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Opinion

Astrojive: Face It, Tiger, You Just Busted Out

Richard Lee Byers speculates on the future of Peter Parker and Spider-Man


Warning: The following contains big-time spoilers about recent events in the life of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Issue 698 of “The Amazing Spider-Man” ended with one of the best seemingly inescapable deathtraps I’ve seen in a while. Dying on the Raft, New York’s jail for supervillains, Dr. Octopus switched bodies with Spidey, gaining the wall-crawler’s health, powers and heroic identity. Peter Parker’s consciousness was left trapped in a paralyzed body with mere hours left to live, locked in a cell, and mistrusted and despised by the prison personnel around him.

Peter, with his usual grit and resourcefulness, started trying to dig his way out of this nightmare in Issue 699. Marvel has announced we’ll see the endgame in 700, which will also be the final issue of ASM. A version of the character will continue in The Superior Spider-Man 1, but that book will not star Peter Parker as the guy behind the mask.

Hardcore fans are naturally eager to find out what this really means. Supposedly, the plot of 700 has leaked, and shockingly, Peter fails to reclaim his own body and kicks the oxygen habit; Otto Octavius continues as Spider-Man. Some people are so irate over this alleged outcome that writer Dan Slott received death threats.

I don’t know who these outraged fans are or how long they’ve been reading comics, but that reaction is, to say the least, excessive. Off the top of my head, here’s a list of A-list superheroes who have either croaked outright or experienced what were billed as career-ending events and then made comebacks: Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Batman, Thor, Captain America, and, come to think of it, Spider-Man himself at least once before. There’s no doubt that however dire or final things look for Peter Parker at the end of 700, he’ll be back slinging webs eventually.

Still, what about the short run? Is it indeed possible that at the end of 700, Peter takes a dirt nap and Doc Ock is victorious? Is the latter the star of The Superior Spider-Man?

My guess (meaning, I have no inside information and am just talking out my ass as usual) is no. Either the leak is simply somebody’s practical joke, or Marvel itself has leaked false or misleading info to generate that much more attention for the event.

It’s just hard to conceive of the wonderful 700-issue run of ASM ending with Peter dead and Doc Ock triumphant. That’s simply too downbeat, even though we can be sure ASM will relaunch with a new 1 when Peter returns.

Besides, it’s not apparent why, even if he retained possession of Peter’s body, the diabolical Dr. Octopus would continue operating as a crime fighter as he must to make the Superior book work. This, after all, is a dude who recently tried to exterminate the human race. Maybe, to further some evil scheme or other, he’d hang on as an Avenger to get access to the team’s database, gadgets, and what have you. But he’d have no motivation to chase bank robbers and such around the streets of Manhattan.

But if Doc Ock isn’t destined to be the new Spider-Man, then what will happen in ASM 700 and beyond?

As mentioned previously, Peter Parker dying defeated would not be a finale in keeping with the overall vibe of the Spider-Man saga. But Peter winning victory at a tragic personal cost would be.

Thus, I predict that in 700, Peter will succeed in getting his consciousness back into its own rightful brain, but without automatically dumping Dr. Octopus’s consciousness out. The two will then fight for possession in one of those surreal battlegrounds of the mind so beloved of comic book creators.

At the end, Peter will kick Otto out. But along the way, the struggle will have done severe damage to the very body they were fighting over. This will kill Peter, cripple him, put him in a coma, or simply divest him of his powers.

If that’s how it plays out, then someone who is neither Peter Parker nor Otto Octavius will be Spider-Man going forward. Who might it be?

Theoretical possibilities abound. The Jackal has produced Peter Parker clones, at least one of whom is still running around as the Scarlet Spider. Spider-Man 2099 could jump in a time machine and zip back to take over.

But a substitution like that would feel cheesy. For the switch to work dramatically, Superior should be a character who’s figured prominently in the last couple years of ASM. That consideration shrinks the field considerably.

One candidate is Alpha, the teenager who acquired superpowers as an unintended consequence of an experiment Peter Parker was conducting. As Spider-Man, Peter tried in vain to mentor the kid, and then, when Alpha failed to learn that “with great power comes great responsibility,” shut his abilities down. But there was some indication that this was only a temporary measure, and that Peter’s own sense of responsibility would oblige him to take another crack at mentoring if Alpha’s powers started coming back.

Assuming that happened, it would explain why anybody becomes a new Spider-Man: The depowered Peter hands the identity off to his protégé. It would also explain why the new version could be “superior.” Alpha has the potential to become at least as powerful as Superman.

Still, I don’t think Alpha’s our guy. For one thing, it’s too obvious. For another, when seen previously, Alpha had powers that make no sense in relation to Spidey’s shtick. Why would a hero swing on web lines when he can fly?

My candidate for Superior is Dr. Curt Connors, AKA the Lizard. Here’s why:

Connors has been in ASM quite a bit recently. In fact, he appeared in the current storyline as another prisoner in Dr. Octopus’s cellblock.

He’s locked up because he currently has the mind of Connors but the body of the Lizard. Since Connors is a good guy with the Lizard’s many crimes to atone for (notably killing and devouring Connors’s own little boy), he’s got a reason to set up shop as a superhero. In fact, it’s the same as Peter’s original motive: guilt.

In addition, Connors has known Spider-Man since way back in ASM 6. The web-slinger has cured Connors of being the Lizard on multiple occasions, unfortunately never for good, and, returning the favor, Connors has helped our hero with a number of scientific problems. It makes sense that a depowered Peter might hand off his costumed identity to a buddy, or that Connors might simply decide to assume it once he realized the original was out of commission.

Plus, the Lizard’s powers are a good fit for the Spider-Man persona. He has the right levels of heightened strength and agility and can climb sheer walls.

Of course, the fact that Curt Connors currently has the Lizard’s body with its superhuman abilities also provides a reason to doubt he’ll be Superior. Advance art depicting the new Spider-Man doesn’t show a scaly green tail sticking out of his pants.

But there’s a fix for that. Recently, superscience gone awry (yet again) produced transformations that put the Lizard’s mind in Connors’s body and then Connors’s mind in the Lizard’s body. From the perspective of comic-book logic, it’s not unlikely that one final dose, zap, or what have you could give us Connors’s mind in Connors’s body but still with the Lizard’s abilities. He’d look human but be reptilian in the same way Peter looks human but is spidery.

That’s my theory, anyway. ASM 700 drops on Dec. 26, so we don’t have long to wait to see it all start to play out.

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Could they be a gh...gh...gh...ghost? Rut-ro! Shaggy
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