Today, Mikyzptlk and Drew are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 700, originally released December 26th 2012.
Mikyzptlk: I’ve always heard that, for writers, endings are the hardest part of a story to write. Most of the time, comic book writers who are helming flagship characters like Wonder Woman or Spider-Man don’t have to worry too much about coming up with an actual ending for their characters. Sure, they definitely have to come up with an ending to their story arcs, but that’s a far different thing than coming up with an ending for the characters themselves. This week, Dan Slott finds himself in the unique position of writing the ending (yeah right) of not only The Amazing Spider-Man but of Peter Parker himself.
The final (for now) issue of The Amazing Spider-Man opens at Peter “I’m secretly Doc Ock” Parker’s apartment where he’s spending the evening attempting to score with Mary Jane. Before things go too far, they are interrupted by a Google Alert that Otto has set up indicating that Doctor “I’m secretly Peter Parker” Octopus has escaped from the super-jail known as “The Raft.” Doc Ock’s response is to buy a plane ticket for a 15 hour flight with the intention keeping out of harms way long enough for Spider-Man to die in his old body. Speaking of Spidey, we catch up with him back in one of Doc Oc’s old hideouts where the Trapster has hooked up his life support system to some old “Octopus arms.” During the process, something goes wrong and Spider-Man dies (but only for a few minutes). In what is either a hallucination or the after-life, he sees his loved ones who have passed on. Uncle Ben appears telling him that although he has more than earned his rest, he cannot leave a man like Otto Octavius running around as Spider-Man or Peter Parker. He then tells Peter to get up and end the fight once and for all.
Spider-Man wakes up with a plan and immediately gets underway to find the mind-swapping gold “Octobot.” Back at The Raft, Mayor J. Jonah Jameson is talking trash not only about the inadequacies of the prison but of Doctor Octopus as well. Doc Ock doesn’t take this very well and decides to stay in New York after all. He rounds up Peter Parker’s friends and family and locks them away to keep them “safe” from “Doc Ock.” At this point, A LOT of back of forth between Spider-Man and Doc Ock takes place, but unfortunately for our hero, Doc Ock was a step ahead. Spidey’s plan to use the gold “Octobot” one last time failed leaving him stranded in Doc Ock’s quickly dying body. However, the “Octobot” allows Spider-Man to force Doc Ock to relive the moments in Peter’s life that made him into our favorite wall-crawling hero. After Peter dies (seriously…he’s dead) Doc Ock declares that he will live up to the ideals of the true Spider-Man but due to his “superior” intelligence, he will be…
Well, it’s been a couple of days since I’ve read this issue and I still don’t know how I feel about it. Except for the last few issues, I haven’t been reading this title lately. I know that Dan Slott has been a fan favorite for the past few years though so I was surprised to hear a lot of the backlash (not to mention death threats) that the writer has been receiving of late. While I would never defend the actions of those deplorable “fans,” I do understand why there was a level of backlash. Slott has taken some chances here and it’s simply not going to be to everyone’s liking. The fact that he has Doc Ock walking around in Peter’s body, plotting to destroy everything that Peter has built up from the inside out is very disconcerting. However, I also find it very entertaining.
This is the classic body-swapping scheme fully realized. Writers have been doing this for decades and I love seeing the villain finally succeed here. It was a lot of fun seeing the chess game played out between Spidey and Ock and I really feel that Slott pulled out all of the stops. I believed the story that was being told here and I believe that Ock could really pull something like this off. I also believed that Spidey would not take this lying down. Even as “his” body failed him, he fought to his last breath to take back his identity. When he failed to do so, he did what he thought was the next best thing. He forced Ock to feel all the pain and joy in his life that made Peter into the hero we all know and love.
While I believe in those elements of the story and that Peter would attempt to do that, I don’t know if I believe in Ock’s response. He claims that he will now live up to the heroic ideals of Spider-Man but I just don’t know if I buy that. Uncle Ben’s death was the result of Peter’s inaction, not Doc Ock’s. Even if Peter transferred the love he felt from Ben into Ock, I just don’t see someone as vile as Ock turning over a new leaf so quickly or maybe even at all. I also take issue with the implication that if you simply experience the same things that Peter experienced, the result would be the same. It makes Peter less exceptional and I’ve always believed that Peter was extremely unique in his choices to become a hero. He took on all of the guilt and he decided to become a hero. That said, I am interested is seeing where the story goes from here and finding out if Ock really is going to become a true hero and how him staying in Peter’s body is going to continue to play out.
