy putting everything into a new light. It's just good craft from Slott.
Antonio Fabela is credited with 'color art' rather than the more usual 'colors' so it could be that he's doing more work than your average hewer of hues. Whatever the ratio of labour, he and Elson make a fine team.
Paulo Rivera's cover is icky and creepy, all the more so once you know that this is Peter we're looking at. And I love that the Spider-Man 50 Years symbol is shattered here, it's a clever, subtle, appropriate touch.
So, Dr Octopus is Spider-Man and Peter is dead. Or is he? Spider-Pus leaves the prison cell as a medic fights to save his old body. We see neither his death called, nor a flatline. And earlier in the book an octobot escapes The Raft, muttering 'Peter Parker'. Hmm.
Anyway, it's a very good issue. I'll likely check out the next couple before this title wraps with #700, prior to a Marvel Now relaunch, and see where this story goes. I'm not thrilled at the concept of the relaunch, Superior Spider-Man, not starring Peter (the speculation has Spider-Man 2099 in the role), but that's a stunt for another day.