Tag Archives: Otto Octavius

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #700 – “Final” Issue!

Amazing Spider-Man #700
Writer: Dan Slott [Back-up stories by J.M. DeMatteis and Jen Van Meter]
Art: Humberto Ramos [Pencils], Victor Olazaba [Inks] and Edgar Delgado [Colors] [Art on back-ups by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Sal Buscema, Antonio Fabela and Stephanie Buscema]

[SPOILER ALERT:  THIS REVIEW IS FULL OF SPOILERS THAT YOU PROBABLY ALREADY SAW ON THE INTERNET A FEW WEEKS AGO]

Amazing Spider-Man #700Given the way spoilers for this issue leaked a few weeks ago, it’s likely that you might already have your mind made up about it. As the “final” issue of Amazing Spider-Man, #700 is also the highest number any Marvel comic has ever reached, and it just happened to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the series’ first issue. (Now it kind of makes sense why they did the thrice-monthly and bi-monthly schedules the last few years, huh?  Solid planning.)

Anyways, the book’s final storyline has seen Dr. Octopus swap his consciousness from his dying body into the body of Spider-Man and vice-versa.  Peter Parker, now in Doc Ock’s body, is using that body’s final hours to try to swap the consciousnesses back into the right bodies.

I think we’ve covered before that mind-swap stories are one of two types of stories I hate because I can’t suspend disbelief for them.  (The other type is time travel, because the minute you go to another time period and do anything, you risk creating a time paradox that screws up everything that happens from then on.)

Spoiler alert: Peter Parker fails to swap minds back into the right body and dies in Doc Ock’s body, while Ock will be Spider-Man from now on in Peter Parker’s body. The catch is that, since Ock has all of Peter’s memories, Peter pulled a fast one on him at the end of #700 and made him remember everything that ever happened to him, thus somehow turning him “good.” This is the set-up fornext month’s new series, Superior Spider-Man. I think I’ve reached my jumping-off point.

The one thing that’s been pushed on Spidey fans lately is that Doc Ock is somehow Spider-Man’s greatest enemy of all time. As someone who has read Spider-Man comics for nearly 20 years (I’m including the period of time where Ben Reilly took over as Spider-Man in the mid-90s even though I hated that idea, quit reading new issues for several years at that time and only bought back issues), I’ve never cared much for Ock. Spider-Man consistently beat him so decisively time and again so much that he had to get a bunch of other villains together as the Sinister Six to help him out. And even then, he still couldn’t hurt Spider-Man on the same level as the Green Goblin.  In my book, Norman Osborn will always be the arch-enemy because he killed Gwen Stacy. What did Ock do besides sleeping with Aunt May and being an occasional annoyance? He should’ve stayed dead after Kaine killed him during the Clone Saga.

Which brings up another issue: Does anyone really believe that Peter Parker is going to stay “dead” and that Doc Ock won’t eventually end up in his own body? If Peter isn’t back from the dead, in his own body, bythe time the sequel to Amazing Spider-Man hits theaters, then he will be by the time they make another movie with Dr. Octopus as the villain. Only the “Forever Dead Four” (Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, and Bruce Wayne’s parents) stay dead in comics, especially now that the big companies want to make things as accessible as possible to the casual readers they hope will buy these books after seeing the movies.  They need an easy in, and how do you explain to someone who’s never picked up an issue that Doc Ock is now Spider-Man, but in Peter Parker’s body, without opening the floodgates of confusion. Peter Parker and Doc Ock both will be back sooner or later, just like Captain America, Professor X (multiple times), Jean Grey (again, multiple times), Batman, Superman, and many others before them.

That said, this issue is very well written and I did enjoy reading it. Humberto Ramos turns in the best art of his career here, as well. Hell, it’s even the best art on the book this entire year (no offense to anyone else who worked on the book this year), and that’s coming from a guy who used to be on the fence about the guy’s art.

Look, I’ve loved Slott’s entire run on the book, but I’m just not feeling the new direction. I’ve got nothing against the guy.  At least, unlike some people you may have heard about through various media sources, I have enough class to not threaten the guy’s life over a comic book story. If you feel like me and see this as a good jumping off point, I recommend Batman and Batman & Robin, which arguably the two best superhero books out right now.

