If you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read any further. Because I am going all out on Amazing Spider-Man 700.
Still here? Cool, let’s get started.
I have known Peter Parker ever since I was seven years old. I think Spider-Man is Stan Lee’s greatest creation; everything about Peter Parker was spot on from the beginning. I love the guy; Spidey is my favourite comic book character of all time. Period. When I was young, Pete was the guy to look up to, because, no matter how hard things got, he would always do the right thing, he would always try his best and he would never give up. And, most of the time he would succeed.
Later on, Peter Parker became like a good friend I liked keeping taps on, see how he was doing. How his lovely wife Mary Jane was doing, and Aunt May and all the other regulars on the series. I’ve enjoyed a lot of great comics made by some of the greatest writers and artists in the American Comic Book industry, like Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Gerry Conway, Michael Straczynski, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr., Ron Frenz, and so on. But since the early ninety nineties Marvel seems to have lost some of its magic. The company doesn’t seem to know how to handle Spider-Man. They’ve been tinkering with the formula ever since, with mixed results at best. And somehow, they seem to try to get rid of Peter Parker while wanting to keep Spider-Man as a character. As if those two could ever be separated. We all know the best Spider-Man stories are about Peter and not the Webhead’s exploits.
And with Marvel Now! the company is starting a new series called Superior Spider-Man, without Peter Parker. Once again Marvel tries to kill its flagship character.
Another death in the family
In the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man Peter Parker dies. Well, not really. His archenemy doctor Octopus swapped brains, so now Doc Ock’s brain is inside Peter Parker’s body, while poor Peter is locked up inside Doc Ock’s body. That’s not a problem because Ock is overweight or because Doc Ock is a notorious bastard, but because he’s dying. And if Peter cannot make the switch back in time, he’ll die and Doc Ock will be Spider-Man/Peter Parker. And that is exactly what happens. But there is a small twist: during the final confrontation, the octobot that contains Pete’s brain patterns, manages to download Peter’s memory inside Ock. All the hardships and pain Peter has ever endured, all the sacrifices he has made and all the friend’s he has lost during his life as Spider-Man are shown as key moments in Parker’s life. But they are mixed with Ock’s personality, so it’s like Ock lived through all this hardship and pain. This emotional memory overload if you will miraculously changes the villain’s point of view on life. All of a sudden he believes that with great power comes great responsibility. Ock vows to dying Peter he will be Spider-Man from now on, keeping his family safe.
And yes, knowing Doc Ock, the guy who tried to conquer planet earth numerous times and killed a zillion people, this is a totally believable plot twist. NOT. Sorry, Dan Slott, I just don’t buy it. You didn’t set this up properly: Doc Ock has always been a villain, and now he wants to be the good guy all of a sudden?
Spidey-writer Dan Slott really dropped the ball on this one. He and Spidey’s editor Stephen Wacker let Peter Parker die a dishonourable death. After 700 episodes of Amazing Spider-Man, he deserves a lot better. Why end the series in such a dour note? I thought in 2012 we celebrated 50 years of Spider-Man, not spit in the face of Peter Parker, and kick him while he was already down on the ground?
Of course, I find solace in the idea that this death will not be permanent. Marvel has a history of trying to get rid of Peter Parker: Parker has died a couple of times already and he was replaced by a clone for a while, but those mistakes were always turned around after a while, because the audience, Spidey’s fans, didn’t like these changes. They want Peter Parker in Spider-Man’s suit. It is as simple as that, but a message the marketing people at Marvel do not seem to understand. So I am certain Peter will be back someday. That golden octobot that holds his brain essence or whatever will probably play a big part in the return of Peter Parker.
But that doesn’t mean that the way Marvel has ended Amazing Spider-Man, a series that started in 1963 and has been going on ever since, has left a bad taste in my mouth. It is heart breaking, really.
Superior Spider-Man will be all about Doc Ock’s exploits as Spider-Man, until sales drop and Peter returns once more.
This is not Mary Jane
This is how I would have liked to end the series. Let’s go with Slott’s crazy plot, because up until Amazing 700 it is a pretty good read, and ignore the fact that Slott’s characterisations are way off sometimes. Apart from Doc Ock seeing the light all of a sudden, Mary Jane is very poorly written. Slott reduces her to a one women Spider-Man fan club that talks in over used clichés like: ‘Go get them Tiger’ and ‘You hit the jackpot!’ I find it hard to believe that Mary Jane hasn’t picked up on the strange way Peter/Octopus talks to her and treats her. He snaps at her, calls her ‘woman’ numerous times. Come on, these guys have known each other for ages, Pete would never address her in the way Ock does. Mary Jane must smell something fishy about Peter’s behaviour. But somehow, because Slott doesn’t allow it, she doesn’t. No, she gives him another pep talk and confesses her love to ‘Peter’. Mary Jane was written totally out of character.
‘No one dies’
But following Slott’s plot, I would have liked it if during the final confrontation Peter succeeded in transferring his brain patterns back inside his body. After Ock died in Spidey’s arms, Peter and MJ would get back together again, nullifying the whole Brand New Day nonsense and we would be back on track. Even if Peter decided after the transfer to lay low as Spidey for a while, it would have been a better ending for Amazing Spider-Man. Give Pete and us a break, Marvel, and give him a happy ending for once. Don’t try to get rid of Parker all the time to rejuvenate Spider-Man. You killed Ultimate Peter already, you replaced Peter a number of times. Try to think up something original. Marvel used to be called the house of ideas. When it comes to Spider-Man calling Marvel the house of bad ideas seems more appropriate.
There’s one last bone I have to pick: I really don’t like Humberto Ramos’ artwork. His drawing style is a cross between Disney and manga. I always believe Spider-Man is best served with a lot of realism as possible. Sure, Slott uses a lot of humour in his stories, and that’s great fun. But to keep Spidey relatable, he needs to stay realistic for the most part. So a semi-realistic style would counterbalance the sci-fi and humourous elements perfectly. The greatest artist on Marvel, like the Romita’s and Steve Ditko always drew Spider-Man that way. Ramos’s cartoony drawing style would fit the adventures of the Spectacular Spider-Ham better than Amazing Spider-Man.
Not only is his style too cartoony for my taste, it seems that Ramos fell asleep during anatomy class, or maybe he’s never seen a girl naked, because the way he draws the human form is simply appalling. Check out this panel from an earlier Amazing Spider-Man comic and look at Spider-Man’s torso. Spines don’t work like that, unless it is Mr. Fantastic in the Spidey suit- which it isn’t – I’d say Ramos has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to human anatomy.
Most of the time body parts are out of proportion. The faces of a lot of characters look alike. And besides that: Ramos couldn’t draw convincing facial expressions if he wanted to. Look at how he draws Mary Jane in this panel:
The Spidey cast act like bad actors when they come from Ramos’s pencil. And what’s with all these stripes on everybody’s noses? Is everyone having a cold in the Marvel Universe nowadays?
Maybe they are getting as sick of the nowadays Spider-Man stories as I am. Oh, well, there are always the reprints of Spider-Man’s golden age. Maybe I’ll pick up the current story when Peter Parker has returned from the grave and Ramos has taken a permanent position at Disney drawing cartoon characters.