It's Operation: Conquer MJ in this issue, if the cover is to be believed. Ock-Spidey is shamelessly planting a big kiss on the fetching, but less-than-enthusiastic (and somewhat surprised) redhead, making for an exhilarating depiction of an awkward situation. I give this cover props for actually being in the issue, at least on a thematic level--there's no literal re-creation of this scene, but there is kissing (of a sort!) between the two.
The focus of this issue is Octavius attempting to date and have a relationship with MJ. At first, he makes it about trying to hook up with her, and after a hilarious string of failed attempts, realizes he can access Peter's memories of their past relationship to re-live those "great feelings" (I won't elaborate on what that could possibly mean, as it disturbs me too much). In doing so, however, he experiences Peter's genuine affection for her, and comes to realize that being with her would put her in too much danger. So he does something Peter never could do, and essentially breaks up with her before they ever really get started.
An additional sub-plot, which I've been waiting for, is Carlie Cooper, who's been staying with MJ since her arm got injured. During that skirmish, she encountered Peter while he was in Octavius's body, and he told her about the switch. Now that she's had time to think things over, she seems to be coming around to the possibility that the two men could have been body-swapped, and she's determined to get to the bottom of it.
I like the humor and continually surprising depth we get to see as this story progresses. Ock's treating the dating of MJ like a series of science experiments (which fail, to his building ire) was pretty funny, as is the way he talks and thinks, upon which Peter constantly comments. Octavius continues to surprise and impress as Spider-Man, particularly with his inventiveness, exemplified by his Spider-bot and crime detection app. I also like the interplay between MJ and Carlie, who have both dated Peter and can relate to those unique circumstances. I'll be really interested to see how Carlie's investigation into the who Spidey-Octavius mystery plays out.
I think if this issue proves anything with regard to the recent controversy, it's that readers need to take a deep breath, relax, and let Dan Slott tell the story. The whole "MJ-relationship-sexy-time-rape" was waiting to be brought up, and I think it was addressed and more or less made into a non-issue. This is, after all, a serial narrative, and that makes it all about the cliffhangers, the big shocks, and the wait between installments. Slott has done a magnificent job of having fun with the Spidey saga while still being true to its spirit, and I think he'll prove true as we go forward.
Stegman's art is, as usual, stunning, and well suited to this title. I particularly like the "SUCCESS!" pose he does with Octavius when he holds up the Spider-bot he designs for spotting crimes (Ock and his bots, I swear.). The visuals of Peter swinging alongside Octavius "in costume" were also pretty nice. Apparently Jedi-blue spirits can quick-change into costume at a moment's notice. :)
Overall, I'm very pleased with where this title is heading, and eager to see more. The storyline continues to develop, the artwork is great, and we're left with the possibility that perhaps there's a long-shot chance that Octavius could prove a worthy Spider-Man. I still want Peter back, of course, but the idea merits some consideration. Highly recommended.