Comics Reviews

A Heroic Doctor Octopus Proves Spider-Man’s Best Villain Still Has Hope

Doctor Octopus just encountered a truly heroic variant of himself — suggesting there’s still hope for the longtime Spider-Man villain to go good.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Devil’s Reign: Superior Four #1 by Zac Thompson, Davide Tinto, Matt Milla and Ariana Maher, now on sale from Marvel Comics.

Doctor Octopus occupies a unique position in the Spider-Man rogue’s gallery. Although he’s among the Wall-Crawler’s most dangerous foes, Otto has also shown the potential to be a hero in his own right. And yet, despite all the reminders of his true potential, he always ends up shifting back towards villainy.

Devil’s Reign: Superior Four #1 introduces new multiversal variants of Doctor Octopus, including a wholly heroic one. It’s a reminder that, regardless of how terrifying the core Doctor Octopus can become, there’s still the DNA of a good hero inside him.

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Devil’s Reign: Superior Four introduces a host of Doctor Octopus variants. Each one is connected to a different hero instead of Spider-Man, but share a passion to prove their intellect and might. The Earth-616 Otto Octavius assembles them to travel through the multiverse, testing themselves against their peers and adding to his own mind. One of their first targets ends up being a version of Otto who became his world’s Spider-Man. This was an Otto whose father died when he was young before he could abuse him, impacting Otto’s emotional state. Instead, Otto’s intellect resulted in him being accepted family and celebrated. Deemed “amazing” for his mind, this Otto became a dedicated protector of his local neighborhood, turning into an impressive version of Spider-Man.

Although the four quickly overwhelm this Spider-Man, the heroic Otto tries to reach out to the foursome by trying to convince them to let go of their rage. He even sees the true potential of the Earth-616 Otto Octavius, noting his potential to be the greatest of them. This Spider-Otto proves that there are versions of Doctor Octopus in the multiverse who truly could overcome their inherent darkness and grow as a person. Instead of being Spider-Man to prove himself, he’s genuinely committed to being a good person. With the right amount of love and affection, the Earth-616 Otto could genuinely become an amazing person. He even did become an actual hero when he was transformed into Spider-Man for a time. Otto could have been a real hero, like his Spider-Man-variant.

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But since having the growth he endured as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man erased, the Earth-616 Otto is left with just his ambition and brutal edge. Using a terrifying new invention, Otto effectively kills his heroic variant — absorbing his essence and adding his knowledge to Otto’s mind. It’s a horrifying moment and cement that Doctor Octopus is truly a terrifying villain once more after years of trying to redeem himself. But this means that there’s still hope for other versions of the character — and even potentially him. Even in outside media like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Octopus has been shown overcoming his more destructive impulses and genuinely fighting alongside Spider-Man.

The core-Marvel Universe’s Doctor Octopus genuinely grew as a person during his time as the Superior Spider-Man. That period (and subsequent events like “Going Down Swinging” and Spider-Geddon) helped define how heroic Doctor Octopus could be. There is a vestige of heroism left somewhere deep in Doctor Octopus’ potential. But so long as he’s dedicated to primarily proving his superiority and increasing his sheer potential and power, Doctor Octopus has truly lost the side of himself that could have become something more.

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