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Amazing Spider-Man #700 Predictions, Speculation, and Crackpot Theories

With the 700th issue of Amazing Spider-Man coming up this December, it’s only right that I, the Comic Vault’s resident diehard Spider-Man fan, weigh in on what may or may not happen in this momentous issue.  There are a lot of crazy theories floating around right now, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Current scribe (and the best writer on the book since Roger Stern or David Michelinie in my opinion) Dan Slott stated via cell phone at Comic Con a few weeks ago that this is going to be the biggest thing he’s ever done in comics, which is saying a lot coming from the guy who penned the phenomenal Amazing Spider-Man #600 just three years ago.  It’s even been said that what he’s doing in #700 will be so controversial among fans that he’ll have to go into hiding after the issue hits stands, or that this might possibly be his final arc on the book. (Damn you, “Marvel NOW!”)

With the ’90s Clone Saga and J. Michael Straczynski’s “Sins Past” and “One More Day” story arcs, Spider-Man fans have a high threshold for controversy.  At this point, what could possibly be more controversial at this point than Peter Parker’s clone Ben Reilly being revealed as the real Peter Parker and taking his place, Norman Osborn knocking up Gwen Stacy prior to her death, or Peter and Mary Jane trading their marriage to Mephisto (the “devil”) in exchange for Aunt May’s life?

Really, Marvel?  What were you thinking?  That “o” face in the bottom left corner is the stuff of nightmares. And Gwen… You desecrated poor, sweet Gwen!

Maybe resurrecting Gwen Stacy could top the scenarios above, but Slott has already said he (thankfully) has no interest in doing that, as Gwen is much more meaningful dead.

Over at the CBR boards, members have been posting a plethora of crackpot theories regarding what will happen in the issue.  Some have taken a statement that Slott made at Comic Con regarding the future not looking good for Madame Web as a hint that the new Madame Web, Julia Carpenter, will be kicking the bucket soon.  Personally, I think they’re reading a bit much into this and Slott was just being Slott.  Madame Web is a clairvoyant and only has visions when something terrible is about to happen–of course the future doesn’t look good for her.

“The future…always…looks…TERRIBLE…to MEEEEEEEEEE!!!”

Regardless, below is a list of my favorite theories from that thread:

  • Black Cat shows up with a baby.
  • Norman Osborn is Peter’s father.
  • Peter pulls the plug on Doctor Octopus and then goes crazy.
  • Peter gets flung back in time, is stuck, and in a nod to his clone brother, names himself Ben Parker.  He then meets a lovely girl named May Reilly.
  • Peter gives up being Spider-Man to be with Mary Jane or Peter ends up getting killed, with either scenario leading to new sidekick Alpha taking his place.
  • Peter moves to Japan and gets a giant robot.
  • Peter goes crazy and becomes the new Green Goblin.
  • Kaine is the real Peter Parker.
  • Batman subcontracts Peter to become his new gadget man in Batman, Inc. as part of a cross-promotional deal between Marvel and DC.
  • J. Jonah Jameson is actually a 1940s reporter covering the war in Europe.  He is wounded by a grenade blast, which kills his soldier body guard Steve Rogers.  For two months, Jameson has been in a coma, and it’s revealed that the whole Marvel Universe is taking place in his mind.
  • Black Widow becomes Spider-Man’s new crime-fighting partner and Spider-Man has a clone baby from an alternate reality with Mystique.

That’s a lot of outlandishness to digest, huh?  As promised in the first paragraph, though, I also have my own predictions as to what might happen in #700.

The cover for Amazing Spider-Man #700 is a preexisting collage by a French artist named Pascal Garcin.  You could say that this makes the presence of certain characters on the cover arbitrary, but I like to think that Marvel chose to use this cover for that issue for specific reasons.  If you look closely near the bottom, to the left of the center, there’s a Carnage hidden among all of the Spider-Mans.

