Oh boy this is going to be a weird write up!
Amazing Spider-Man #700 is perhaps one of the most talked about and divisive comics of 2012 (it managed to come out at the last possible moment of 2012 on Boxing Day). It is equal parts an ending to one of the most beloved comic series and the beginning of the next act of the never ending epic that is the life and times of Spider-Man. The weeks up to release saw rampant speculation and the collective gnashing of teeth from the Spidey faithful. Leaks happend and people preemptively lost their shit over it. The buzz was building to a fever pitch and it was both interesting and horrifying to watch at the same time. I am just glad it happened over Christmas so that I was far to busy with family and celebrations to have it spoiled for me before the 26th.
The mantra I kept repeating to people before I read the issue was, “In Dan Slott we trust.” Now after the event that mantra remains the same because despite the pervading opinion of who I am now calling The Insane Internet Mob (or TIIM for short) the issue is actually a really good read that hit me in the gut as a life long Spidey fan. It also homes in on something I love about comic books but that in reality very rarely happens due to TIIM’s reaction to it: CHANGE. The want, need, effect, repercussions and temporary nature of it.
So let us take a look at Amazing Spider-Man #700 looking at why it a good comic and a great Spidey story in the making.
A WARNING though, there will be SPOILERS!
[Note: For clarification, Ock-Spidey is Doctor Octopus in Peter Parker’s body and Spidey-Ock is Peter Parker in Doctor Octopus’ body]
The issue picks up with Ock-Spidey having a moment with Mary Jane. It is a weird scene because it is all about Ock sticking it to Peter by trying to get back together with MJ. This is Ock being an evil and twisted bad guy basically trying to have his way with one of the few good things in Peter’s life. Even though nothing happens because an alarm Ock has set to monitor Spidey-Ock’s activities goes off to warn him of the breakout from the end of #699. The scene serves its purpose to remind everyone that Doctor Octopus is a pretty disgusting and downright evil guy. So while some sites *cough* *cough* Bleeding Cool *cough* took this moment and ran with it to explore possible rape and the legality of a relationship between Ock-Spidey and MJ despite nothing more than his shirt being ripped open actually happening. It is still a rather creepy idea when you think about it.
After the alert goes off you are expecting to see Ock-Spidey hunt down and possibly kill Spidey-Ock, instead we have him attempting to flee the country on a round trip flight that would take him off the board while Spidey-Ock slowly dies. We then get Spidey-Ock and his Sinister trio getting him ready to confront Ock-Spidey and a near death experience for Peter.
Here Dan Slott revisits the idea of all the people Peter has known who have died hanging out in a heavenly utopia watching over him that he first introduced in the now classic Matters of Life and Death. We see older one story characters like Tim Harrison (even thinking about him causes a lump to appear in my throat!) to more, recently departed ones like the Silver Sable and the Rino. While it is never explicitly stated wether this is heaven or Peter’s subconscious processing things I choose to side on the subconscious angle because each of the characters that appear represent different sides of the argument of wether Peter should give up and die and what he should do if he chooses to fight.
- Tim, Rino and Oksana; being at peace and happy because all their troubles have left them. (Tim, cancer. Oksana, dying without Aleksei. Rino, having to live without Oksana)
- Sable; revenge (she died fighting for Peter to stop Ock once and for all, which in the end of Ends of the Earth he chose not to do)
- Captain and Gwen Stacy; duty and staying the course (I am guessing I do not need to explain this one) Marla also fits into this category.
- Peter’s parents; pride and accomplishment (there is a reason why for those two panels that Peter is in a Horizon Labs coat. Peter has succeeded in all aspects of his life so can die happy) Marla also fits into this category because she is a Jameson and they like to be awkward!
- Uncle Ben; power and responsibility (’nuff said)
Ultimately it is the part of Peter’s memory that represents Uncle Ben that gives him that push to get up and fight one last time because he has to and he knows it. He has a responsibility not to leave Doc Ock running around in his body. We then get Spidey-Ock getting his stuff and team together to begin the final push to stop Ock-Spidey and Mayor Jameson being the reason why Ock-Spidey does not get on the plane. JJ has one of his best angriest old man in the world rants on TV about Ock and that causes Ock’s innate arrogance to kick in to show everyone that he is superior. (Hey there’s that word again!)
We then get Spidey-Ock and the Sinister Trio assaulting the 18th Precinct Police Station to recover the last remaining Golden Octobot. During the assault Spidey-Ock has a confrontation with Carlie Cooper were he tries to reason with her and tells her the truth.
