It is with great sadness that I write this: As you all know, this is the end. ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ is no more. The release of #700 earlier today brought a close to what has been one of Marvel’s flagship titles since 1963. That it ended in the last month of the character’s 50th anniversary year was an occasion that should have been marked by great celebration, but instead is now marked by mourning: ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ is over. But let me reassure you all with this: If this issue is anything to go by, then it’s successor title, ‘The Superior Spider-Man’, is truly something to look forward to.
Before we go any further, I should warn you that this review may contain SPOILERS. I’m going to be do my best to reveal as little as possible regarding the details of the main story. I’m certainly not going to be summarising the main feature, but just in case, consider this a final SPOILER WARNING.
Read that? Good. Here we go.
This being a Marvel anniversary book, it’s chock full, it’s steep $7.99 cover price offering a 52 page main story by Slott and Ramos which closes out the ‘Dying Wish’ arc and sets the stage for ‘Superior Spider-Man’ and two backup strips: ‘Spider-Dreams by J.M. DeMatteis and Guiseppe Camuncoli, and a ‘Date Night – A Black Cat Storybook Adventure!’ by Jen Van Meter and Stephanie Buscema. Add to this the ASM cover Gallery, #700 Variants Cover Gallery, and the final Amazing Spider-Mail (answered by none other than Stan ‘The Man’ Lee!), that brings the page count of this issue up to nearly 100 pages before ads, well worth the cover price.
I’ll start with the backup stories and work backwards to the main feature. Great as they are, the two backups appear to be out-of-continuity, so they’re not really relevant to what’s been going on in the main book. However, that’s not to say they aren’t fantastic stories in their own right: ‘Date Night’ is a great light-hearted Black Cat yarn, that honestly wouldn’t be out-of-place in a Marvel Adventures book, or even a kids book. Hardly surprising, as it’s rendered beautifully by artist Stephanie Buscema (Granddaughter of comics legend, the late John Buscema), with exaggerated proportions and broad brush strokes that make it look like a hand-drawn spinoff of the ‘The Incredibles’. It’s a wonderful and vibrant little piece, and along with the other back-up, ‘Spider-Dreams’, provides some much-needed relief from the dark turn that this series has taken recently.
On the subject of ‘Spider-Dreams’, I must say how nice it is to see Giuseppe Camuncoli represented here; his craggy faces and soft edges have been a great foil for Ramo’s angular hyper-kinetic splashes as they’ve alternated the last couple of arcs. What’s even more impressive is that as well as rotating on ASM, Camuncoli’s also penciled several issues of ‘Hellblazer’ over at Vertigo. The guy’s an art machine, and it’s very comforting to know that he’ll be rotating on ‘Superior Spider-Man’ with Ramos and ‘Scarlet Spider’/’Fantastic Four’ artist Ryan Stegman. WIth ‘Spider-Dreams’, Camuncoli and J.M. DeMatteis spin an enjoyable and touching tale of an old man whose great-grandson doesn’t believe the stories that he tells about when he used to be Spider-Man. There’s some beautiful stuff in here with an at times hilariously mis-remembered retelling of Spidey’s history, panels packed with visual gags and wonderful detail. It felt to me like a Spidey version of ‘The Princess Bride’, and it’s great fun.
But enough of this light-hearted nonsense! Onto the bumper main feature, the true conclusion of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’, the 52-page epic ‘Dying Wish: Suicide Run’. Last issue saw Peter Parker’s mind trapped in the dying body of Otto Octavius break out of prison with the aid of The Trapper (Formerly Paste-Pot Pete to you Silver Age fans out there), Hydro-Man and The Scorpion. He now has to work out how to get his body back before the frail form he’s been imprisoned in fails completely. How does it end? Well, that would be telling…
I’ve been a massive fan of Dan Slott’s work on this book since he started as one of the rotating writers after ‘Brand New Day’.
He’s a great writer. ‘Big Time’, ‘Spider-Island’ and ‘Ends of the Earth’ are going to go down as some of Spidey’s finest moments. and so, I believe, is this. Slott is not a writer afraid of taking risks. And where this story goes, and where it will take the character of Spider-Man, is a big risk. Some people won’t be happy. Some people will be outright furious. But me? I’m excited.
Slott pulls at our heartstrings in this issue, he plays with our emotions as Spider-Man fans like a sadistic cat plays with a ball of string. And it’s great. I don’t want to single out instances as I don’t want to give any plot details away. I’ve said it before, and I will continue to do so as long as it’s true: this book is the product of a creative team firing on all cylinders. Humberto Ramos winds up his bat and knocks it not only out of the park, but into orbit with his work on this issue. His angular figures and kineticism just giving every panel life and motion. The early scenes particularly show an uncharacteristic moodiness, lots of shadow where Edgar Delgado’s wonderful bold colours would usually be. But as with the previous issue, the art team here really show their range, and when they kick into the full on action it is truly glorious to behold. The stationary pages burst with energy, even when all is still. But when things move, oh how they move. This is truly exemplary art.
However, it all comes back to the man with the plan, Dan Slott. Oh Dan. What have you done? This story ends in a way that will leave people howling to the moon. It’s a real ride, and I enjoyed every twist and turn. There’s nail-biting suspense right next to heart-rending grief, and Slott challenges us to come with him. He’s not trying to please his audience, like some writers do out of a desperation to be loved. He’s simply telling a story he believes in. And that is an admirable thing.
Folks. ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ is over. It ended today, but man oh man did it end with a bang. I know some of you will miss the way things have been up to this point. But there’s 50 years of an ‘Amazing’ past preserved for posterity. The future? The future’s ‘Superior’.