Hey, look…It’s a schooner!

This leads me to believe that Carnage has some involvement in this issue, perhaps killing a beloved character like Mary Jane Watson.  Despite wreaking havoc in Spider-Man’s world in two mini-series over the last two years and continuing to do so in an upcoming Venom/Scarlet Spider crossover, it’s been years since Carnage has committed mass murder in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.  This site’s owner, Matt Sardo, even claimed to me in an e-mail that during Comic Con’s Spider-Man panel, “[The panelists] were asked what character they wanted to work with or draw. [Humberto Ramos] mentioned Carnage and then said, ‘Oh, wait.  I’ve drawn Carnage,’ and then he got dirty looks.”  What better time for Carnage to show up and do something chaotic than the book’s 700th issue, 24 years after the character’s “father,” Venom, debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #300?

Speaking of Venom, the border of the eyes on that collage is composed of the character.  I’m going to go ahead and also predict that if Peter doesn’t find out by then that Flash is the guy wearing the Venom symbiote by #700, he’ll probably find out there.

If I’m wrong about Carnage, then the next likely scenario is that the Roderick Kingsley Hobgoblin, rumored to return in the upcoming “Danger Zone” arc, shows up and kills someone.  Either way, I think someone is dying in #700.  Mary Jane is a likely choice, though I’d rather not see that happen.  Sardo wants Aunt May to die, and I have yet to figure out what he has against sweet, little old ladies.  Her husband, J. Jonah Jameson, Sr. may be a more likely candidate for the grave, or possibly other characters that have grown on fans in recent years–like NYPD forensic detective/most recent Peter Parker ex Carlie Cooper or Daily Bugle reporter Norah Winters.

Or maybe in their infinite wisdom, Marvel, seeing that it worked so well in Ultimate Spider-Man, actually do decide to kill off mainstream (Earth-616 for you nerds out there) Peter and replace him with his new sidekick Alpha, at which point they’ll lose me as a reader.  Just because something worked in one universe doesn’t mean it should be spread to the others.

But seriously… Keep any sweet, elderly women you hold dear away from this man.

Review: Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 – ‘Nuff Said

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Art:  John Romita Jr. [Pencils], Scott Hanna [Inks], Laura Martin [Colors]

After what has felt like an eternity of build-up (but was really more like just over six months), the event to end all Marvel events has finally arrived on shelves–but was all of the hype worth it?

So far, it’s a toss-up.

The premise, in case you’ve been living under a rock or reading some other company’s books, is that the Phoenix is coming to Earth and has chosen the would-be-mutant-messiah Hope Summers as its host.  Hey, she looks like Jean Grey, so who else is it gonna pick, right?  Anyhow, the Phoenix is a cosmic firebird that leaves devastation in its wake on a planetary scale wherever it goes in the Universe.  It chose Jean Grey as its host once and she almost destroyed Earth, but that’s “The Dark Phoenix” saga and you can read about that elsewhere.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 opens with the Avengers hanging around Avengers Tower doing the sorts of things you’d expect powerful people in tights to do (but not those things, sicko!) when all of a sudden, the intergalactic superhero Nova conveniently crashlands in New York City after falling from space.  He warns the Avengers that “it’s coming,” and Iron Man deduces that he’s referring to the Phoenix.  He and Captain America then brief the President on the danger.

Meanwhile, Cyclops–who has known all along that the Phoenix was on its way back–is training Hope and trying to prepare her in the hope that she’ll be able to control its power when it does return.  This entire conflict centers around the Avengers’ belief that the Phoenix will use Hope Summers as its vessel to try to destroy the world again versus Scott’s belief that if Hope can somehow control the Phoenix’s power, then she can undo the “no more mutants” spell that Scarlet Witch decimated the mutant population with.

