by Drew Baumgartner
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:
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.
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?