Finding Strength in Others in The Amazing Spider-Man 800

by Spencer Irwin

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

Spider-Man has one of the most iconic, expansive, and enduring supporting casts in all of superhero comics, and that’s a fact Dan Slott has used to his advantage throughout his long tenure on The Amazing Spider-Man. He especially leans on his supporting cast in issue 800, the penultimate issue of his run and the grand finale of “Go Down Swinging.” It’s an issue all about the power of the people in Peter Parker’s life, be it the power he gives them, or the power they give him.

The latter is made incredibly obvious in the issue’s climax as Peter finally pummels Norman Osborn, bringing his reign of terror to an end.

*

It’s a very shonen-esque sentiment, touting the power of friendship as a force stronger than any other. I eat that kind of thing up, but fortunately, Slott devotes almost every moment of this eighty-page behemoth to backing up that sentiment with action. Peter doesn’t just talk about how his friends give him power, but we see it in action. We see Mary Jane and Flash Thompson talk Peter down and give him smart, useful advice; Flash even sacrifices his life to save Peter and his friends and hurt Norman Osborn. Even Eddie Brock is willing to lend Peter his Venom symbiote so that he can fight with Norman on a level playing field.

That’s where Slott highlights the power Peter gives others in return. We see how the example of Spider-Man helped teach Aunt May to stand up for herself, helped transform Flash Thompson from a bully into a hero, how it softened Venom, even how the lingering effects of Peter’s memories are still influencing Doctor Octopus’ actions (for the better) long after he’s hung up his Superior Spider-Man mantle. Now Peter’s teaching J. Jonah Jameson as well, flinging himself in front of a bullet to stop Jameson from murdering someone and, later, helping walk him through the guilt he feels for his part in Osborn’s rampage. Peter makes the people around him better, and in turn they help make Peter better. It’s a wonderful infinite loop that truly gets to the heart of Spider-Man’s power and appeal.

While the image I posted above is a more abstract take on the power of friendship, elsewhere in the Spider vs. Goblin conflict Slott finds more concrete ways to incorporate this strength, largely by contrasting Peter’s supporting cast with Osborn’s ego and isolation.

Osborn allows his ego, his desire to stand alone and win by his strength and his strength alone, to become his greatest weakness; he voluntarily throws away the Carnage symbiote just so that he can claim full credit for Peter’s defeat. Osborn represents the futility of trying to fight alone, while Peter shows the true strength to be found from working with others. It’s one of the best-supported arguments for the power of friendship that I’ve ever read.

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

6 comments on “Finding Strength in Others in The Amazing Spider-Man 800

  1. What an outstanding comic. I think I cried 4 times reading it.

    How fitting is it that Peter Parker’s first unstoppable nemesis is the one that stopped Osborne’s final unstoppable plan?

    A great conclusion to a great run. The enormity of what Slott brought to this franchise can’t be overstated. Spencer and Ottley will have their hands full.

    —–

    I have to add : How fitting, even at the end – Jameson still doesn’t learn the lesson. I’m not sure he will. Does Jameson have an arc left? (I actually thought he was going to go crazier that Spider-Slayer and somehow put on a Scorpion suit) I predicted his death, but I actually don’t know what is left for this character. How many bottoms can he reach?

  2. I gave this a try as part of my annual “I really want Slott to work for me” phases (and because I am very interested in 801, especially considering, as a fan of Bendis, the fact that Bendis independently came up with this idea for Miles until learning it was Slott’s idea for his final issue interests me). But it didn’t really work.

    In true Slott fashion, he has the right ideas. Can’t think of a better way to end a run like Slott’s than this, focusing on the characters themselves. When you have as many beginnings and climaxes as Slott, that’s how to properly payoff the run.

    On the other hand, the execution did not work for me. It felt repetitive, choosing one supporting member, focusing on them, before repeating it again and again as Peter repeated the same plotline of ‘Red Goblin arrives, Peter narrowly stops him with help of another character, rinse, repeat’. Just from the context of this issue, I can’t say why Flash specifically was the one who died, because literally any character coukd have with no change dramatically. Because they all had the story.
    The structure also creates problems with the ‘kill everyone’ moment, as Flash saving the day by already fixing it is off screen. It just comes up and is instantly resolved, instead of seeing Flash discover it and then enjoying the suspense of Flash trying to cure everyone as quickly as he can before Osbourne kills them.

    So how about this as a fix? What if the Spiderman/Red Goblin fight was in the background? What if, instead of Peter as our perspective character, we had everyone else. A story all about how Peter’s big victory was built on top of hundred smaller victories by his supporting cast, told from the perspective of the little guys whose own victories allow the big guy to win. If this issue is about how Peter’s true strength is in others, a story only showed Peter through other people would be a more effective way of handling it. It would be both innovative and functional. And the fact that characters like Flash, Harry and Jameson shifted around the narrative in more interesting ways than Peter’s repetitive gauntlet would fix the slog that this issue often felt like at its most repetitive moments.

    As always, Slott’s doing the right thing. I just wish I enjoyed the execution more. It feels like it would be so easy to improve with better execution

    On the other hand, the funeral was really well done

    • I’ve tried writing why I really liked the Flash saving the day scene, but I just am redescribing the scene to you, which doesn’t really do much. You read it.

      This may be trite, but it may be that I liked this a lot because these characters are part of my cultural identity and they’re part of something you check in on. I’ve read every issue of Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spider-Man, (and so on). I own all of them post 1976 and most of them from before then (missing 25 or so). I have all of the mini-series, the annuals.

      I value them. I value the characters. And I have read some really, really bad Spider-Man stories that have treated characters in really weird ways that I didn’t always like (I still really don’t like the Black Cat turn that Slott has had and I still don’t get it and I want it to go back to the Black Cat that I like, but I guess I’m not doing fandom right because I’m not threatening Slott on twitter yet).

      This felt like such a great conclusion to 50+ years of Flash Thompson.

      I hope this is the end of Norman Osborne for a while, too. And I hope baby Osborne just percolates in his evil stew for a bit. Let Spencer get his feet wet with some street level nonsense for a bit.

      • Cultural identity is a weird phrase there – but I mean it in a way that I hope you understand. I’m talking individual identity, not as a group culture. “I come from the land of Spider.”

      • I think it is a great ending to Flash’s story. A powerful ending on a macro level, of Flash’s 800 issues of Spiderman. I don’t have an issue with the actual events. My only problem is that if I was going to tell a story about Flash dying in a heroic sacrifice, I would make Flash more central in the story. It comes into the point I made about how this issue would be stronger if it was told from the perspective of everyone else but Peter.

        Multiple characters, like Eddie Brock, Octavius and J Jonah Jameson could have been the one that died with minimal changes. Would have been strong conclusions for them as well. Because ofnthe rinse and recycle structure of this issue, where Peter does the same thing again and again with the supporting cast changed, I don’t think this issue did enough to show why this was Flash’s death and not anyone else’s.

        It was a great death, but would be so much better in an issue that let Flash be more important. I honestly think rewriting this issue to be from the perspective of every other character would be fascinating and a major improvement

        • Again, in pure Slott style, all the right elements are in place and he doesn’t do anything wrong. He just does everything right in a way that frustrates me because it could so easily be better

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