Scott believes that Hope is the savior of the mutant race, and he’ll stop at nothing to see her fulfill that destiny–perhaps to the point of taking things too far during his particularly ruthless training sessions.  During the time that has passed since he joined the X-Men, Magneto has pointed out that Scott is growing more and more like him than his mentor, Charles Xavier.  This trend continues here, as Magneto–watching the training from a distance–comments to Emma Frost regarding the difference between “taking it seriously” and “compulsion,” perhaps foreshadowing things to come.

Anyhow, Hope is finally pushed far enough and releases a flare of Phoenix-like energy strong enough that the Avengers notice it.  Traveling to Utopia to see about taking Hope into Avengers custody until the Phoenix situation is figured out, Captain America is greeted by a particularly hostile Cyclops.

Thus, the first shots in the battle are fired, so to speak.

Over all, this is a solid start to the event, but it is by no means perfect.  Despite being packed with action, the dialogue pulled me out of the story on a few occasions, most notably during the conversation Captain America has with Wolverine regarding the Phoenix.  Given Wolverine’s history with Jean Grey and how he felt about her, I have a hard time believing that he wouldn’t just refer to her by her first name.  Using her entire name felt a little unnatural, especially after the previous scene already established her history.

Aside from that, though, anything else I noticed here would just be nitpicking.  Bendis’ first chapter draws you in and gives new readers a primer on what’s going on, and the art here is phenomenal.  The facial expressions of everyone standing in the vicinity when the first blow of this battle is landed were perhaps the highlight of the entire issue.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, especially when your bluff is being called, and that panel alone sells that idea absolutely.

After event fatigue had fully set in following last year’s Fear Itself (which, no offense to Matt Fraction, fell short of expectations), I swore I’d never drop $3.99 an issue on another “event” book again.  Despite being highly skeptical of the idea of Avengers Vs. X-Men, I have to say I’m impressed so far and actually looking forward to where this goes from here.

STORY:  8/10
ART:  9.5/10 

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #679.1 – Thankfully, Morbius doesn’t sparkle in sunlight yet

Amazing Spider-Man #679.1
Writers: Dan Slott and Chris Yost
Art: Matthew Clark, Tom Palmer [Inks], and Rob Schwager [Color]

Hot on the heels of Spider-Man’s team-up with his Horizon Labs coworker Grady Scraps, Dan Slott and Chris Yost join forces on Amazing Spider-Man #679.1 to team Pete up with another Horizon staffer–child genius Uatu Jackson.

For much of the past year, Slott has teased the identity of the scientist in Lab 6 at Horizon. Though he finally revealed the lab’s occupant to be Morbius (Spidey’s on-again, off-again vampire villain) during last year’s “Spider-Island,” the book’s cast were still in the dark.

It was only a matter of time until curiosity got the better of the other scientists, and Pete and Uatu set out to finally uncover the truth. One of the highlights of this issue are the list of suspects they put together for who the mystery scientist is. Among them:  Dr. Octopus, Beast, Dark Beast, The Lizard, Stephen Hawking, and Zombie Albert Einstein, who is present on the list because of Uatu’s obsession with horror movies.

Meanwhile, Morbius, who it turns out is an old college friend of Horizon Labs boss Max Modell, is experimenting with blood to create a cure for his condition. Naturally, this goes awry and brings about the return of his bloodlust (which I don’t seem to remember still being a problem for him in Marvel Zombies 3 & 4, but whatever…) and the not-quite-a-vampire has a brawl with Spider-Man that spills into Horizon’s cafeteria.

As with the rest of Slott’s run, the writing on this issue works on a number of levels and Yost’s experience with grittier, darker, and occasionally supernatural characters and stories (SEE: 2009’s X-Force “Necrosha” storyline) really adds to this a bit. Morbius’ underlying humanity is kept in focus throughout this issue, as is the lack of understanding among others that would cause Modell to keep Morbius’ presence in the facility a secret.

