This is it. The big moment you’ve all been waiting for. How does it all play out?
As a note, spoilers are discussed as it is kind of impossible not to for something of this nature, but it’s no more than you couldn’t infer from just knowing what the arc is about in general.
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
If there is one thing made abundantly clear from the “Amazing Spider-Man” finale, it’s this: Dan Slott loves Spider-Man. There never was much doubt about this in general and Slott’s habit of writing stories that feel like they belong in the Golden Age done within a modern variant makes that abundantly clear, yet its never the less true. The entirety of Slott’s run so far has very much played up the strengths and weaknesses of the character, for better and worse, and this issue in particular is a rather grandiose tribute on Slott’s behalf towards the ideals Spider-Man has come to represent as literally the greatest superhero ever. Through an inverted lens, Slott gives us a recapitulation of the building blocks that make up Spider-Man as a character in an interesting fashion, which are then reaffirmed through the new status quo as Spider-Man’s lessons become applicable for the “new version” of the hero. Really, in terms of a farewell to the series, both to the legacy it had and all Spider-Man has influenced, “Amazing Spider-Man’s” final issue is a bit of a fond farewell, and a bittersweet one at that.
Yet, when it comes to the actual execution that leads into the “Superior Spider-Man” story, we’re mostly left wanting. There’s no such thing as a bad idea because it all comes down to the execution, and let it not be said that ostensibly bad ideas can be made quite great (see: Jeff Parker’s run on “Hulk”). Yet, after no more than a three-issue arc including this double-sized finale, nothing about this ending and subsequent segue via “Avenging Spider-Man” #15.1 into “Superior” doesn’t ultimately play off as forced. Sure, the road to this point from #600 is clear in retrospect, and yes, it’s clear that this was something on the table for some time, yet the turn-around between the villainous nature of the story to the birth of a new hero happens in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t feel organic so much as it feels like a convenient deus ex machina to throw a wrench into the machine, something to twist up the status quo just for the sake of twisting. It’s not so bad as to play off as disingenuous because, again, it’s clear Slott has avid love of what makes Spider-Man Spider-Man and had at some point planned for this eventuality, but at no point does it feel like Peter Parker’s dying wish is something that should be honored for really any other reason than that’s what needed to happen for the story to continue, a notion which isn’t helped under the speed of which it is delivered.
Take into consideration, for example, that this is the second time in recent history that we’ve seen Peter Parker die. Brian Bendis killed Ultimate Peter Parker back in “Ultimate Spider-Man” #160 which gave way to Miles Morales, and that was an issue of a similar nature – Peter’s greatest villain came to destroy Peter’s life, and Peter made the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the life of his loved ones. Similar things happen in each story, albeit under different circumstances, and the two issues operate with the same focal point of an ending in that Parker is no longer alive and someone needs to take his place; both even take the time to restate what makes Spider-Man a hero to admire, which help to build up to the emotional climax of the stories. Yet only one of them actually takes the time to deliver a tear-jerker of a finale within its own spectrum while the other simply seeks to end one story while queuing up the next, which is where “Amazing’s” fault lies. The “Ultimate” finale succeeded in that a high-stakes nail-biter of a storyline wraps up with an ending that, while still ostensibly telegraphed (the finale was the title of the arc, after all) still ends up surprising and gut-wrenching in its final moments, officially closing off one story for good. There is so much more emotion to be found in the last few pages of “Ultimate” as Peter dies in his Aunt’s arms than there is in “Amazing,” and its hard to fully commit to the weight of the story when it turns around into an advertisement for you to buy a new #1 in a month.
