Amazing Spider-Man is supposedly coming back in April. In other news, water is wet and every day of the week ends with the letter “y.”
I’m obviously not shocked by the rampant rumors that leaked earlier this week, including a plausible looking Humberto Ramos-penciled image of a smiling, mask-less Spider-Man (which I’m not going to share since every major news outlet has already pulled the image at Marvel’s request, and I’m not looking to invite any communications between myself and somebody’s lawyers) for an “All-New Marvel Now” reboot of the ASM series – also known as the comic book title I so diligently collect, that I started a blog about it that you’re reading right now.
But I’ve already heard from a number of you via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, etc., who want to know what I think. I haven’t written a proper “random speculations and instinctive feelings about the direction of the Spider-Man universe” post in a very long time, so I guess now is as good of a time as any to get some things off my chest.
Beyond the “well… duh-ness” of this news announcement, I will say I’m at least a little surprised that the timing of the new ASM will coincide with the Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie. Yes, that’s what everyone said when Superior started, and that’s what Marvel did with Steve Rogers after they killed him off but brought him back in time for his new movie, but a part of me thought Dan Slott and Co. would keep the story going a few months beyond the movie’s release, just to mess with the nay-sayers who dismissed the new status quo as a “gimmick.”
With that said, there’s no question in my mind that Superior story has been building to an end game that now seems all too imminent, regardless of ASM’s rumored return. I have found Superior Spider-Man to be an enjoyable ride. In fact, I’ve liked the series even more than I thought I would. Despite its questionable characterization in certain issues, the overall story arc of Superior has been gripping and engaging. I love Peter, but I have been okay reading a comic book series that doesn’t star him … in large part because I believe the Superior story has always been all about him. My biggest takeaway of the series has been how it’s a referendum on what it is to be Spider-Man. Otto Octavius wanted to be “superior,” but all of his actions are measured (by himself and others) against Peter. And with the way things have gone for Doc Ock over the past few months, is there any question that his feelings of superiority will eventually permanently undo him?
That’s why I do hope that with ASM’s relaunch, Superior is officially ended – or at least Doc Ock’s time as Spider-Man is finished. I obviously appreciate what Slott has done with the character, but the story is also reaching its expiration date. Slott has excelled in crafting a truly organic flow to Spider Ock. Superior’s first nine issues focused on his ascension to power, the middle nine were the character’s apex, and everything since Superior #19 – which featured an image of Peter digging himself out of the rubble in Otto’s mind – has spotlighted Spider Ock’s inevitable decline. In the most recent issue of Superior Spider-Man, Otto has poured gasoline all over and thrown a match on Peter’s life – bonding with the symbiote and acting like a madman around Aunt May and Mary Jane. Judging from previews and my overall interpretation/speculation of where things are headed, “Goblin Nation” will likely pay off all of Otto’s failings as a hero – his hubris, his ego and his inability to detect the rise of the Green Goblin.
How does this story end with Otto being anything but defeated by its end, with Peter returning a triumphant hero (until he has to pick up all the pieces of his life that Doc Ock destroyed)? After everything the character has been through to this point, keeping him around when “Goblin Nation” ends will likely feel forced. Superior has sold shockingly well the past year, but a lot of that had to do with how well Slott structured his story and developed Spider Ock. It would be naïve for Marvel or anyone to think that the story would continue to sell as well as it has if some editorial mandate upended the natural flow of the story.
That’s why I’m dismissing one theory that Superior will continue as is, and this new ASM series will actually be an ongoing “flashback” series, like Untold Tales of Spider-Man or that series of “point one” issues we got in December. Again, it’s all boiling down to my gut instincts, but I just don’t see Marvel doing that. Superior is headed to its end, and if Otto Octavius is finished, then it only makes sense for the story to continue with Peter in ASM. Given how his body has been used the past year, there are PLENTY of new stories to tell with Peter.
Bleeding Cool recently speculated that a second Spider-Man title, whether it be Superior, Spider-Man 2099, etc., might run concurrently with ASM with a brand new creative team. Peter David’s name was thrown out there, which would make sense if the series focused on Miguel O’Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099, since David created the character in the 1990s. Also rumored was Matt Fraction, who is a wonderful writer, but I just don’t see writing an ongoing Spider-Man book in 2013, unless this is a “reward” for Marvel taking him off Inhuman. Fraction is probably best known for his portrayal of Peter and Mary Jane in Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1, but with his success on Hawkeye and his creator-owned Sex Criminals, he feels too much like a comic book celebrity to be working on a secondary Spider-Man title. I would be happy to be wrong.
The one thing that does seem definitive is that Slott will continue on with Spider-Man, whether it’s Amazing or Superior. I don’t have a problem with this. I find it stunning that Slott polarizes the fan base the way he does, but I’ve long maintained that he’s an excellent, old-school storyteller who makes reading about the character – whether it’s Peter or Otto – fun and exciting. He’s probably the only writer I know who manages to tie together plot points and information from 50 years of a character’s history, in a way that’s fast-paced and zippy. Compare that to someone like Jonathan Hickman, where even his great stories move at a glacial pace, and I find myself more engaged by Slott’s style –especially at $3.99 a pop every two weeks. He’s had his duds before (“Ends of the Earth” always comes to mind), but his highlights like “Spider Island,” the Time Door arc, “Dying Wish,” “No One Dies,” “New Ways to Die,” etc. have all been phenomenal Spider-stories.
As a quick aside, I’m past the point of feeling the need to defend my opinion of Slott. If there are people out there who want to take offense to how Slott conducts himself on Twitter or on certain web forums, more power to you, but as long as he delivers quality comic books, I could care less. I happen to think if you’re emotionally unable to separate your opinion of the person from your opinion of the comic, you probably shouldn’t be writing about that person’s comic books, professionally or otherwise. I’ve always tried to maintain an open-mind about the people who write or illustrate my favorite comic book character, which is probably why even when I’m critical of something, I never act like it’s a personal affront to my sensibilities or fandom.
So yeah, more Slott. That’s fine by me. I’m sure Slott won’t have a Chris Claremont/Uncanny X-Men kind of run on Spider-Man in terms of longevity, and I do worry about his ability to juggle two Spider-Man books and a Silver Surfer story a month (and I only worry because Slott sounds so stressed out about it whenever the topic comes up), but as the saying goes, you don’t fix what ain’t broke.
One final note. If the rumors are true, in April we will be getting ASM #1 (I’m assuming vol. 3). Surely Marvel won’t bypass the opportunity to publish ASM #800 when the time comes, but given how frequently series are rebooted and renumbered these days (this applies to ALL publishers), who knows if we’ll be in vol. 3, 4, 5 or 6 by that point (or will Marvel count the 30-something Superior issues in the run-up to #800?). Still, for purposes of my collection at Chasing AMAZING, these comics count, so ASM #700 is no longer the bookend I originally anticipated.