As for the issue’s two back-up stories, they’re both short, fun stories that exist, as far as I know, outside of continuity. Are they filler? I don’t know, but I really liked the one by DeMatteis.  I do wish this issue had some more of the gag pages like #600, but I guess there was plenty here to justify the $7.99 price tag. (Be still, my throbbing wallet.)

STORY: 9/10 (It was well-done.  I just don’t care for the direction.)
ART: 10/10

 

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #699 – Maybe it’s not so bad after all…

Amazing Spider-Man #699
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Humberto Ramos [Penciler], Victor Olazaba [Inker], Edgar Delgado [Color Art]

[HEY!  LOOK!  THIS REVIEW HAS SPOILERS, AND YOU MIGHT FEEL CHEATED IF YOU READ IT BEFORE YOU SEE THE ACTUAL BOOK!]

While I’ve calmed down about the big reveal last issue, it’s still a touchy subject.  If you missed it, a dying Doc Ock swapped brains with Peter Parker, hinting that the “new” Spider-Man in the upcoming relaunch of the book as Superior Spider-Man is actually Doc Ock in Peter’s body.

It’s not that I didn’t like the way it was written–Dan Slott’s writing makes me really want to like the story.  It’s just that there are two types of stories I hate–stories centered around mind swaps and time travel (we’ll get to that another time, maybe, because Slott has actually written a time travel story that I like).  I already know the response to this assertion, too.  It’s a comic bookScience fiction.  Real world logic and plausibility don’t apply.

Fair enough, but the limits of everyone’s suspension of disbelief are different, and this is why we probably won’t ever see Fin Fang Foom in an Iron Man film.

That said, let’s completely suspend disbelief for the rest of this review even if the concept is a bit much to wrap our heads around.  This issue, and the story as a whole, are very well-written.  Amazing Spider-Man #699 opens with Doc Ock’s body being revived following its flat-lining at the end of the last issue. Upon being revived (and spat on by a prison nurse), Peter Parker–keep in mind, again, that his mind is in Doc Ock’s body now with all of Ock’s memories and vice versa–examines the situation he’s in and begins trying to figure out how, with only hours left to live, he’s going to get out of this predicament and back into his own body.

After searching Ock’s memories, and giving us the totally unnecessary reveal that Aunt May had sex with Otto back in the day, Peter realizes that every time he used Otto’s own Octobot control helmet tech to stop him, he made his mind vulnerable.  Ock was then able to somehow put his brainwaves in the golden Octobot (seen occasionally since the end of “Ends of the Earth”), which then made its way to New York City and “hacked” Spider-Man’s mind when he was otherwise distracted by the spider signal jammers from the recent Hobgoblin story arc.

Pete then figures out that the golden Octobot had a mental link with Otto and takes control of it to put into action a plan that his life now depends on–forming his own Sinister Six–which includes Hydro-Man, Scorpion, and Paste-Pot Pete–to break him out of prison and capture Otto-Spidey.

As I said before, Slott’s writing on this story is still great despite my lack of enthusiasm over the premise.  You can tell he put a lot of time into planning this out at least as far back as the beginning of his run on the book with “Big Time,” and maybe even as far back as 2009’s Amazing Spider-Man #600. Humberto Ramos’ art in this issue is some of his best so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ve read is the best art of his career later this month in #700.

Overall, not a bad issue.  I really could have done without being presented the idea of Aunt May and Dr. Octopus having sex, though.

RATING:  7/10 (Because Aunt May having sex with anyone is just kind of gross.)

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #698 – WHY, DAN?! WHYYYYYYYYYY?!

Amazing Spider-Man #698
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Richard Elson and Antonio Fabela [Color Art]

 

WARNING:  THIS REVIEW HAS MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS FOR AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #698 AND BEYOND.  DO NOT READ IT IF YOU PLAN ON READING THE ISSUE.

Dan Slott, you broke my heart.

Ever since your run on Amazing Spider-Man began last year, I’ve been one of its biggest supporters, going so far as to compare it to the Michelinie and Stern runs.  And then you did it.  You drove that spike in my heart that was like a thousand One More Days.

Actually, that’s a terrible analogy.  I actually liked One More Day.  Comparing that spike to 1,000 Clone Sagas or Ben-Reilly-replacing-Peter-Parker scenarios or JMS runs is far more accurate.

But the point is, you shook my faith in my favorite series.  You weren’t the first, though.