That seems to be the biggest mix-up that “Amazing Spider-Man” #700 has: no one in the story really seems to take any aspect of it seriously. There would appear to be some concessions that you’d need to make given that no one knows Peter is no longer Peter, but most of the issue plays off with the same levity as ‘Spider-Island’ when it really needs something closer to ‘No One Dies,’ also penned by Slott – something cinematic and weighty, matching the inherent dark nature of the plot with a focused execution. Here we’re given a chaotic attack in which every last second ditch effort for Spider-Man to “win” is undermined by Otto one-upping him in a battle of the wits, yet it never actually feels that smart. Rather we’re just given an inept Peter who, after years of defeating his enemy, somehow can’t come up with a clever trick to take down his nemesis, and it never really feels believable, emotional or legitimate. There’s something that just feels like its missing from the entire story – perhaps its Peter’s scientific reasoning, lost to eleventh hour stress and emotional duress, but it looks more like a writer giving up on a character’s survival because that character doesn’t need to survive.
This is made even further distressing when looking at how no one seems to function within the logic of the story. I suppose to a certain extent we have to resound towards comic book logic and a bit of hand-wavium here, but even with these elements in mind its tough to resolve a few of the books logical faults. As great as a guy like Peter Parker is, it seems odd that recognition of his life – particularly when matched with the tough life that a character like Otto Octavius has had – would be enough for a villain to turn it all around at the last second while still being complacent to be a murdering sociopath, to the extent it makes you wonder why Spider-Man wasn’t doing Scared Straight sessions at the Raft. One would’ve thought a mental breakdown of sorts would be in order as well rather than a nice Golden Age-esque quip and some posturing, yet when all is said and done it all wraps up rather nice and neat, which is an even bigger oddity. There’s just too much that doesn’t add up for the story to seem like its working, and that seemingly works against the finale more so than it does work for it. As much as “Amazing Spider-Man” #700 is the close of one story it’s really just an open-ended introduction into the next, and while that would seem to be the point – Marvel and Slott want you to read “Superior Spider-Man” – there’s so much missing from this issue that it acts as a detriment to the consumption of the current events.
The art doesn’t exactly help the book’s case, either. While Ramos has been Slott’s partner for the majority of his Spider-Man work, putting him on this particular issue seems a bit of an oddity. Ramos has a very open-ended and slightly cartoonish style that’s rather inviting and optimistic; when used in ‘Spider-Island,’ it played towards the somewhat goofy nature of the event and matched Slott’s story tonally, and their work together on various Spider-Man stories has often emulated that aspect. Here, though, the story clearly calls for rather heavy gravitas, something much darker around the edges, which Ramos can not deliver as well. This is very much a big ending, fireworks and all, but a lot of the inherent darkness of the story is lost in Ramos’ otherwise light-hearted line work and somewhat chaotic character work; instead of a big doom-and-gloom Doc Ock, running out the clock and trying to bring down Spider-Man, we’re given two amorphous bodies that shift from panel to panel and bounce around in size and scope. Ramos has certainly stepped up his game over the course of this series and has very much become a staple Spider-Man artist to work with Slott, often matching the kinetic aptitude and motion-filled adventures of the wall crawler, but one can’t help but note that there were probably other artists who could have brought to life a more weighty death than what Ramos delivered – Marcos Martin, Paolo Rivera, et al.
So as “Amazing Spider-Man” ends and “Superior Spider-Man’s” head watches with narrow eyes in the distance, a lot can seemingly be said for the fact that at least Slott is trying something new. While the idea of a hero being replaced — or even being replaced by a villain — isn’t ostensibly that new or innovative (heck, Megamind‘s already done it), giving Spider-Man such a drastic albeit assumedly temporary overhaul is certainly daring. Yet still, just because Slott, Marvel and all else involved are trying something new doesn’t inherently make it that good, and despite all good intentions the finale of “Amazing Spider-Man” falls flat on its own bravado. “Superior Spider-Man” is a concept that something enticing could be done with and there is no denying that, but “Amazing Spider-Man” #700 seems like the perfect jumping-off point more than anything else.
Final Verdict: 5.0 – Pass/Browse/Buy – Might as well grab it as a milestone I guess, but your mileage will vary