Spider-Man: Fever is quite the adventure. Brendan McCarthy pulls double duty and brings Spider-Man into the world of spider magic. According to McCarthy the book is an homage to Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange stories from the 60’s, and boy is this book trippy. Spider-Man’s soul is abducted by a spider-demon who brings him to the ancient Webwaze, a dimension that all spiders call home. Doctor Strange goes in after him and it gets weird. Bipedal talking dogs, an aborigine with inter-dimensional walking shoes, a fly that used to be a man. Also, Doctor Strange rides along a river through space in a duck boat. That happens.
Spider-Man is also in this comic book! The King of the spiders wants to eat Spider-Man so he sends him off to the insect realm to prove whether or not he is a spider or a man. McCarthy explores the dual identity of Spider-Man as not just Peter Parker and Spider-Man, but as human and spider. In recent years there have been attempts to move Spider-Man’s origins towards something more to do with magic than science. We meet the spider who bit Peter all those years ago and discover its motives. It sought out Peter before and now it attempts to control him. Peter must decide if he is a man, free to make his own decisions, or a spider, with his destiny seemingly already decided.
People die. It happens. But why can legacies only be passed along after death? The old hero dies and a new one rises to take their place. It happens all the time, but what’s wrong with doing it a little differently? Why can’t the old hero just move on? Super-heroics is a dangerous business and people will ultimately die, but is it impossible to simply retire, to live? How does killing the hero do anything but hurt the franchise?
Barry Allen died so that Wally West could become the Flash, Ted Kord was murdered and Jaime Reyes replaced him as Blue Beetle, (almost) every single character ever named Manhunter was killed so that Kate Spencer could step up to be the brand new Manhunter. This goes beyond just legacy characters too. It seems that in order to introduce a new concept, you must first destroy an old one. Ed Brubaker brought Bucky back from the dead as the Winter Soldier, but in the process he kills off Jack Monroe, the hero known as Nomad. Obviously, not many people cared one way or the other about Nomad, but now that character is off the board forever (I highly doubt anyone will be attempting to resurrect him, ever). Whatever potential he may have had in the future is now gone. Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man was brought back to life during Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, but then his daughter, Stature, and Vision are killed in the same series. Creators often talk about world building, but too often the elimination of characters are used to launch that idea of world building at the reader. It seems that in order to build you must first destroy.
Dan Slott’s series-ending Amazing Spider-Man #700 is really two superhero stories in one: the death of a superhero and the origin story of another. From the time I discovered the ending of this story in the spoiler leak several days ago, to actually sitting down to read the issue, I’ve been trying to piece together what exactly frustrates me so much about this storyline. Is it that Peter Parker dies a horrible death? Actually, no. Superhero deaths are nothing new, and with the comic book industry’s illustrious history of retconning and bringing characters back to life, I imagine we haven’t seen the last of Peter Parker. Not to mention, superhero death stories can be genuine works of art. It wasn’t so simple as just being an irate fan who doesn’t want to see his childhood hero’s demise. So why did this disappoint me so much? After all, it is just a comic book. These aren’t real people. They’re characters in a story. But no. It is more than just a story. There is a philosophy in every comic book. People don’t read comics merely for the fireworks of two emotionally damaged people in leotards beating the hell out of each other. No, we read comics for what the stories tell us about ourselves and the world around us. And my problem with Amazing Spider-Man #700 is that in attempting to show how a villain might be redeemed and rise to the challenge of heroism, instead, Slott has written an origin story which thoroughly misunderstands what makes a hero.
2 out of 5 stars Marvel Comics Writers- Dan Slott & Christos Gage Art- Giuseppe Camuncoli Inks- Dan Green Colors- Antonio Fabela
I never thought I would say this (like, ever) but I am glad, nay, thoroughly satisfied, that The Amazing Spider-Man will be coming to an end in a mere four issues. I don’t say this out of some longstanding hatred of the series. In fact, ASM has always been my favorite comic book. I grew up reading Spider-Man. Many of my fondest memories as a Spidey fan were during what I consider the “Golden Age” of Spider-Man comics: the John Romita Jr. and J. Michael Straczynski run. Those comics were exactly what Spider-Man was supposed to be. Romita was an expert in kinetic, fun, evocative art with facial expressions that said ten times what was contained in thought bubbles, and fight scenes so beautifully and perfectly rendered, you could feel his ribs crack as Morlun pounded him or the thrill of success when Spider-Man finally found a way to physically overcome the vampire. There was glory and thrill and a feel of classic comic book storytelling in those books. As far as I’m concerned, that was Spider-Man. But those days are long gone, aren’t they? I think ASM’s “jumping the shark” moment came a long time ago, during the Brand New Day/One More Day line. And it has all been downhill from there.