Contrast. Showcasing the differences between two different scenarios. This issue we see Peter becoming comfortable being Peter with the contrasting story of the birth of one of his newest antagonists.
The new villain in question is Doctor Octopus. We’d briefly met him when he was one of Norman Osborne’s scientists sneaking a blood sample from Peter when Harry brought him on a tour of his father’s facility. Now he wakes up in an anonymous government facility (SHIELD maybe?) with the tool he used for experiments permanently attached to his body.
One part of the birth of Doctor Octopus that I enjoyed was the fact that there is some sympathy on our part as readers for his plight. The government agency in question that had been keeping him apparently had the ability to remove the device that was fused to his body but thought it would be more interesting to see what would happen if it stayed there. I like the fact that in this run you see that the creation of some villains like Doc Ock are caused by forces that would normally be considered the good guys. If a government agency were to pull you from an industrial accident and experiment on you, would you think all was all right or would you be rightfully pissed and looking for the first neck to snap? It doesn’t excuse the behavior of these folks after the fact but seeing that they have some reason for being as angry and evil as they are is refreshing to see.
I think the best advice I ever received in regards to antagonists was to have a bad guy who truly believes he is right in what he is doing. Objectively, they may be handling things the wrong way but there has to be some level of truth in why the bad guy is pissed. In this case, Doctor Octopus is very much upset that the government, instead of saving him, decided it was a ok to experiment on him, turning him into a mutation of humanity. This is a strong set up for the character. You have just a little bit of sympathy added into the bad guy mix which makes him a much more nuanced character than the mustache twirling bad guy.
I also enjoyed the scenes with Peter. He’s enjoying himself more at school it seems and is not the habitual loser he once was. He may not be captain of the team or that level of high school cool but people dig him.
His time at school did start a discussion that will be an ongoing thread in the Ultimate line of books when it comes to mutants. People are scared of them despite there being evidence that apart from a few bad seeds, mutants are there to help and are just regular people with a little bit of extra something added in. They get into a discussion as to whether they should watch the mutants just in case they decided to rise up or something.
Being that this series was born right around the time of 9/11, there are some definite parallels between mutants in this story and how Muslims have been treated in this country since that horrible day. Like the mutants in the story, Muslims have had to deal with an obscene amount of scrutiny from people due to the actions of a small group of people that really don’t represent Muslims as a whole. Yet due to people in power using Muslims and the Islamic religion as a scapegoat to maintain their level of power, you have incident after incident around the world today where honest, average practitioners of the Islamic faith are being targeted and attacked, whether it be through their Mosque’s being burned to the ground, physical attacks from unruly mobs, or the recent news of an Islamic family from the UK denied access to America when all they wanted to do was visit Disneyland for a vacation.
Wanting to stop bad people from doing bad things is not a bad thing. When your definition of bad people includes entire religions, you’re taking everything over the line. It makes me think of people that are suddenly experts on Islam after reading a meme on Facebook that was all of three sentences long. What we’re seeing today is reminiscent of what Jews had to go through during World War Two, what African Americans had to deal with in this country since they pretty much forcibly set feet here. When people get scared they want someone to blame for their problems. When you see someone that is different from you, different simply because they look different or have different beliefs than you, it is easy to marginalize them, make them less human. If people actually took the time to realize that when it comes to Islam and terrorism that there are people very much like your Jim Jones’s of the world who would more than love to manipulate a religious text for their own nefarious means, they may step back and look at everything more objectively. We would see what is really going on with a small group of douche bags that are no more representative of their faith than the Ku Klux Klan or the Westboro Baptist Church are representative of Christianity and offer our support and care for people that are just looking to live their lives and raise their families in peace. When you do the polar opposite and think every member of that group beliefs the ramblings of a small group of madmen, you sow the seeds of animosity and anger that will lead to much worse than we’ve seen today and frankly with how the United States has treated people of the Islamic faith over the past 14 plus years, we will deserve any bit of anger that comes our way.
We’re past the growing pains. Peter Parker has pretty much all the kinks out of his system and he is ready to be the Spider-Man we all know and love. Little does he know that he has a threat coming his way that will test every bit of strength he thinks he has. I can’t wait.
I also can’t wait for more Gwen Stacy. Gwen was Peter’s first major love in the original comics so it was only a matter of time before she arrived. She had one scene where she offered her thoughts on the discussion Peter and Kong were having but she definitely made an impact. With the outfit she was wearing alone, folks will not forget her anytime soon. Her father already had a small cameo when he interviewed Peter after Uncle Ben’s death so rest assured we will see him again.
One little knock I have against her outfit was that how Mark Bagly drew her, I thought of this Olivia Newton John from Grease. I almost expected Peter to break out in song and they both drive off into the sunset together.
One other neat little piece of business had to do with Kong. The last couple pages of the comic deal with him simply sitting back on his couch thinking about past events. His mind turns to Peter Parker and after some deep thought of recent events he comes to the realization that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. I liked seeing this because what I didn’t want in the Ultimate line of comics was the Lois Lane effect. When you have characters that normally should be smart as a whip yet don’t see the obvious that is right in front of their faces about the identity of of someone really is, it makes you question the intelligence of everyone involved. I am definitely excited to see where this goes in future issues.