Furthermore, this issue carries on the longstanding tradition of Spider-Man books having a fleshed out supporting cast by giving us more insight into who Max Modell is as a person, and giving us a reason to care about Uatu Jackson (who I had almost forgotten about until now). Revealing that Jackson isn’t just a child genius, but is also obsessed with horror movies to the point that he has a lab full of monster-fighting gear is brilliant. After all, what else would a horror-obsessed child genius do in their free time with their own lab if given the chance?

Finally, in line with the idea behind Marvel’s “Point One” initiative, this book gives readers a good place to jump on, as it introduces one side of the current supporting cast and spins new threads that set up a future plot–one that will likely unfold this July if the reveal on the final page is any indication.

As for the art, this issue leaves little to be desired. It’s easy to follow, with the exception of maybe one or two panels, like the diagram of Horizon Labs on page 5.  However, the vibrance and amount of overall detail make it easy to overlook these instances.

This is another great jumping-on point for new readers, and essential reading for regulars.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 8.5/10

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Review: Daredevil #8, The Marvel Universe’s latest love triangle begins here!

Daredevil #8
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Kano and Javier Rodriquez [colors]

Mark Waid’s two-part Spider-Man/Daredevil team-up/crossover story wraps up in issue #8 of his acclaimed Daredevil series.

If you missed part one in Amazing Spider-Man #677, here’s what happened:  Spider-Man, looking to rebound from his recent break-up with Carlie Cooper, tried to sleep with former friend-with-benefits and known thief Black Cat again.  Black Cat rejected him and was arrested shortly after returning home, with evidence planted to make it look as though Spider-Man was behind the arrest.  Meanwhile, an advanced hologram projector was stolen from Horizon Labs with security footage altered to make it look as though Black Cat stole the device.  Spider-Man, knowing that the Black Cat was with him at the time stamped on the security vid, sought the help of Daredevil (aka attorney Matt Murdock) to help him get to the bottom of things and clear the Cat’s name.  Black Cat, however, escaped custody and, at the end of the issue, looked to have gone totally bad as she attacked Spider-Man and Daredevil.

See what happens when you miss part of a story?  Shame on you.

Anyways, Waid shifts seemlessly from Spidey’s perspective to Daredevil’s for part two of “Devil and the Details,” which really adds an extra layer of depth.  Stories with multiple main characters are a dime a dozen, but stories told through multiple character’s perspectives are few and far between — and always welcome, as far as I’m concerned.

As Daredevil #8 begins, Spidey and Daredevil work out their differences with the Black Cat which leads to all three teaming up to solve the mystery of who’s behind the frame-up job, as well as the creation of Marvel’s latest love triangle.  This being my first issue of Daredevil, I can see why Waid’s work on the book has been so highly praised.  There’s not one action sequence where something doesn’t happen to remind you that Matt Murdock is, in fact, a blind man.  Waid plays off of that characteristic extremely well in the dialogue between Daredevil and Black Cat, as well as the scene’s involving Spider-Man.  Remember, Daredevil “sees” through his enhanced senses like hearing, and Spidey talks constantly.

The art by Kano (who I was surprised to learn has a career outside of shooting laser beams out of a metal plate over his eye in death matches) is beautiful and strikes a nice balance between traditional comic art and modern fine details.

“Devil in the Details” is a solid story overall, leaving me highly tempted to add Daredevil to my already-overloaded pull list.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 9/10

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Review: Scarlet Spider #1 – “All of the Power, None of the Responsibility” Indeed

Scarlet Spider #1
Writer: Chris Yost
Art: Ryan Stegman, Marte Gracia [Colors] and Michael Babinski [Inks]

The Scarlet Spider was one of the only aspects of the 1990s Spider-Man “Clone Saga” story arc that any fans remembered with much fondness.  Originally a clone of Peter Parker named Ben Reilly, Scarlet Spider was basically Spidey’s sidekick through much of the saga and eventually went on to briefly replace Pete as Spider-Man at the story’s conclusion.

