And now, the end is here. The Amazing Spider-Man sails off into the sunset with his monumental 700th issue. Read on for a SPOILER-filled review as we offer a eulogy for one of the greatest comic book series to ever exist. And more, much more than this, he did it his way.
The Amazing Spider-Man #700
The unthinkable has happened. Otto Octavius, who fancies himself as a master schemer, has finally bested his most hated foe, Spider-Man. From his deathbed at the Raft, the superhuman prison, he was able to use one of his octobot drones to place a seed in Spider-Man’s brain that eventually swapped their minds, leaving Peter Parker in the frail, and dying, body of Octavius, and Dr. Octopus himself in the body of the Amazing Spider-Man.
In this final issue, Peter Parker, acting on behalf of Octavius, has hired supervillains to break him out. Now, racing against the clock before Octavius’ body finally gives out, Peter must find a way to switch their minds back to their rightful places. In the meantime, Octavius, using Peter’s memories and abilities, realizes that Parker is not as helpless and hopeless as he believed. After treating Mary Jane like she’s a hapless groupie, he counters Parker’s attack by gathering all his friends and family at Avengers Tower. Here, the final showdown between Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus happens. Believe he has the upper hand against his longtime enemy, Peter is horrified to find that Octavius has protected himself from the same octobot drone that should have served to swap them back. A terrible blow from Spider-Man finally proves to be too much for the frail encasing for Peter’s mind. As he begins to pass away, Octavius is flooded by what it truly means to be Peter Parker, Spider-Man. Octavius realizes Peter’s pain and suffering is not at all what he bargained for and begs Peter to undo everything. Peter tells him that it’s too late and if Otto truly wants to be Spider-Man, he must take all the bad along with the good, for with great power must also come great responsibility. Finally, the Octavius body expires, and along with it Peter Parker, leaving Octavius more determined than ever to live up to the name of Spider-Man.
With that, the Superior Spider-Man is born.
Let the great debate begin. At the time of this post, Dan Slott has already taken insane heat of death threats from retailers who got to read the final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man a week before its street date. Am I terribly surprised that people are upset? Not at all. We’re talking about a pillar of the Marvel Universe meeting his apparent demise. Does anyone from Slott to artist Humberto Ramos to editor Steve Wacker deserve this kind of treatment? No freakin’ way. The seeds to this story had been planted for a long time. With Marvel NOW! coming along to shake things up, this was a great time to really punch it to this series and Peter Parker. This is what Marvel is best at – giving characters a real hard time and putting them through the worst of the worst of situations. Peter Parker was one of the very few heroes to not really go through death’s door. While it is certainly arguable that Marvel hasn’t always treated death properly (*ahem* Hawkeye), they have done it particularly well with characters like Bucky Barnes and Colossus. Even the “death” of Captain America worked out well as we then got two solid years with Bucky as the new Cap in some really great stories.
What’s more, Amazing Spider-Man #700 is a classic case of something else that Marvel does better than anyone else. Take away the death of Peter Parker (which will ultimately be the talking point of this issue for years to come), and what you have here is a pure celebration of the character himself. Marvel has always celebrated their characters. It doesn’t matter if it’s Spidey, or Hulk, or the Fantastic Four. If they could some how peel these characters out of the two-dimensional images of their books, they’d throw daily parades for them. I won’t hear of anyone saying they don’t dearly love their characters and celebrate them on a daily basis.
Amazing Spider-Man #700 is a pure reminder of how wonderful a character Peter Parker is. Mind you, I did not equate Spider-Man with that greatness. No, what makes this series work isn’t the man in the mask, however great he is, but the man under the mask. Peter Parker was truly the every man. When you think of the upper echelon of comic book icons, Peter was the one who dealt with the most real life issues. He wasn’t an omnipotent being from the stars standing up for the American way. He wasn’t a billionaire with the toys capable of taking down every single possible threat. He wasn’t a near warrior god(dess) with a pure sense of justice. Peter Parker was someone who, through a couple twists of fate, learned to temper his powers with being a truly good person only wanting to do what’s right by his friends, family, and anyone who was in trouble.
Because he was more relatable and realistic a character, we felt his highs and lows. We could almost feel every punch he took. We felt empowered when he stood up against insurmountable odds. We felt his loss when he was unable to save them. We found ourselves rooting for Peter Parker as often as, if not more than, Spider-Man. He was us and we were he. There may not be a single other comic book character that connects with his/her readers like Peter Parker did.
Getting back to my point, Amazing Spider-Man #700 is more a celebration of Peter Parker than it is of the series or Spider-Man as a hero. Spidey isn’t trying to stop a rampaging Juggernaut, or quipping to Dr. Doom in Latveria. It’s Peter Parker fighting to save his life and prevent his powers and his legacy from being marred by a truly undeserving and evil man. He’s not faced with a decision to stop this man and have a change of heart, or be injured beyond being able to be Spider-Man any longer, and retiring to his work station at Horizon Labs to live out his life happily or quietly. This is an honest fight for his very life. A fight he loses, but not before imparting a little bit of wisdom forcing Doc Ock to realize he’s not as victorious as he believed.
Amazing Spider-Man #700 is not a perfect book. Slott crafts a nice script for this finale. What makes the arc, as a whole, so fun was the utter suspension of disbelief. You had to watch carefully what happened previously, but when things take off, it feels like something that would have come straight from Stan Lee himself. It’s grandiose and kinda far out, but still a lot of fun. If you read the previous arcs for “The Ends of the Earth” or “No Turning Back”, it’s hard to imagine how we got from those more serious stories to this one, but while it isn’t the best of the very best of Spider-Man stories, it definitely works in a Silver Age kind of way that is hard to dislike. I admit that I’m also not the biggest fan of Ramos’ style, though I will also admit that I think he’s done well with Spider-Man. So the art is give and take depending on your personal tastes.
Where the issue does excel is in the spirit of the book. I said it before, and I’ll say it again… This is a celebration. It’s all about Peter Parker. It’s a race against time that, even though you may have pre-conceived notions or heard leaks about what might happen, you still find yourself thinking Peter is going to get himself out of this nightmare. The real celebration of Spider-Man, the hero, comes from J.M. DeMatteis in a touching back up story about an older gentleman retelling his life as “Spider-Man” to his grandson who is going through his jaded early teens. Will it be hard to look past the major event that happens in the final pages of this story? Probably, but this issue still stands as a testament to who Peter Parker is and what he means to us all and if he comes back in a couple years, we’ll welcome him back. If he never comes back, I can still believe that he’s deserved his much needed rest.
Rest in peace, Peter Parker. You did more than your Uncle Ben could have ever asked.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Exciting conclusion to Peter’s story. Great celebration of Peter Parker. Touching back up story.||Art’s not really my taste. Story is a bit of a stretch as a whole.|