When I was nine years old, I quit reading new issues for five years because of the ridiculousness of the aforementioned Clone Saga and (temporary/retconned) replacement of Peter by his clone, Ben Reilly.  What you have done here, though, may be impossible for me to recover from.

Amazing Spider-Man #698 begins with a reminder that Doc Ock is on his death bed, with only hours left to live.  He’s struggling to say something, and it turns out what he’s trying to say is, “Peter Parker.”  For the rest of the issue, longtime readers will notice that the way Slott has written Peter’s dialogue and inner monologue is strange, and we eventually find out why when Spider-Man is summoned by the Avengers to the Raft (the ultra high security prison for supervillains) because Ock’s about to die and he keeps saying the name of Spidey’s secret identity.

And then, once the two are in the room, we get the big reveal.  We now know why Peter’s words sound so strange in this issue.

It’s because one of the most ridiculous and asinine predictions for what would happen in the “Dying Wish”/Amazing Spider-Man #700 arc ended up being true–Doc Ock somehow switched his consciousness into Peter Parker’s body and vice versa, and Ock’s body dies with Peter’s mind trapped inside.

I’ll probably still buy #699 and #700 just to have a complete run up through the “final” issues of Amazing Spider-Man–and I’ll probably still buy Superior Spider-Man #1, because, well, eBay–but for the first time in about five years, I’m not all that excited about the next issue of Spider-Man.

On the bright side, I can’t imagine this being something that sticks in the long term.  For the foreseeable future, however, it might be time to move on to something else.

RATING:  It’s gonna harsh your mellow, man…but at least the art is good.

 

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #697 – War of the Goblins Concludes!

Amazing Spider-Man #697
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli [Pencils], Dan Green [Inks], and Antonio Fabela [Colors]

Opening where the last issue left off, Amazing Spider-Man #697 has Peter Parker and Horizon Labs owner Max Modell on the run from both the original Hobgoblin (Roderick Kingsley) and his would-be replacement, Phil Urich–who are also fighting one another.  If you recall, Max helped Peter escape from the Kingpin’s HQ in Hell’s Kitchen while stealing the “Goblin Key” in the process, and was even nice enough to bring him a couple of Spider-Man’s webshooters from his lab. (Remember, Max doesn’t know Pete is Spider-Man.  He only knows that Pete develops Spider-Man’s gadgets and weaponry.)

While running, it’s revealed that Max is wearing a force field that he still has in development and that OG Hobgoblin has a back-up plan in case Philgoblin tries to attack him–a batdrone loaded with C-4 and following Daily Bugle reporter Norah Winters.  The Goblin Key, which opens Norman Osborn’s main Green Goblin cache, begins to ping, alerting Peter and Max that they aren’t far from its location.  Ending up there, they lock themselves inside and try to develop a plan to save themselves from the two Hobgoblins.

This was another expertly crafted issue from Dan Slott and Christos Gage.  It had fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat action and gave the feeling that there was legitimate danger for characters like Max and Norah, who Dan Slott has really given readers a reason to care about during his run on the series.  We also get to catch up with Harry Osborn, who hasn’t been seen in about 50 issues and is now laying low in Seattle with a totally different look, and Roderick Kingsley’s character is expanded upon in a way that totally makes sense.  The two writers also continue to pave the way for December’s Amazing Spider-Man #700 (which I’m really unhappy is the last issue in the series just so a new series with a new #1 can be launched), planting more seeds with the rogue Octobot last seen at the end of this year’s “Ends of the Earth” storyline and the awakening from coma of… Well, you’ll have to read the issue for that, because it’s a big spoiler that’s bound to play into that monumental anniversary issue.

As for the art, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Co. remain on par with the first two parts of this story, delivering work that (and I’m not stretching the truth at all when I say this) reminds me at times of John Romita Sr.’s classic run on the book.  I’m not saying it’s the same, but the influence is very much noticeable and definitely a good thing.

Amazing Spider-Man #697 and the two issues before it are undeniably must-reads.

RATING:  EXCELSIOR!

 

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: Amazing Spider-Man #687 – As the World Burns

Amazing Spider-Man #687
Writer:  Dan Slott
Art:  Stefano Caselli, Frank Martin Jr. [Color Art] 

HEY!  WAIT A MINUTE!
If you haven’t read the rest of this story arc, this review will spoil a few plot developments, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?  The end of this issue isn’t spoiled, though, so you’re safe there.