Humberto Ramos was responsible for the art in this issue and I’m not quite sure he was the right fit for it. I know he has approximately a million fans and, depending on the story, I can see why. However, for tales as serious and heartbreaking as this one, I really didn’t enjoy him here. This has nothing to do with his talent and I don’t fault him for his style. What I do fault is the choice of this artist for this particular issue. Had this issue ended with a Spider-Man like victory, I think Ramos would have worked just fine, but the fact that it ends with Peter Parker’s death and his identity being usurped by one his deadliest foes makes me think another artist would have been more appropriate. Considering the tone of this issue, an artist with a more straightforward and realistic style would have worked better than the more exaggerated and “cartoony” style of Ramos.
So Drew, there was a lot going on in this issue that I couldn’t get around to discussing. There was a lot going on with Spidey’s supporting cast that I’m sure pleased some fans and infuriated others. However, my biggest question for you is also the simplest. Did you enjoy it?
Drew: I did, which I think is truly remarkable, given that the first Spider-Man comic I’ve ever read was Amazing Spider-Man 698. I’m not a complete neophyte — I’ve seen enough movies and Saturday-morning cartoons (and spent enough time hanging around comic shops) to understand the broader strokes of Spidey’s mythology. Just before Patrick read this issue, he joked that he was “going to try to simulate the experience of finishing a 700 issue series,” which seems totally absurd, yet this issue actually does make me feel like I’ve been along for the ride this whole time.
Part of this is accomplished by returning Spidey to his roots — that climactic battle is essentially all about the great responsibility that comes with great power — and part of it is all of the stuff that comes after the feature (two nostalgic backups, a covers gallery of the ENTIRE SERIES, and a MASSIVE letters column featuring the one, the only Stan Lee). Those extras really make this issue feel like an event, which makes me feel like part of the community for simply owning a copy. Hearing fans of all ages reminiscing about their favorite Spidey moments, or reading JM DeMatteis’ brilliant backup gave me a perspective on this issue that I’m not sure I could have appreciated otherwise.
Let’s talk about that backup for a minute. It features “Great Gran’pa Martin” explaining to his great-grandson how he used to be Spider-Man. It’s a stirring but heartbreaking peek into what would happen if Peter had survived to be Spider-Man indefinitely, as Great Gran’pa remembers all of the story we know and beyond. Or, perhaps misremembers is more accurate. Check out this hilarious muddling of Marvel’s greatest heroes:
Bizarre conflations like “Iron Devil” and “Thulk” (or the unnamed Beast/Angel and Magneto/Cyclops hybrids) are fun, but they also call the narrator’s reliability into question. Later, when his great-grandson tries to correct one of these details, he barks back “Hey — is this your story or mine?” That kind of intensely personal take on how memories influence stories is a lovely sentiment for the fan community, and one that’s particularly ingratiating to newcomers — the way I experience this issue may not be the same as someone who owns every single issue of this title, but that’s totally okay. In the end, it doesn’t really matter if Great Gran’pa’s story is true — it brings him and his great grandson joy, and that’s all that matters.
The feature also succeeds in finding a broader philosophical angle to the end of Peter’s journey. We’ve always been able to admire Peter’s amazing accomplishments, but he’s always been trying to atone for his mistakes, never truly living down his guilt. It’s hard not to get a little misty when Uncle Ben tells him he’s earned his right to heaven, and it’s harder not to get pumped when he tells him there’s one more fight left to fight. That absolution sends Peter into battle with no motivation other than to do the right thing.
And he does it.
That’s the important thing about this issue that all of the detractors are missing. Yes, Peter fails to switch minds with Octavius, but this is without a doubt a moral and philosophical win. All Peter ever wanted was to live up to his responsibilities and protect people from evil, and this ending ensures that that mission will live on beyond him. It’s an absolutely beautiful idea, and one I wish more people could appreciate. Peter may not be around for a while (and honestly, if he never came back, this issue serves as a fantastic eulogy), but his mission and spirit live on.
Will Otto make for a “Superior” Spider-Man? I think he thinks so, but some of his actions in this issue suggest otherwise. He might be better at web-slinging, but he’s sorely lacking in the personality department. Otto is overly logical, and was never one to value friendship, which means he’s kind of a dick to everyone. Take this exchange on his date with MJ:
Later on, he refers to her as “woman,” and calls her pep talks “trite.” Octavius doesn’t have the patience for Peter’s personal life, which has always been a key part of Spider-Man. I know all of the naysayers have already made their “Inferior Spider-Man” jokes, but I think Otto’s failings in this particular facet of Peter’s life is going to be a big part of Superior Spider-Man, to the extent that it may be the thing that eventually brings Peter back.
I don’t really want to conjecture too much about the new series, but I will say that I’m looking forward to it. If Slott can end a series this well (and make me care so much with only three issues under my belt), I have all the confidence that he’s going to craft an incredible series with Superior. This may well be the end of an era for Spider-Man, but there’s plenty here to make me think the next one might be just as fun.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?