With so many years of back comics to deal with, it’s important for this site to go back to reaching back. I used to recommend an old book to my readers at least twice a month, but I’ve fallen out of the habit. Shame on me. Here’s where I start to come correct.
Today, I’m recommending Doctor Octopus: Year One. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. People love it when our heros’ origins are retold and retconned, but our villains? That’s unusual, to say the least. And throw on top the creative team behind this gem of a book and you’ve got something very, very unusual indeed. Zeb Wells, the writer of some of the greatest Spider-Man stories of the past decade (the “Sometimes it Snows in April” and “Shed” story arcs in Amazing Spider-Man, and several stories in the vastly underrated “Tangled Web” series) brings us Otto Octavius’ early childhood and teen years and draws clear parallels to the experiences of another nerdy lad. In fact, we see Peter Parker and Otto meet for the first time, neither knowing the other, in a laboratory, and even then Octavius’ contempt is obvious. You may be thinking that it’s kind of obvious to connect the childhood experiences of hero and villain, and you’re right, but Wells’ writing is constantly surprising. At the same time that he engenders sympathy for Doc Ock by showing him suffer at the hands of abusive and neglectful parents, he never lets us forget how purely evil, and sadistic, the man can be. All the while, we see the development of nuclear power in the Marvel Universe. Wells is complex, challenging, and mature without being profane.
But you only know the half of it. The art is from Kaare Andrew, the Eisner-winning Canadian non-literal artist who won a Schuster award for his work on Doctor Octopus: Year One. You might recognize his dark, noir-y style from his work on the afore-mentioned Spider-Man’s Tangled Web series, the alternate-future Spider-Man: Reign miniseries (another recommended book, by the way), or his work on Astonishing X-Men with Warren Ellis.
Best of all, you can get this terrific comic cheap. It’s available used on Amazon for a buck. That’s right, a buck.
And if anyone is interested in all four of the wonderful Spider-Man: Tangled Web anthology books, I got extras. It’s got some great creators telling short tales of Spidey and/or his villains, like Garth Ennis, John McCrea, Greg Rucka, Darwyn Cook, Lee Weeks, Daniel Way, Sean Phillips, and many more. I’ll sell and ship the set–all four–for $20. E-mail me if you’re interested.