Of course, the big news in comics in the last few days has been the goings-on at Marvel involving the end of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, as written by Dan Slott. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about it, and since we can’t discuss it without getting into some details, y’all should consider yourselves SPOILER WARNED. So, if you haven’t already, go find a copy of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700, read it (and the fact that I’m telling you to go buy it should be an early sign of how I feel about it) then meet me back here.
All caught up? Good. Let’s get back to it.
For those of you who still haven’t read it, here’s what’s been going on. For much of the past year, in the pages of ASM, Spider-Man has been locked in battle with a terminally ill Doctor Octopus, who had embarked on his most ambitious plan for world conquest yet. Thwarted once more by Spidey, following the battle we saw in recent issues Spider-Man visiting Doc Ock on his deathbed in SHIELD lockup, where it was revealed that somehow Ock had engineered a mindswap, with Octopus now residing in Spider-Man’s body, complete with access to Peter Parker’s memories, while Spider-Man was trapped in Octavius’ deteriorating, about-to-expire body.
Parker manages to rally and engages in one final battle with Doc Ock, each in the other’s body, before Parker in Ock’s body succumbs, and as Peter Parker’s life flashes before his eyes, Doc Ock also experiences those memories through Parker’s perspective, and comes to a familiar realization: that with great power comes great responsibility.
Ock resolves to replace Parker, and carry on his duties as Spider-Man, only even better, using his own scientific genius to enhance his spider-abilities, as “the Superior Spider-Man.”
So. That’s the new status quo. Peter Parker is dead, and Doc Ock lives on his stolen body as the new Spider-Man.
Lots of folks seemed to think I’d be outraged by this. I gotta say, I’m fine with it. It’s a good story, well told, and has lots of story possibilities moving forward.
Here’s the thing: there are certain givens in comics that are never going to change. Superman will always be Clark Kent. Batman will always be Bruce Wayne. And Spider-Man will always be Peter Parker. Sure, there’ll be relatively brief periods where the characters are switched up and identities change, but we all know that eventually the real McCoy will return, and in the meantime, we can explore what makes the character so great by seeing how others struggle to fill that iconic role. And more often than not, it results in some very good stories, such as DC’s “Death of Superman” or “Knightfall,” or Denny O’Neil’s excellent IRON MAN run in which James Rhodes first took over the armor from an alcoholic Tony Stark.
This story has even more potential for interest, as it’s the first time we see a villain have a change of heart and try to fill the shoes of his most hated enemy. Some readers seem to think that this is too much, that they can’t accept the idea of a murderer and criminal replacing Peter Parker as Spider-Man. And that to me is exactly what makes it intriguing; Otto Octavius of course isn’t worthy to replace Peter Parker. But watching his struggles to do so, and how he reacts to his failure to measure up is what will make for a compelling tale.
I remember talking to Mike Carlin at a convention not long after they had first turned Green Lantern Hal Jordan into an insane mass murderer, then killed him off in that year’s big “event” miniseries. After listening to me express my displeasure, Carlin responded very reasonably, in an answer that’s stuck with me all these years: “We reserve the right to tell a story with an unhappy ending.”
Fair enough. And if the story is true to its characters and doesn’t betray them or what they stood for, then I’m in.
Scott Tipton enjoyed SPIDEY #700, in case you couldn’t tell. If you’ve got questions about Spidey or comics in general, send them here.