Peter’s Problems Outpace His Growth in Amazing Spider-Man 798

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 798

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I had a college professor who liked to talk about “the ascending spiral groove thang” — the notion that we tend to cycle through the same problems, but always with our previous experience informing each new iteration, turning that cycle into a kind of spiral staircase. It’s an elegant idea that helps turn the hopelessness of facing down the same issues again and again feel like an opportunity for improvement. It’s an idea that Peter Parker embodies almost perfectly, vowing to improve (if never quite perfect) the decisions that led to the deaths of his loved ones. But what if those problems have an ascending spiral groove thang of their own? What if Peter’s problems are getting smarter and more mature along with him? That’s exactly what he’s up against in Amazing Spider-Man 798, as Norman Osborn returns with the Carnage symbiote.

It’s a conflict we knew was coming for a while now, but Dan Slott writes Pete’s terror with such conviction, there’s still plenty of tension on every page. Look how efficiently Slott conveys a sense of mad panic when he sees the symbiote:

Panicking Peters!

Obviously, Stuart Immonen’s propulsive art is also pulling a lot of weight here (though the MVP on the finished product might actually be letterer Joe Caramanga, whose bulked-up emphases really sell the panic of these words), but it’s rare that we see Peter retreat into his own head like this. Osborn remarks on Peter’s lack of patter, but it’s replaced on the page with his internal monologue struggling to do anything other than flip out. It sells the panic even after this creative team has put Peter against countless ostensibly unbeatable foes.

It helps that they really follow through that panic with some actual consequences — they back up Pete’s fear with actual pain. Immonen captures some great panic as Pete strips out of his spidey-suit, but it’s the moment of half-defeat that really sells this conflict for me.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

He’s lost the battle, but he’s already preparing for the war. The hero setting his jaw after an early defeat is boilerplate stuff, but Osborn’s caveat that Pete can only carry on as his civilian self sets an interesting obstacle. Even if he ends up donning the spandex to defeat Osborn (I mean, he has to, right?), it’s certain that he’s learned something from this conflict. He’s not done with this problem, and he’ll be more ready for it when he spirals back around.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

2 comments on “Peter’s Problems Outpace His Growth in Amazing Spider-Man 798

  1. Ok, this issue was awesome. Again. Maybe I just love the idea that Norman Osborne’s last stand is merging with the Carnage symbiote. It’s perfect. It’s a story that’s been told before – hell, it’s a Green Goblin story that’s been told before (Villain knows Spidey’s identity and hurts Pete through his family and friends) and what makes this so good is it still feels fresh.

    I sometimes think that’s what makes a good Big 2 writer: Being able to basically write the same story that’s been written the last 50+ years but make it fresh and interesting.

    After 798 issues, it’s still Flash and Pete and Jonah and Norman. And it’s fantastic and I guess I know how it’s going to end (Pete will win because he’s Peter f***ing Parker!), but this is a hell of a ride.

    Bonus Prediction: Jameson has tried to be valuable. He’s failed. He even had his “Spider-Man under the beams and needs to break out” moment this issue and he just tipped over and needed to be rescued. He’s going to save Pete in issue 800 and be killed by Osborne.

    • It wasn’t until halfway through your comment that I realized JJJ is going to die at the end of this arc — I 100% agree with your assessment. What better way for Peter Parker to change the world than to get the one dude who absolutely hated Spider-Man to embrace the great responsibility that comes with his great power?

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