Amazing Spider-Man #700
Writers: Dan Slott, J.M. DeMatteis, and Jen Van Meter
Artists: Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Stephanie Buscema
Release Date: December 26, 2012
Epic Spoiler Alert
A Dramatic Reenactment of Dan Slott’s Pitch for Amazing Spider-Man #700:
Amazing Spider-Man Writer Dan Slott: So, for our 700th issue I was thinking we could Freaky Friday the crap out of Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus. The two had just switched bodies in previous issues, BUT we can end the entire series with Peter Parker dying inside the decaying body of his greatest villain. The climax would introduce a new Spider-Man with Doctor Octopus’ mind, a new Octo-Spider to mack on Mary Jane and take over Parker’s life.
Editor: Dan, have you seen Doc Ock’s bowl cut? It’s like a helmet made of pomade and shame. We have a strict policy here at Marvel: bowl cuts should never be presented in such a way to create sympathy for the bowl cut, to promote distrust of the forces of decent taste and grooming, or to inspire others with a desire to bowl the cut.
Slott: We haven’t followed that policy since 2001. Besides, this Spider-Man would still have Peter Parker’s lithe body and chestnut curls, but a bad guy’s brain!
Editor: My eyes may see Andrew Garfield, but my heart sees Moe from Three Stooges. I don’t know, Dan. Mary Jane doesn’t deserve this. If Doc Ock didn’t get around with his giant mechanical arms, he’d probably drive a big white van. That dude oozes creep.
Slott: But there’s more! Inside Parker’s body, Octopus will be overwhelmed by Parker’s memories, forcing the former sociopath to adopt such values as responsibility and selflessness. It’ll be the hyper-scifi embodiment of nature vs. nurture.
Editor: Hmmmm. I know how all the kids are into Galtonian theory. But wasn’t there another Doctor character defeated by the power of super empathy in one of those gritty, post-modern books back in the aughties?
Slott: Listen, Editor. This won’t just break the Internet in half, it’ll incinerate Javacript. This’ll be big, like Gwen Stacy and Mephisto giving birth to a cloned love child. But it’ll also be good, and pave the way for the new Superior Spider-Man series.
Editor: Fine. But no bowl cuts.
Though rough around the edges, Dan Slott fills the ultimate issue of ASM with the same ingredients that have made the title so endearing since its first issue, and the results are indeed good. Ludicrous pulp science? Check. Body swapping may be pure B-Movie pastiche, but no more so than the idea of irradiated bug venom turning a teenager into a transhuman parkour expert.
But the driving force of Spider-Man has always been sentiment, and this finale bleeds pure emotion. A sequence of whitewashed panels show Peter Parker revisiting all the loved ones who passed away under his watch as the hero flashes in and out of consciousness. Parker trades dialogue with such figures as Gwen Stacy, his biological parents, and yes, even the sainted Uncle Ben. Spider-Man’s mantra of altruism under pressure has remained intact since 1962, and this is his ultimate payoff: validation from those he believes he failed. And it’s achingly beautiful. As Ben pulls the iconic spandex mask over his nephew’s tear-streamed eyes, a circuit connects: the same character who inspired one of pop culture’s greatest heroes is also sending him off on his final mission. This is closure.
These halcyon scenes sweeten an ending that Spider-Fans have had a particularly hard time swallowing: Spider-Man dies and his body is now occupied with the mind of a rehabilitated super villain. In response, Slott has allegedly received death threats via Facebook and Twitter. (A recent exasperated Facebook post from Slott reads “This is my social media…It is NOT a place tho for long, rambling rants where you get to tell me I ruined/destroyed/raped your childhood. :-(”). This is a particularly nasty development. Slott began his career as an unpaid Stan-Lee worshipping editorial intern, and has been a constant cheerleader for a character who shares his street-level optimism. Yes, Killing off icons has never been a popular game, especially when those characters are replaced by frumpy evil scientists who use words like “doddling.” But if any writer has the sensitivity and offbeat sense of fun to pull this off, it’s Slott, who will continue this plot thread in his upcoming Superior Spider-Man series.
The rest of this deluxe issue includes two bonus stories by writers J.M. DeMatteis and Jen Van Meter. The first features a retired, alternate-universe Spider-Man teaching his grandchild about his webbed past while the latter is a light romantic romp about the Black Cat with cartoony art by Stephanie Buscema, granddaughter of the legendary John Buscema. While the Buscema connection illustrates some heritage behind the title, these stories are blisteringly inconsequential, if inoffensive, to the oh-dear-god-did-they-just-do-that fireworks erupting in the main story. Related plots or characters would have made the entire package less disjointed, though these additions certainly don’t harm the overall experience.