Changing of the Spider-Guard

There is a new Spider-Man in town and his name is Peter Parker….wait… If that statement seems a little off to you then you may not have read the shocking conclusion to Amazing Spider-Man #698. Much in line with the Clone Saga replacement of Peter Parker as Spider-Man with his clone Ben Riley Peter has been replaced by the most unlikely of replacements that could lead to serious ramifications within the context of Spider-Man and Marvel’s lore.

For those that have not read the shocking end of Amazing Spider-Man #698 or read about it online, I will explain. In the final panels of the issue, we see Peter Parker looming over the dying frame of Doctor Octopus, removing his mask. And in a single moment of utter horror, we find out that Doctor Octopus, one of Peter’s greatest enemies, has replaced his essence with that of Peter. Doc Ock is now in possession of Peter’s spider-enhanced body with all of his memories and experience while Peter was trapped in the dying body of the super-villain as he breathed his last breath. And s,o we lost the man whom we have known as Spider-Man and have replaced him with a new Peter Parker that has all the same memories of Peter as well as new ones.

Sound familiar?

As I mentioned before, this story is very similar to the switch to Ben Riley as Spider-Man in the Clone Saga. With the switch to Ben Riley, we saw a man who claimed he was the original Peter Parker and that the man we had been following was a clone. The memories were the same, except with a variety of new perspectives gained over time. While the concept is great from a story-telling perspective you have to understand that in this medium of iconic imagery it is not a permanent change that fans can abide by.

But what kind of ramifications could this have for the Marvel Universe? Well, obviously you have the immediate problem of having a super-villain in the body of his arch-nemesis with all of his secrets laid bare. Would Doc Ock go about taking revenge on Peter by tearing apart everything that Peter loved? Or perhaps Doc Ock will attempt to do as Kraven did and be a better Spider-Man than Peter could be? The point of contention is not necessarily that Peter has been replaced since it is still the same body with the same experiences, but rather that the fact that the essence of Peter Parker has been replaced.

It has been demonstrated time and again that, while comic readers are often adverse to a changing of the guard for their given hero they are also the most likely to stick around while new readers are drawn in just to see the new perspective of their iconic heroes. Look at when Dick Grayson became Batman as a great example. Many readers took to the scenario as a great means to see how the Batman mantle takes on a new life with someone else under the cowl. The new perspective, no matter how temporary, can provide a breath of fresh air into a character and its stories.

The difference in this situation, however, is that Batman had built up a legacy. This changing of the guard is more horrifying because of the violating nature of the possession and how it makes the reader anticipant of how Doc Ock will use Peter’s body and simultaneously puts the villain in a more sinister light than he had before. In fact, going back to Ben Riley, there could also be much push against this switching to the new Spider-Man because the readers could feel the new one couldn’t match up with or logically replace the one they had grown with.

This scenario reminds me of what Marvel presented us during Dark Reign, particularly with the Dark Avengers. Brian Michael Benis teased about the possibility of many villains feeling comfortable in their new role as heroes. Each of the villains in Dark Reign seemed like a logical candidate for a face turn with infinite possibilities for story-telling. A path of redemption taken from an opportunity gained from dark circumstances. However, the promised and teased change of motivation for the villains never occurred. Could the same be said for Doctor Octopus or will he take this opportunity as a fresh start in his life? Would he be able to turn his wicked act into an overall positive going into the new Marvel Now! series, Superior Spider-Man?

Even still, how does this reflect on the Avengers, where Spider-Man has been a mainstay for years? Doctor Octopus has proven in recent years that his intellect can be a threat to Earth’s mightiest heroes in his original body, but now that that mind is in the super powered and semi omniscient body of Spider-Man will he continue to be a threat? Heck, how will Doc Ock portray Spider-Man in the future issues of this story? Will he be a caricature of the man he loathed or will he do his own interpretation of who Peter Parker was from his own perspective of the arachnid?

The ramifications of this entire scenario range a whole gambit from reader pushback to overall acceptance of a variety of stories that could go into hideous villainy and uplifting heroism. While the nature of superhero comic books practically dictates that Peter Parker will return to his body once more and become Spider-Man that should not stop the writers from stretching this experiment to its fullest limits in the time they have. It is the duty of a good writer to deliver on any risk they endeavor on as best as they can and to its fullest extent lest it feel like it was for not.

Despite my reservations on this concept and its future, I look forward to see where Doc Ock ends up as a character by the end of this story, because no matter where the story takes it has already demonstrated great potential and creativity.

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Chance Thulin is a Missouri State University graduate of English marching on the forefronts of pop culture. He writes in hopes to spread the meanings and interpretations of comic books, graphic novels, and film to the masses. He is a dedicated fan of good fiction, and subscribes to both unconventional and profound writers such as Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison. For several years, Chance Thulin has trained his analytical eye towards the mountains of material published by the market powerhouses, Marvel and DC, soldiering through while appreciating diamonds in the rough as well as the more prominent names in the industry. And he really really really likes Superman.

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