Victory is once again within Doctor Octopus’ grasp and the only people who can stop him are Spider-Man, Black Widow, Silver Sable, and Mysterio–who switched sides last issue, natch!  Unfortunately, they’ll have to go through the (mind-controlled) Avengers first.

The ensuing battle is among the best-written team battles to take place in Spider-Man (or a lot of other books) in recent memory.  Dan Slott takes advantage of the various characters involved, as well as plot points from previous issues in the last few years, to showcase everyone (with the exception of Black Widow and Hawkeye, but they were knocked out early on).  The Spider-Man/Spider-Woman fight and the bit with Thor’s Mjolnir were nice touches, but the turncoat Mysterio was the true standout in these pages as he showcased his mastery of illusion and quipped about leaving the super villain business for television.

This being the final part of the story arc, Spider-Man does finally confront the still-dying Doc Ock in his underwater base (where do these guys get the funds for this stuff?).  Octavius’ intentions are, indeed, to purge the Earth using his Octavian Lens, and with the doctor so close to death and the Rhino still on Ock’s side, Spider-Man’s pact of “no one dies” may finally be forced to end.  The people who (seemingly) die here just aren’t the ones you’d expect.

Overall, Slott gives what is thus far his best Spider-Man “event” story a fitting end.  The action stays on point, the dialogue stays fresh while referencing previous issues, the (seeming) deaths don’t feel meaningless, and several threads are left open for later.  In particular, it will be interesting to see whether or not Horizon Labs was ever able to figure out that a lot of Ock’s tech was developed by them–and Peter Parker, in particular–and what repercussions that may have.  Stefano Caselli and Frank Martin, Jr. continue to deliver the goods as well, especially with what might be the most menacing-looking incarnation of Doc Ock.

As with every other issue of this arc, if you haven’t read it, GO BUY IT NOW!

RATING:  EXCELSIOR!

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #686 – Something You Expected, and Something You Didn’t

Amazing Spider-Man #686
Writer:  Dan Slott
Art:  Stefano Caselli, Frank Martin Jr. [Color Art]

[SIMPERIN’ SPOILER ALERT:  Reading this rollicking review might spoil certain exciting elements of this book’s pulse-pounding plot for you, oh consummate Comic Vault reader!  You’ve been warned!] 

An entire hemisphere of Earth, including Silver Sable’s native Symkaria, has been destroyed at the hands of Doctor Octopus!

Or has it?

Given the ending to Amazing Spider-Man #685, one might think that Spider-Man, Silver Sable, and the Black Widow had failed in their bid to prevent Octavius from destroying the world once and for all in his final dastardly deed before death.  However, one might think wrong–especially given that two of the other members of the Sinister Six still remaining at that point were well-versed in illusion.  Longtime Spidey fans could probably see where this was going, but it would be a crime not to use such a scenario with Mysterio and Chameleon both on the same team.

That said, as Spidey and Co. continue to disrupt Otto’s dying wish, both sides begin finding that they are victims of wavering allegiances.

Again, Dan Slott provides an issue that stands up not just to the rest of the arc, but to the classics, as well.  While one of the big allegiance shifts here was a no-brainer following the orbital octobot crisis from Amazing Spider-Man #680-681 (plus the cover to #687), the other was a total surprise.

It’s also been nice to see Spider-Man written in a team role as a leader as opposed to comic relief, and the way Pete asserts himself in this arc has been phenomenal.  That’s not to say the old Peter Parker neuroses aren’t there, though.  It will be interesting to see the aftermath of Spider-Man having realized that Doc Ock’s tech has been supplemented by technology he developed as Peter Parker for Horizon Labs–especially if that connection is made by Horizon, as well.

The rotating art on this story has also surprisingly not been as jarring as one would expect.  Stefano Caselli returns for the last two issues of the arc after getting a two-issue break from Humberto Ramos, but the switch barely registered to me either time.  Sure, Caselli’s art veers more toward the realistic than Ramos’ more animated style, but both artists have grown on me to the point that I’m glad to see either on a story.

If you’re a spider-fan and you haven’t been keeping up, you’re missing out.

RATING:  EXCELSIOR! 

