This one really is a doozy. I also have to forewarn you that there are spoilers ahead!
For trusted fans and readers of Amazing Spider-Man the stage was set when in a final act of vengeance, Doctor Octopus switched bodies with Peter Parker - trapping his mind in the decaying frame of his former tutor. Dan Slott has left it to all play out in this final issue, also setting the stage for The Superior Spider-Man.
The story follows Peter after he has escaped prison attempting to regain his body. The only problem is that he is seen as a known fugitive and every conventional avenue is therefore closed to him. To make it worse, any location or resource he can think of using Doc Ock’s memories are also slowly becoming out of bounds, as Otto is using them against him. It becomes a game of chess on a large, life threatening scale.
It is only when Peter strikes out in a completely uncharacteristic way that he find a way to break the stalemate. For once he aims to finish things by making sure that one way or another Otto’s life is ended, ensuring that he has protected those all around him. By taking them both over the edge of a rooftop in a gesture akin to Holmes and Moriarty, the end of Peter and Otto’s relationship is sealed with one of them dying. In a twist I have to admit I didn’t see coming, Spider-Man is changing in a potentially franchise threatening way.
Peter Parker is gone as the life finally fades in Doc Ock’s body, but as a parting moment he instils all of his memories, emotions and past challenges into Otto making him feel and relive every second himself changing Octavious perception of Spider-Man and indeed himself. Spider-Man remains. but with a new focused and stronger driver, so to speak. The genius and drive of Doctor Otto Octavius combined with the power and ability of Spider-Man.
Slott’s story-telling is good throughout and you can feel the struggle that Parker is having adjusting to this foreign body and those around him, with his hired super criminals noticing the difference in him. I did find it odd that no one around Otto (posing as Peter) even thought anything was wrong when he spoke differently. Part of me wondered why MJ didn’t slap the frown from his face when she was called “woman” and an almost third party monologue went unnoticed. Something just felt off with the script in parts there. I am also left wondering if this tonal change and language usage can continue? There are a couple of clichés popped in there as well which, thanks to being used sparingly, were nice little touches. What monumental issue such as this could go by without using Spidey’s immortal phrasing of great power and responsibility?
Now with such a landmark issue in the limelight the artwork is something that is of great importance. It would be wrong for me to berate Marvel’s choice on something so personal as my general malaise towards Ramos’s work – there’s only so many basic face shapes (two, one male and one female) that you can read – and I would have loved to have seen someone like Mark Bagley or Leinil Yu taking the pencils for it. However, that said I tended not to notice it behind the story. It’s colourfully inked and active enough that I didn’t get drawn to the soulless eyes, or occasional lack of irises. It doesn’t dampen the issue and some will love it as it’s as jovial as some of the scripting, but I still think it could have been stronger.
In addition to the main story this bumper 104 page issue has been fleshed out with two more stories - Spider-Dreams by J.M DeMatteis and Date Night by Jen Van Meter - along with numerous letters from prominent writers, artists and inkers telling of how the webhead has played a part to them. You can review all of the covers from every issue through several pages too. This all makes it feel as though there is a definite sending off here.
With this issue Amazing Spider-Man has most certainly been put to bed and for fans it’ll be a sad day I feel. On the horizon is potentially a much grittier and darker Spidey that will take direct action. How this will be received is yet to be seen, but I’ll be waiting for that first issue to see where this goes. My curiosity at the end of this era and the dawn of a new one has most certainly been piqued.
Matt Puddy is making a large trifle...