Story – Dan Slott
Art – Humberto Ramos
When I was a little kid, around middle school age, I had an almost sadistic fascination with destruction. I would often take old action figures I no longer used, place them in a plastic bowl filled with water, and put them in the freezer. The next day, Daredevil or Batman would be frozen in the ice, often with one limb awkwardly sticking out. I’d take these frozen action figures outside and hurl them into the air just to watch them shatter on the sidewalk. Dan Slott, as a writer, is like me as a bored middle school kid on a summer day. Dan Slott has taken Spider-Man, our Spider-Man, and hurled him into the air just to watch him shatter.
Maybe I’m being hyperbolic. But I have been so let down and angered over Slott’s stories and writing, that it truly does feel like more than just the end of The Amazing Spider-Man; it feels like destruction. Ruination. With each passing issue he does, I feel that he has taken one more brick out of Spider-Man’s foundation. My feeling right now is that next month’s last issue, #700, Slott will remove the keystone, and we’ll all have to suffer through Spider-Man’s destruction.
This issue, #699, is the follow-up to the “shocking” #698, in which we discover that Doctor Octopus has managed to switch consciousnesses with Peter Parker. So now Peter is trapped in Doc Ock’s dying body, and Doc Ock is running around in Peter’s body. It’s basically just the plot of Freaky Friday. Marvel solicited this issue as “turning over all the cards,” revealing how Doctor Octopus managed to swtich bodies with Peter. The explanation, in true Dan Slott form, is a letdown, and barely passes any reasonable test of plausibility. Apparently, (and this may develop or change in issue 700), Doctor Octopus controlled one of his Octobots with his mind, and managed to sneak up on Peter when his spider-sense was out of whack, and infiltrated his brain. This is related to the armored suit Spider-Man used way back when to combat Doc Ock’s control helmet.
Once again I’m disappointed in Slott’s capacity to tell a story, and to tell it with any semblance of skill worthy of Marvel’s flagship title. When your hero is trapped in the cancer-ridden, dying body of his nemesis, and then comes up with a plan of escape, do you really believe he would think to himself, “Yoo hoo!” In such cases, it’s clear that Slott is a lazy writer who doesn’t consider ramifications or how actual people would think or react in a crisis. I talked about this in my previous review of The Amazing Spider-Man. The whole book feels rushed. It’s clear that Slott is just prepping himself for Superior Spider-Man, and he has basically checked-out of Amazing. The pacing just races to the finish line, stuffing each panel like a Butterball turkey with as much backstory and “here’s what you didn’t know, whaddya think of that!?” information as Slott can possibly muster. We move from Peter assessing his situation, to coming up with a plan, to having a pointless discussion with the Lizard through his cell wall, to executing his plan, to being broken out of prison by Hydro-Man and Scorpion, all at such a breakneck speed and with no logical progression or seamlessness. Each scene and beat is stacked one on top of the other like Jenga blocks, not woven together like, you know, a story.
And you know the really terrible thing about this issue? It’s so…boring. I just don’t care about this character or this story anymore. And I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that Slott can do to remedy that. Is this really the penultimate issue of The Amazing Spider-Man? This is the last story? This is the plot that will end it all? I’m not sure how this will turn out. I doubt very much that Peter will die in Doc Ock’s body. But all the same, I can’t honestly believe that anyone thinks that this plot is worthy of the end of Amazing Spider-Man. It’s my belief that Slott’s textbook narcissism compels him to write stories like this, which function almost entirely on pulling the wool over the eyes of his readers, with no other goal in mind than just to fuck with us.
It’s the same storytelling principle that shows like The Walking Dead or any soap opera function on. Set up a crazy cliffhanger or mystery, don’t worry about its plausibility or value or strength as a story, and people will come back for more just so they can find out what the hell is going on. It’s a cheap, lazy way to plot a mystery or a crisis. And laziness is the hallmark of Dan Slott’s run on Amazing Spider-Man. There’s not much to say about this issue, to be honest. It’s nothing more than set-up for the final issue next month, and it’s executed hastily and poorly. But I don’t expect much else out of Slott’s storytelling abilities.
The art here is decent; it’s certainly better than past Ramos stories which at some times were so angular they looked like a damn Picasso (but not in a good way.) He’s definitely toned the angles down. But there are aspects of the art that just don’t sit well with me. For one thing, Doctor Octopus doesn’t even look like a human anymore; he looks like an alien fucked a raisin. I understand he’s dying of cancer, but I’m not sure what kind of cancer turns you into a block of petrified wood with eyes. This issue is simply a mess.
I know I’m hard on Slott. But I trash his stories because he deserves it. Because we deserve better. This is Spider-Man, not some two-bit, no-name tertiary title in the Marvel line-up. This is the comic book that humanized superheroes. This is the comic book that gave us The Night Gwen Stacy Died and Ezekiel and Morlun and Spider-Man No More. We’ve seen Spider-Man encounter desperate circumstances, pain and loss and death, and we’ve seen him triumph over it all. He truly is amazing. But this? This story? A part of me is happy to see this comic book end. Marvel needs a serious wake-up call. I’ll end up reading Superior Spider-Man for at least a few issues. But knowing that Superior won’t be Peter Parker, Spider-Man is over as far as I’m concerned. But this is comic books. The end is never really the end, as Jason Cohen recently discussed. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Spider-Man. He’ll return. I just hope that when he does, it’s in a story worthy of his name: amazing.