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #685 – Versus the World

Amazing Spider-Man #685
Writer:  Dan Slott
Art:  Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba [Inks], Edgar Delgado [Colors]

With the promise of a permanent solution to global warming, Doctor Octopus has swayed the world and its peace-keeping forces against Spider-Man, who knows better than to trust Octavius’ word.  Meanwhile, Spidey, Silver Sable, and Black Widow are making runs to shut down all of Doc Ock’s factories in a last-ditch effort to prevent him from launching his satellites.

Meanwhile, the remaining members of Ock’s latest Sinister Six–Mysterio, Chameleon, and Rhino–are beginning to have second thoughts about seeing Octavius’ scheme through now that they have $2 billion each in their offshore accounts.  As a safety measure, Ock secretly contacts several more villains around the globe–one of whom isn’t the villain that Octavius thinks he is, and informs Spider-Man.  In turn, Spider-Man organizes global countermeasures of his own with fellow heroes Union Jack, Sabra, Kangaroo, Big Hero 6, and the aforementioned not-quite-a-villain-after-all.

Whether or not these efforts are enough to prevent Ock’s true motives from coming to light is another question entirely.

With another solid issue in his “Ends of the Earth” storyline, Dan Slott shows just how high the deck is stacked against Spider-Man–and even how far the hero is willing to go to prevent global catastrophe in a Sandman interrogation scene.  Slott also throws in another segment where the Silver Sable shows a romantic interest in Spider-Man (Anyone remember that old What If? issue where Spider-Man married Sable instead of Mary Jane?) and more hinting at the potential rekindling of the Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson relationship.

Humberto Ramos keeps the story moving at a brisk pace and the panels transitioning smoothly.  It can be easy to get lost between panels when there’s this much action going on, but Ramos avoids that pitfall for the reader entirely.

Now quit reading the reviews and go pick up the actual story!

RATING: EXCELSIOR! 

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #684 – Saharan Sandman!

Amazing Spider-Man #684
Writer:  Dan Slott
Art:  Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba [Inks], Edgar Delgado [Colors]

Certain that he had thought of everything possible while preparing to fight the latest incarnation of the Sinister Six (Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Electro, Mysterio, Rhino, and Chameleon), there was one thing Spider-Man didn’t account for–Doc Ock doing the same thing and making short work of the Avengers.

Despite taking out one of the Sinister Six when Thor shot Electro into orbit, the Avengers–Captain America, Iron Man, Red Hulk, Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, and the aforementioned God of Thunder–are taken down quite easily and their Quinjet, with Black Widow inside, is crashed.  Spider-Man, with his new spider armor crippled, is left at Octavius’ mercy.

Fortunately for him, Symkarian mercenary Silver Sable has been following him and the Avengers since the G8 Summit and is able to rescue Spidey and the Black Widow.

The Sinister Six escape with the rest of the downed Avengers in tow and Ock begins negotiating with the world’s leaders.  In exchange for clean records and $2 billion for each of the other five members of the Sinister Six, Octavius will stop global warming with the “Octavian Lense” his octobots can create in Earth’s atmosphere.  Spider-Man, Silver Sable, and Black Widow are able to patch into these transmissions via help from Horizon Labs and the Symkarian prime minister, and head off to an abandoned AIM facility in the Sahara Desert that they figure out is in use by Doc Ock.

The AIM facility ends up being a trap, however, and the three are left to face Sandman, who has the entire Sahara Desert at his disposal.

Dan Slott continues to weave his epic event, keeping Ock’s true intentions in the dark, as well as what he has promised various members of the Sinister Six in exchange for their help.  Additionally, the Sandman battle in this issue is by far the most interesting in years.  Typically, Spider-Man stops Sandman by using a nearby water source to wash him away or turn him into mud, or bakes him into glass.  It’s one thing for Spider-Man to fight the Sandman on a beach or in a quarry or construction site, but another beast entirely in the middle of the world’s largest desert.  The means by which Slott has Spider-Man, Silver Sable, and the Black Widow defeat the Sandman (with help from Horizon Labs) here is fairly brilliant.

Aside from being a great premise for a fight in this story, the Sahara Desert fight also offers a huge opportunity for impressive visuals and Humberto Ramos doesn’t disappoint.  I know I’ve said this before in other reviews, but Ramos’ work grows on me every time I see it.  It’s honestly gotten even better in the last year and a half, becoming a combination of his older style (which, to me, has more of an anime feel) and traditional comic art.  Some of his faces even bring Todd McFarlane to mind.  Like Stefano Caselli on the first two issues of this arc, Ramos brings his A-game here.

