The inevitably changing direction of the Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker’s universe has come under fire since the twist-filled closing pages of ASM #698 hit newsstands and took an even darker turn last week when pirated copies of ASM #700 leaked to the public, leading to grossly inappropriate “death threats” being made towards Spidey scribe Dan Slott. I’ll have my thoughts on ASM #700 as soon as I get my hands on a copy (remember, I’m a mail subscriber). I’m desperately trying to cancel out the noise of “fan” hysteria, which has essentially spoiled the ending for me without me actually having read any leaked copies on the web. In the interim, I want to look at the “Dying Wish” arc in a positive light and hope that maybe in the wake of superstorms that destroyed neighborhoods in and around my hometown and heinous gun massacres that left 26 women and children dead, we can all be a little sane about a couple of people trying to tell a story.
For although I’m not a huge fan of what appears to be the end of the Peter Parker as Spider-Man-era in the comic book world, I have to give Slott and Co. an enormous amount of credit for something that just doesn’t really happen in comic books anymore – legitimate long-term planning that pays off events that occurred years ago in a justifiable and meaningful way. In ASM #699 we learned that Doctor Octopus is able to switch brains with Peter Parker/Spider-Man because Spidey made himself vulnerable each time he used a mental control helmet Doc Ock invented in order to prevent a larger disaster. The first such instance took place 100 issues earlier in ASM #600 when Spider-Man thwarted Otto’s scheme to take over all of the machines in New York. And in every critical Slott-written arc since then (Spider Island, Ends of the Earth, etc.) we’ve returned to this technology and Spidey’s insistence to keep using it, despite not fully understanding any potential consequences.
While it might seem grossly unfair that the mind of Peter appears destined to die in Doc Ock’s aging, cancer-ridden body, this plot twist is fully justifiable. Furthermore, for those who claim that Peter is likely to die without honor if things go in the direction I suspect they will go, let me also counter that Peter opened himself up to this death because of his great power/great responsibility-fueled desire to protect the general population against a larger threat – Manhattan being overtaken by octobots and a Spider virus, and of course the entire planet becoming a fireball. A more selfish “hero” might pause before using unfamiliar technology that involves his brain patterns. But Peter has never been one to think of his own safety when his loved ones are in danger. However, as has often been the case, he’s now inadvertently put them in the greatest danger of all – a mass murderer occupying his body and mind. How very Peter Parker of him.
This is not a case of blaming the victim, but rather arguing that for better or worse, this arc seems to be an appropriate direction for the Spider-Man franchise. Over the past 20 years or so, we’ve had too many major plot points and twists introduced for the convenience of one or two arcs and then dropped or forgotten about in a way that has rendered them meaningless and now Slott is taking a risk here in bringing everything he’s written the past few years to the forefront. The storyline’s development even harken back to Spider-Man revealing his identity during Civil War and thusly having this event negated in One More Day. Madame Web predicted during Spider Island that there were signs of Mephisto’s “magic” or whatever you want to call it weakening, and perhaps these are the consequences she was referring to.
In addition to serving as a demonstration of effective story-telling, Slott’s long-term connection of storylines and details also enhances the overall reading experience. If you’re someone who truly appreciates reading comic books but despairs about the fact that once you’ve read them, you never have reason to crack them out of their box and read them again, Slott has created an arc in “Dying Wish,” that urges readers to look back over the past 100 editions of ASM for clues related to Doc Ock’s masterful scheme. Giving people incentive to go back and read past issues is very impressive, and is something fans are almost always praising prior ASM creative teams for doing.
On a final note, because Slott has found a way to pull so many little things together to create one very seismic shift in Spider-Man’s universe, I have to give him the benefit of a doubt as things move from ASM to Superior Spider-Man (I guess, SSM for short, going forward). I understand that there are a lot of people who are incredibly unhappy with the direction of this series – and even I was questioning things a few months ago when it was apparent that there was major change on the horizon. But time, common sense, and the power of the printed word has eased my apprehension. For one, I truly believe Slott is sincere when he says he’s one of the biggest Spider-Man fans alive, and while I’m sure that sales figures are part of what drives editorial decisions around the Marvel offices these days, I also maintain that someone who is as devoted to the web-slinger as Slott wouldn’t be traveling down a seemingly dark and demented path with the character unless he had a payoff in mind that was really, really big – bigger than even 100 issues worth of hints and sleight of hand that we’ve witnessed between ASM’s #600 and #700.
Furthermore, I’ve come to terms with the fact that the only thing constant with Spider-Man – a comic book character that has existed in this universe for more than 50 years – is change. His introduction to the world involved the brutal murder of a very good-hearted family member, probably a shocking reveal for readers in 1962. In the 50 years since, Spidey’s developed amnesia, had his girlfriend murdered by a supervillain (and his own webbing), has been buried alive, has been cloned, has had his dead girlfriend cheat on him with said supervillain and produce murderous spawn, has dealt with “The Other” (whatever in the world that was supposed to be) has had his marriage wiped from existence and now “Dying Wish” … another seemingly aggravating plot development designed to prod those of us who just want to see things go right for Spider-Man. But that’s a wholly illogical expectation for us as fans. So we either keep reading, or we arbitrarily decide this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. For me, I keep reading, though I do hope against hope, that Slott proves my submission to nonchalance to be founded.
All images from Amazing Spider-Man #699: Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos & Victor Olazaba