Spectacular Spider-Man: Countdown, collects the Spectacular Spider-Man (volume 2) #6-10 by Jenkins / Ramos
Despite being undeniably one of Spider-Man's premier rogues, it could be argued that over the years Doctor Octopus has been mishandled on occasion. Despite being the star of some classic stories (and a well received movie), the good doctor has also appeared in some very forgettable comics, with his appearances often lacking the gravitas that a character of his stature probably deserves. While he is perhaps more known for his emotional, character driven stories Paul Jenkins also drew plaudits for his revamp Spidey's arch nemesis the Green Goblin, in the fan favourite A Death in the Family arc. With Doctor Octopus appearing in Spider-Man 2, Jenkins was chosen as the writer to take advantage of the character's increased exposure, and featured him as the focal point of his second arc on Spectacular Spider-Man, titled Countdown.
The story sees Octavius at his scheming best, as he kidnaps a Palestinian Foreign Minister, promising to release him only if Spider-Man unmasks at a scheduled time. Jenkins manages to craft an excellent Spider-Man story here, in my opinion using all the elements that make the web-slinger such a great character. His supporter cast - so often marginalized during the JMS era is utilized superbly well across the five issues. While Big John clearly has the potential to become very annoying I found him a likable presence and it's a shame that he has disappeared from the books with his creator. Jenkins is as adept as using classing members of the supporting cast as his own creations, and MJ and Peter's relationship, so often a bone of contention among Spider-fans, is displayed touchingly without being overplayed. This story is a good example of what MJ brought to the Spider-Man mythos while she and Peter were married. The likes of Jonah Jameson, Robbie and Flash Thompson are all here too, and while not playing major roles are all portrayed well. Despite his incapacitation the scenes with Flash in particular are very touching and a real highlight. Jenkins' scripting is superb and the pacing of the story is excellent. despite being spread across five issues it rarely lags and every page is used well.
Doctor Octopus too is at his villainous best here, Jenkins understands his personality and delivers a multi layered, if obviously insane villain. It was pleasing too, to see the criminally underrated origin story from Spider-Man: Unlimited #3 revisited. His fight scenes are superbly done and all in all I think there have been few better portrayals of the character.
This brings me neatly to Humberto Ramos' artwork. Few artists divide opinion as much as he does but I love his distinctive style and consider it a great fit for the character. His action scenes bristle with energy and even his human characters are well drawn, if very very odd.
For me, there have been few better stories featuring Doctor Octopus, and it is a shame that the character has not been this well done throughout his history. Nothing too groundbreaking occurs over the course of the five issues but if you are looking for a quintessential Spider-Man arc featuring one of his greatest villains, look no further.