Eventually, he was killed by Norman Osborn.

In recent years, another Spider-Man clone, Kaine, returned to comics.  A villain and assassin during the clone saga, Kaine was a more powerful, but horridly scarred, clone of Peter who also had precognitive abilities.  He was killed a few years ago by Kraven the Hunter during the “Grim Hunt” storyline in Amazing Spider-Man, but revived by the Jackal and the Spider Queen during last year’s “Spider-Island” event.  During that same arc, he was healed and essentially became a more exact clone of Peter Parker — with all spider powers except for spider sense, apparently.

He left New York City shortly after, and this book picks up several weeks later as he’s passing through Houston.  Though he plans on making it to Mexico, he feels the Avengers — or someone else — are likely on his trail and he constantly doubles back to cover his tracks.

As the book opens, he’s breaking up a Port of Houston smuggling deal that he overheard talk of at a bar he just happened to be at.  Kaine isn’t in this to be a hero, though.  He just wants the money.

The scene plays out more like a scene from Batman than anything else, with Kaine (sans costume) taking out a few of the smugglers from the shadows before taking out the entire group.  From the get-go, it’s made clear that Kaine isn’t a standard issue, friendly neighborhood type.

Overall, the thrust of this issue (and likely this opening story arc) is to establish that Kaine has a new lease on life and to give him a reason to be a hero instead of just a man on the run from his past.  Right now, as the book’s cover says, he’s got all of the power and none of the responsibility.

Writer Chris Yost, who has hit previous home runs on books like X-Force, does a solid job of building Kaine’s new status quo throughout this first issue, as well as making readers wonder when they’ll finally see Kaine in the spider suit he’s carrying in his backpack.  The art here doesn’t differ too much from what you might see in Amazing Spider-Man, which really helps further the feeling that this is an addition to that “family” of titles.

A little familiarity can’t hurt on a new title, right?  I’m onboard for now.

STORY: 8/10
ART: 8/10

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Review: Avenging Spider-Man #1

Avenging Spider-Man #1
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Joe Madureira
Color Art:  Ferran Daniel

Avenging Spider-Man is a book done in the tradition of Marvel’s classic Team-Up books, with the idea being that each story arc teams Spidey with one of his Avengers teammates (hence the title) or another Marvel character of equal or lesser renown.

It might seem like a strange idea to give Spider-Man another book considering he already has Amazing Spider-Man, is a member of TWO Avengers teams (Avengers and New Avengers), and — at least for now — remains a member of the Future Foundation (i.e. Fantastic Four, or FF).  Ultimately, though, if you’re going to do a team-up book, it probably makes sense to have it anchored by your company’s flagship character.  As the relatively short-lived Deadpool Team-Up showed, maybe a wise-cracking-but-schizophrenic, un-killable assassin isn’t the way to go for a book that has a potentially broader appeal.

The first storyline in Avenging finds Spider-Man teaming up with the Red Hulk following a humorous debate between the Avengers regarding who was going to give ol’ webs a lift back to New York City.  Has anyone else noticed that the other Avengers don’t seem to particularly care that Spidey’s on the team?

Anyways, for those who don’t know, the green Hulk isn’t the only Hulk in existence.  His old enemy General “Thunderbolt” Ross became the Red Hulk at some point a while back.  After spending some time continuing to be a villain, he eventually decided he wanted to redeem himself and has been a part of Avengers since around this time last year.  He’s still a deadly serious guy, though, which makes him the perfect foil for Spidey’s wisecracks in this issue.

Upon arriving back in New York (Hulk jumps them there), the two heroes find themselves in the midst of an attack by the Mole Man’s moloids — and Hulk finds himself on the receiving end of a Kool-Aid joke that he doesn’t get.  The moloids kidnap J. Jonah Jameson after summoning a giant creature to keep Spidey and Hulk busy, and we find out that all is not well in Subterranea (the underground kingdom of the Mole Man).

