WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Devil’s Reign: Superior Four # 1 by Zac Thompson, Davide Tinto, Matt Milla and Ariana Maher, now for sale from Marvel Comics.
Doctor Octopus occupies a unique position in the Spider-Man Rogue Gallery. Although he is among the Wall-Crawler’s most dangerous enemies, Otto has also shown the potential to be a hero in himself. And yet, despite all the reminders of his true potential, he always ends up switching back to villainy.
Devil’s Reign: Superior Four # 1 introduces new multiversal variants of Doctor Octopus, including a completely heroic one. It’s a reminder that no matter how scary that core Doctor Octopus may become, there’s still the DNA of a good hero inside him.
Devil’s Reign: Superior Four introduces a host of Doctor Octopus variants. Each one is associated with another hero instead of Spider-Man, but shares a passion for proving their intellect and power. Earth-616 Otto Octavius gathers them to travel through the multiverse, test themselves against their peers, and add to his own mind. One of their first goals 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, affecting Otto’s emotional state. Instead, Otto’s intellect resulted in him being accepted into family and celebrated. This Otto, considered “fantastic” for his mind, became a dedicated protector of his local neighborhood, and became an impressive version of Spider-Man.
Although the four quickly overwhelm this Spider-Man, the heroic Otto tries to reach the four by trying to convince them to let go of their rage. He even sees the true potential of Earth-616 Otto Octavius, and notices his potential to be the greatest of them. This Spider-Otto proves that there are versions of Doctor Octopus in the multiverse that could really overcome their inherent darkness and grow as a person. Instead of being Spider-Man to prove himself, he is sincerely committed to being a good human being. With the right amount of love and affection, the Earth-616 Otto could truly become an amazing person. He even became a real hero when he was transformed into Spider-Man for a time. Otto could have been a real hero, just like his Spider-Man variant.
But since the growth he endured when both Peter Parker and Spider-Man were wiped out, Earth-616 Otto is left with only his ambition and brutal edge. Using a scary new invention, Otto effectively kills his heroic variant – absorbing its essence and adding his knowledge to Otto’s mind. It’s a horrible moment, emphasizing that Doctor Octopus is truly a fearsome villain again after several years of trying to redeem himself. But that means there is still hope for other versions of the character – and even potentially him. Even in external media like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Octopus has proven to overcome his more destructive impulses and sincerely fights with Spider-Man.
The core-Marvel Universe’s Doctor Octopus really grew as a person during his time as Superior Spider-Man. That period (and subsequent events like “Going Down Swinging” and Spider-Geddon) helped define how heroic Doctor Octopus is could be. There is a trace of heroism left somewhere deep in Doctor Octopus’ potential. But as long as he is 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 turned into something more.
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