In a year that has Amazing Spider-Man #700 on the way, as well as at least two more big story arcs, I’m wondering how Dan Slott and Co. can top what they’re doing right now.

STORY AND ART:  Excelsior!

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #683 – Spider-Man punches Al Gore!

Amazing Spider-Man #683
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Stefano Caselli, Frank Martin Jr. [Colors]

[SPOILER ALERT: Reading this review might spoil certain plot points for you, oh noble Chicago Comic Vault reader.]


Close to death, Doctor Octopus has–with the help of the latest incarnation of the Sinister Six–set his final master plan in motion, developing technology that can destroy the ozone layer.  Ock, however, has convinced the world’s leaders and greatest scientific minds that his intentions are altruistic and that he simply wishes to preserve the Earth with an artificial ozone layer.

Spider-Man, who has spent the last several months developing all-new spider armor specifically for taking on the Sinister Six, rallies the Avengers and they travel to an emergency G8 summit in Rome to try to talk some sense into the world at large.  Among those shown debating Octavius’ intentions are Stephen Hawking, Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Al Gore–who Spider-Man punches squarely in the jaw for voicing his support of Doc Ock.

That’s right.  Spider-Man gets a Cap-punching-Hitler moment.

Take that, Global Warming!

Or does he?

As it turns out, “Al Gore” is really just the Chameleon in disguise.  His hand played, Doc Ock is forced to reveal the full potential of his “Octavian Lens”…to stop global warming.

Convinced even more of Doc Ock’s Grinch-like altruistic turn, the world leaders let the Chameleon go–but the Avengers aren’t fooled so easily.  With the aid of a spider tracer, they follow him to a remote beach where he is met by the Sinister Six.

Spider-Man hasn’t been the only one preparing for this battle, though.  Doc Ock has had Electro, Rhino, Sandman, and Chameleon steal StarkTech, the fang of Jörmungandr, and Hulk-busting technology developed by the Leader.  Making quick work of the Avengers (but not without losing Mysterio and Electro), Doc Ock now has Spider-Man right where he wants him.

Overall, this issue continues what is sure to become (until he outdoes himself again) Dan Slott’s magnum opus on Amazing Spider-Man.  Not only is this fun, but the story feels like it has weight to it.  At the heart of this story is a battle of figurative chess between two of the Marvel Universe’s greatest minds.  That it takes place on the world stage instead of just New York adds that much more to this.

Stefano Caselli produces more of the best work of his career here, as well.  When you see Doc Ock in these pages, it’s believable that he’s really dying.  Characters pop off of the pages.  The facial expressions are spot on.  And the detail!

It’s another perfect issue, and a damn good time to be a Spider-Fan.

STORY:  10/10
ART:  10/10 

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #682 – ‘Ends of the Earth’ Begins!

Amazing Spider-Man #682
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Stefano Caselli, Frank Martin Jr. [Colors]

On the verge of death, Dr. Otto Octavius has initiated his final diabolical plan. Using a towering structure that rises from his base beneath the sea (Where do these guys get the funding and materials for these things?), he has positioned an array of satellites in Earth’s orbit to create an “Octavian lens” that will…stop global warming?

After threatening to burn the half of the world currently facing the sun (and giving Chicago a sweet cameo), Octavius pulls a 180 and tells everyone via satellite feed that he is merely showing them the Earth they are leaving to their great-grandchildren and actually intends to preserve the planet as his final act. It would seem noble enough, if the other five villains rounding out the latest incarnation of the Sinister Six (Sandman, Mysterio, Electro, Rhino, and the Chameleon) weren’t smirking behind him.

Though many of New York’s citizens (and even a few Avengers) are buying the idea that perhaps Doc Ock might have good intentions for a change, Peter Parker–who has spent the last several months preparing new gadgets for just such an occasion in his lab at Horizon–isn’t convinced.

Meanwhile, New York’s Mayor, J. Jonah Jameson, has vowed to shut down Horizon Labs at any and all cost following the peril his astronaut son was in onboard the company’s space station in Amazing Spider-Man #680 and 681, setting up a subplot that could potentially complicate Peter Parker’s life again and expanding Jameson’s personal crusade against Spider-Man to include Horizon founder Max Modell.

