In which Liz and Chris both have a read of the same comic and write about it. Sometimes they agree. Lots of times they don’t. This time it’s Amazing Spider-man #698.
As the maelstrom of Marvel Now swirls around us, and more and more titles are being caught up in its wake, it feels as though The Amazing Spider-Man was the one least in need of a reboot. Dan Slott’s been doing some interesting stuff with the character since he took over full-time with issue 648, and it’s been a consistently strong seller. I know, I know – they keep saying it’s not a reboot per se, but let’s not get caught up in semantics here … It is what it is – Marvel’s response to DC’s wholesale reboot with the New 52.
Now, I have faith in Dan Slott … I really do. I remember when Dan was signing at the store last summer and he talked about a big storyline he was building towards and had always wanted to do. It wasn’t Spider-Island and it wasn’t Ends of the Earth, so I’m wondering (hoping?) if that’s what he’s doing now – because if it’s not then I AM concerned. I really didn’t need a Superior Spider-Man – or any other sensationalised adjective – at least, not in my life.
One of the best quotes I heard this week was from my friend Dave Elliott (@DeevElliott) on Twitter: “Superior Spider-Man is going to be reprints of Steve Ditko’s run”. If only! If only we had monthly reprints of Ditko’s Spider-Man at an affordable price for young and old fans alike – now that truly would be superior. Instead we have … this. I’ll say it again, I have faith in Dan Slott, but if this is another one of those editorially mandated events (and it feels a bit that way on account of Marvel Now) then my faith is waning.
Of course, we’re still talking about Amazing Spider-Man #698 here (not Superior Spider-Man) but as the issue that presumably sets up the new status quo it’s safe to say I’m concerned. I’ll keep reading cautiously, but as things stand right now I think Amazing Spider-Man #700 will make a fitting ending/jumping-off point rather than a new beginning. This kind of stunt smacks too much of the whole ‘90s Clone Saga, and in all the wrong ways … In fact, it just reeks of the ‘90s in general – we had films, television, and comics all based around a similar theme. Proceed with caution.
There’s a great line of dialogue at the bottom of the seventh page of ASM #698. A police officer is explaining to Spider-man why a bank-robber dressed as a super-villain was spouting a lot of hammy villain-speak at him. The officer tells Spidey, “There’s a reason he was speaking that way”.
Spidey swings off, the bad guy is wheeled away and we forget all about it. Doesn’t sound like much, but this outwardly throwaway exchange turns out to be the key to the entire issue.
That line, in a nutshell, is what I liked about this issue. The big twist at the end that everyone’s buzzing and/or complaining about could go either way, but I liked this issue because it duped me. Reading it a second time (you really need to read it twice to understand what’s clever about it) was an entirely different experience to the first.
Here’s what I mean:
(MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! DON’T READ UNTIL AFTER READING ASM #698!)
On the face of things, Peter Parker is finally getting his act together. He appreciates life with a new zest, and why not? He’s young, healthy and he’s got superpowers. He’s got a great apartment, a great job and a loving family. He’s got everything going for him and he doesn’t plan on wasting another minute. He’s going to get Mary Jane back, create better inventions and enjoy the pure fun of being Spider-man.
Which is awesome! Basically he’s doing all the things the reader has been hoping he’ll do. But there’s something off about Pete. Hard to put your finger on it, until we find out that-
Pete is DOCTOR FRICKIN’ OCTOPUS?!
I should’ve seen it coming, but I didn’t. I knew right away that Pete wasn’t acting like Pete, but it was done so deftly that I couldn’t work out what that meant until the moment Dan Slott wanted me to. It’s a doubly satisfying read once you’ve discovered that the story is told from Otto’s perspective and that there was good reason the things Pete was saying felt ‘off’.
Somehow (we don’t know how yet) Otto has pulled one last great trick from his deathbed and switched his consciousness into the body of Peter Parker. He’s managed to retain Pete’s memories and still hang onto his own.
Recently shot of his dying body and his miserable life, Otto wants a fresh start and sees how much potential there is in being Peter Parker. He clearly intends to take Peter Parker’s life and be better at it than Pete is.
In just two months, ASM will come to an end and be relaunched as Superior Spider-man in January. We’ve known for a while that the Spider-man in Superior #1 will not be Peter Parker, and until now it’s been anyone’s guess (and the source of rabid speculation) who the stand-in would be.
So is Doc Ock the Superior Spider-man? It would be a pretty ballsy move, and a neat idea when you think about it. Otto seems to appreciate the good things in Pete’s life more acutely than Pete himself at the moment. As this issue points out, it’s a matter of perspective. Otto has come back from the brink of death, and realises his life has been a failure. He’s hungry for a second chance. Maybe he’ll make the most of it. Then again, maybe walking a mile in Pete’s red-and-blue spandex will teach him that being Spider-man isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Even if it’s only for the next two issues, I’m intrigued to see where Dan Slott is going with this. Whether it’s any good or not, I applaud him for the good trick he pulled here.