With Spider Island wrapping up in Amazing Spider-Man #672 (not to mention an epilogue in ASM #673 which I’ll cover later), I’m now at that point where I can properly reflect on this storyline and where it ranks among the best/worst Spider-Man arcs of all-time.
Simply put, I loved the whole thing and ASM #672 specifically is probably my favorite issue of Spidey to come out in years.
In another post last month, I described the end of ASM #671, where Spider-Man regains his long-lost Spidey Sense in the nick of time in order to overcome and cure his possessed clone Kaine as a “stand up and cheer moment” in the series, but I might have been jumping the gun a bit with that designation (even doing a whole series of posts in its honor) since ASM #672 is just one gigantic “stand up and cheer moment.” With the way he wove together all of the subplots and guest appearances, while simultaneously sticking to a script that at the core was all Spider-Man, and more importantly, all Peter Parker, I can safely say that Dan Slott has now etched himself into the upper echelon of all-time ASM writers. He’s undoubtedly at the top of the list in the past decade, and Spider Island and the way it so satisfyingly and sensibly concluded, is right up there with J. Michael Straczynski’s “Spider Totem” arc as one of my favorite “modern” Spider-Man stories.
There’s just so much to dissect about this issue and this storyline, it’s hard to conjure up one thematic “idea” as I’ve done with other “New Issues” post, so I’m just going to lay a lot of this out there, and hope some of you out there have read the storyline in full at this point and have some feedback.
From my perspective, what truly makes an effective and memorable arc is when it the ending both ties-up the events of the past “era” of stories, while simultaneously catapulting the characters into a brand new era of storyline possibilities. When Spider Island was first proposed months and months ago, I had figured that the arc would probably serve as a bookend to Slott’s “Big Time” storyline which kicked off his tenure as the sole writer of ASM. But after reading through this whole thing, I was pleasantly surprised that this arc actually reaches all the way back to the highly controversial and despised “Brand New Day” reboot, which saw the end of the Spider-Man/Mary Jane marriage and kicked off years of storylines where Spider-Man/Peter Parker was more of a loveable loser than a superhero with emotional baggage and failings. Whereas Joe Quesada’s terribly confusing “One Moment in Time” was the supposed resolution to “Brand New Day’s” Spider-Man and Mary Jane story, unless Marvel goes ahead and throws me another curve ball in the coming months, I’m now firmly set on viewing Spider Island as the resolution to their relationship, just because what Slott does with Peter and MJ is so much more joyous and in-character within the established history between these two.
In ASM #672, we of course get the loaded “I love you” from Mary Jane to Peter, as Slott once again reaches back in his bag of tricks and revisits the Octobots from ASM #600 and has Peter using these machines to help cure all of Manhattan from the Spider Island virus, while the rest of the city’s superhero population (The Avengers, X-Men and Venom) are in the fight of their lives against a mutated Spider Queen who looks like some crazy boss character from a Final Fantasy or Zelda video game. The obvious conclusion for this MJ fanboy is that these words mark the potential of a romantic reunion between these two, but the pragmatist in me also recognizes that this was strictly a beautiful moment that demonstrates how this woman knows Peter Parker better than anyone else on the planet. And while that’s a perfect reason for the two of them to become involved romantically again, there’s also absolutely nothing wrong with the idea that these two could be soul-mates, permanently linked by an unbreakable friendship that has withstood countless moments of both jubilation and despair. Either way, it was just wonderful to have these two side-by-side again and I hope now that the big box mega-event is over, future issues of ASM can focus more on this relationship and where it may or can’t go from here, though I got to remind myself that the “I love you” fell on deaf ears in this issue.
In addition to the Peter/MJ dynamic, this issue really drives home just how well Slott understands Spider-Man the superhero. While the bulk of other Marvel heroes utilize superhuman strength and over-the-top technology, what has long separated Spidey from the pack is his brain-power. Having Peter climb to the top of the Empire State Building and use the Octobots to heal the city, while the muscle and brawn tackled the Spider Queen, was a stroke of genius. As I pointed out numerous times last week, Spider-Man is at his best when he overcomes the odds through quick-thinking and sheer force of will. Slott knows this. It’s no coincidence that since he took over full-time, Peter was able to get his life together, get a job at Horizon Labs, and generally be the likeable Peter Parker we all have known since 1962.
Spider Island was even successful in getting me to accept a story involving a Peter Parker clone. As I’m oft to repeat, the Clone Saga from the 1990s is part of what drove me away from Spider-Man and comic books just because I found the whole storyline to be so frustrating. With the Jackal playing a starring role as the antagonist in Spider Island, I knew we were in store for some Maxmium Clonage and I didn’t know how I’d take it. But Peter’s clone, Kaine was used logically throughout the past few issues, and having him administer the needed deathblow to the Queen was a great twist since Peter himself has never resorted to actually killing an enemy in order to succeed due to his “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra, but Kaine’s moral foundation is a lot more murky. It also looks like the clone is going to get his own series very soon, based in Texas, and while I’ve always been anti-clone, Kaine’s role in Spider Island has me intrigued by the possibilities of this series.
When you consider these items, and countless others in ASM #672 and throughout Spider Island, I can confidently say that Slott more than succeeded in creating a truly satisfyingly “epic” Spider-Man story. Obviously we’ll need months and more likely, years, before we can effectively say where Spider Island ranks. The comic book industry is an entirely different universe compared to 20 or 30 years ago. Back in the 1970s, the death of Gwen Stacy was considered a landmark pop culture moment that ushered in a whole new era of storytelling in the medium. I can’t honestly say that Spider Island could feasibly have an impact of that magnitude, but within the niche market that comic books currently preside, it was the best storyline I’ve read in years. My only hope is that the ASM world continues to feel the repercussions from Spider Island for years to come, because Slott just put forward a brand new status quo that has me more excited for a comic book series than I’ve been for a long, long time.
All images from Amazing Spider-Man #672: Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba & Karl Kesel