This is a great first issue overall.  I’ve felt Zeb Wells has a good handle on Spider-Man going back to the rotating “Spidey Brain Trust” writing team that existed a few years ago during Amazing Spider-Man‘s thrice-monthly scheduling.  There’s some great banter in here between Spidey and Hulk, and Joe Medureira and Ferran Daniel provide absolutely beautiful art that definitely fits the writing’s playful, cartoonish tone.

There are, however, a few things that stick out to me continuity wise that pull me out of the story.  I’m not sure when exactly this story is supposed to take place, but Thor died during Fear Itself, so this has to take place before then.  The Mole Man was also still King of Subterranea in the last FF storyline, which didn’t hint that he had been overthrown at any point in time.  So when exactly does this story take place?

I know the argument against that is, “It’s a comic book!  Don’t take it so seriously!”  The same people that argue that point, though, are the ones who in the next breath will speak deadly serious about their favorite book.  Ultimately, I understand that this story was probably written prior to either of the other two I mentioned, but it would be nice if there were some sort of note indicating where in continuity this happens.

Story:  7/10 (Down from 8 because continuity issues pulled me out of the story)
Art:  9/10 

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Review: Wolverine and the X-Men #1

Wolverine and the X-Men #1
Writer:  Jason Aaron
Art:  Chris Bachalo & Tim Townsend 

The dust from the climactic showdown between Wolverine and Cyclops during Schism has settled.  Feeling that the young mutants among the X-Men needed a chance to be children and not warriors, Logan has returned to Westchester with Beast, Iceman, Kittie Pryde, Gambit, Rogue and Rachel Grey to start a new school in the place of the destroyed Xavier School.

Of course, he named it the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.  Who else would he name it after?

The first issue of the all-new, all-exciting Wolverine and the X-Men opens with Professor Xavier touring the newly rebuilt school, giving Logan his advice on being a headmaster and offering warnings on the ups and downs of being in charge of a school for teenage mutants.  Is that Doop in the background at the school’s front desk?  I know a few people who will be overjoyed that writer Jason Aaron found a way to bring him back.

The rest of the issue revolves around Logan and headmistress Kitty Pryde giving inspectors from the New York State Department of Education a tour of the facility, essentially serving as a primer on the book’s cast.  Various panels show Idie Okonkwo, Rockslide, and Anole in a psychic self-defense class with Rachel Grey, and Husk teaching “Introduction to Mutant Literature.”

Toad is shown as the school’s janitor, trying to tell Logan of some, ahem, structural issues with the school that Beast built.  Of course, it’s not a good time to point these things out considering the inspectors are there.

The inspection continues to spiral down until Iceman finally tells Logan that there’s a kid at the gate who wants to see him.  That kid turns out to be Kade Kilgore, the 12-year-old Black King of the new Hellfire Club who masterminded the events leading to the falling out between Scott and Logan.  Aaron establishes Kilgore and the Hellfire Club as this book’s first major villains in the following panels, as the pint-sized profligate promises to destroy all that Logan has built.

I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with Bachalo’s work over the years, primarily about proportion and being able to discern what’s going on in some panels.  Why is the 12-year-old Kilgore the same height as Logan?  I know Logan’s supposed to be somewhat on the short side, but the same height as a 12-year-old?  Aside from that and not being quite sure what was going on in the last page of the issue, however, I really enjoyed the art.  It was up there with his “Shed” story arc from Amazing Spider-Man last year.

As a first issue, this issue covers all the bases a series début needs to.  Aaron plants a lot of seeds for future plotlines and introduces readers to the book’s major players in the least confusing manner possible (which is especially important in the character heavy X-books).  The diagram in the back-breaking down the Jean Grey School’s faculty and students is a nice touch, as well as the mock-up of a class list brochure.  Choir with Professor Doop?  Sign me up.

Story:  9/10
Art:  7/10 

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