In the end it is her dedication to Peter that makes her reject Spidey-Ock’s explanation. This causes Spidey-Ock to lash out and knock her out hurting her arm in the process but crucially not killing her. This is very important! Next we get Ock-Spidey gathering all of Peter’s friends, loved ones and colleagues in one place to “protect” them from Spidey-Ock and confronting Spidey-Ock via video link to one of his hideouts. Interrupting Spidey-Ock and Trapster’s work on the Golden Ocktobot with his evil postering. Ock-Spidey then activates the base’s self-destruct and calls in the authorities. This is where the shit starts to hit the fan.
Hydro-Man and Scorpion hold off the police while not killing them because that is what Spidey-Ock wants while Spidey-Ock and Trapster finish off work on the Golden Octobot and ready their escape. It is here that Trapster twigs what Spidey-Ock is planning but misinterprets his intentions. This is very important! Believing that Spidey-Ock plans to swap bodies with him Trapster confronts him. Spidey-Ock then uses Trapster’s guns against him to subdue him leaving a “Courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood Doc Ock” note on him. This is very important! Spidey-Ock, Scorpion and Hydro-Man then make their escape in a submarine to begin the final confrontation and act of the story
The best thing about the final act is that it is not about Peter saving the day and winning. Actually it is about Doc Ock realising who Spider-Man/Peter Parker actually is and what kind of man he is. Everything from another fleeting moment with MJ, to him taking on the Scorpion to stop him from killing Jameson, Jameson Sr. and Aunt May.
Punching Mac Gargan’s jaw clean off his face makes Ock realise how much raw power Peter has and that he has to constantly fight against unleashing it on his enemies. From here we get a break neck thrill ride to the finish as Ock-Spidey and Spidey-Ock have their final battle. Spidey-Ock tries his best but his body is rapidly failing and he resorts to a last ditch effort to take both him and Ock-Spidey out. By launching both of them out of a window. Sadly Ock-Spidey shows his ingenuity at being Spidey and cushions their fall. Then Spidey-Ock unleashes his last ditch effort, his ace in the hole, his last hope. THE GOLDEN OCTOBOT!
and it fails….. Because once again Doc Ock shows that he thinks things through and preemptively planned for Peter to attempt a re-swap. BOOM! Spidey-Ock is defeated and the clock is inching ever closer to his death. Peter realises he has only one option left. Using the link between them both Peter makes Ock experience and realise what being Peter Parker and Spider-Man is all about.
Ock relives all the key moments of Peter’s life as if it were him in the driver’s seat. The cruel twist of fate that is the origin of Spider-Man. All the lost loved ones and failures. The innate strength of will Peter has to keep fighting through it all and step up time and time again. He has the power and he constantly uses it for good. All of it becomes a part of Octavius. He learns the ultimate lesson,
With great power, comes great responsibility
Ock gives Peter his dying wish and promises to live up to his name and legacy as Spider-Man. Crucially this is not just Ock suddenly changing who he is it is him trying against his better nature to do what is right. It is something that is exemplified in his promise to himself and Peter. It has heart and shows a want from Ock to be responsible with the powers and life he now has but it is tinged with that arrogance and the need to be better than Peter that Ock is known for.
Peter dying and Doc Ock taking his place is an understandable reason for the backlash and rage from TIIM but at the end of the day if you think this is a permanent change then you really need to quit worrying and learn to love the Superior Spider-Man. This is comic books and Dan Slott’s lengthy run with Spider-Man is just hitting its stride. Yes this is a big, earth-shattering change but eventually everything will be put back the way it was. That is the nature of the beast that is comic books. Change can and will happen but it is fleeting. When I started really getting into comic books around 16-17 I quickly learned to embrace “big” changes for what they are: a temporary way to explore a different or under-used aspect of the character or mythos built around them. It also helps that the one character I have been following practically all of my life, Spider-Man, is the perfect example of this idea.
We have had:
- Extra arms
- Organic web shooters
- Giant stingers coming out of Spidey’s wrists (among other upgrades that The Other brought about)
- Potential babies and alternate futures focused on that potential child
- One More Day
- One More Day leading into Brand New Day that reinvigorated the character
- Big Time
- and much, much more
And now Superior Spider-Man.
It is all part of the bigger picture that makes up the Spider-Man story. Eventually Peter will comeback somehow and things will return to they way they were. But for now just enjoy Dan Slott and Co. exploring what it means to be Spider-Man when you used to be one of his greatest enemies. The ways for Peter to return are already built into the story too. Marvel could simply have it so that Peter’s personality slowly comes back in Ock-Spidey’s mind overtime eventually replacing Ock after some mental battle of wits presumably. Or they could use a mixture of Carlie and Trapster each knowing half of the story of the death of Doc Ock and putting two and two together and finding a way to bring Peter back.
So yeah, I enjoyed it and I really do not understand all the range and anger surrounding this storyline. Just have fun with it is what I say.