Overall, this is a great first issue to Dan Slott’s much-hyped “Ends of the Earth” saga. Not only do we see yet another cool new suit that Peter has designed to help him as Spider-Man, but Slott establishes a sense that the technology Pete developed has been put to practical, “real-world” use in the Marvel Universe. This, of course, keeps in tradition with the idea that the book is just as much about Peter Parker as it is about his alter ego.

Furthermore, Stefano Caselli’s art feels as briskly paced as the story without sacrificing detail. The opening pages, with Spider-Man stealing a few tricks out of an old enemy’s bag, are especially fun.

If the rest of this arc is this good, “Spider-Island” will have tough competition for “Best Spider-Man Event of the Last Decade.”

STORY: 10/10
ART: 10/10 

Review: Amazing Spider-Man #681 – Landing a space station looked easier on TV

Amazing Spider-Man #681
Writers: Dan Slott & Chris Yost
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli [Pencils], Klaus Janson [Inks], and Frank D’Armata [Colors]

Orbiting Earth in the Horizon Labs Apogee I space station, Spider-Man and the Human Torch have big problems. The space station has been compromised by Octobots, which have turned its crew–with the exception of Col. John Jameson (son of Jonah and former Man-Wolf)–into “space zombies” that Doc Ock can control from the ground.

Oh, and they’re running out of oxygen, making the Human Torch’s powers virtually unusable lest they should all suffocate in the infinite vacuum of space. No big deal, right?

Dan Slott and Chris Yost conclude the “Ends of the Earth” prelude they began last week in Amazing Spider-Man #680 by hitting all the same points that made that issue great.

More of Jonah yelling at people in a blind fury because he’s still reeling over the death of his wife and might now lose his son? Check.

Enough back-and-forth between Spider-Man and Torch to fill the International Space Station? Got it.

Obligatory “…and now, you will die!” super villain speech from Doc Ock? There’s one of those here, too.

Simply put, this story has everything that made the classic books classic without feeling too self-referential and, as I mentioned last week, that’s really kind of been par for the course with the Slott run of Amazing Spider-Man.  The Human Torch team-up is timely, given that the first person a guy’s probably gonna go on an adventure with when he comes “back from the dead” is his best friend, and the idea-so-crazy-it-could-only-work-in-a-comic-book resolution is fun.

What I question more than that is how Torch could “flame on” while carrying Spider-Man and John Jameson without burning them, or why people would be preparing for a manned mission to Mars in a world where the Fantastic Four regularly go to other galaxies. Is Reed Richards really that bad about sharing his toys with others?

All jokes aside, I’m really excited to see where Slott goes with “Ends of the Earth,” which starts next issue. Ever since Marla Jameson was killed on Spider-Man’s watch, Spidey has had this whole “No one dies!” schtick, and how that carries over to Doc Ock’s current condition will be interesting to see play out.

If only we could get an interview with the guy so he could tell us himself…

STORY: 9.5/10
ART: 9.5/10

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Review: Amazing Spider-Man #680 – In space, no one can hear you thwip!

Amazing Spider-Man #680
Writers: Dan Slott & Chris Yost
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli [Pencils], Klaus Janson [Inks], and Frank D’Armata [Color]

Mayor J. Jonah Jameson’s son, Col. John Jameson, is performing repairs outside of the Horizon Labs space station Apogee 1 when suddenly he loses communication with the Horizon Labs science team on Earth–as well as his dad, who is visiting the lab.

As is typical, Jonah flips out and the team discovers that all systems on the station are failing.  As is also typical, Peter Parker rushes off in typical Peter Parker fashion, as he knows the Fantastic Four and space emergencies are their forté.

Of course, the Parker luck plays its hand and the only one home is the recently-back-from-the-dead-though-he-never-really-died Human Torch, who Spidey catches in the middle of a… somewhat compromising situation.  I won’t spoil it here, but it’s fairly amusing and all ties into Johnny taking the night off to catch up on all of the pop culture events he missed while he was “dead.”

Anyhow, Spidey convinces a less-than-serious Torch to tag along to the space station with him, where they discover something “Sinister” is afoot…

Overall, this is another stellar issue of Amazing Spider-Man.  Am I surprised that Dan Slott had help from Chris Yost with writing this?  Not really.  He’s been putting together the huge “Ends of the Earth” storyline featuring the return of the Sinister Six and the potential death of Doctor Octopus. (Yeah, I get it.  They killed Doc Ock in the ’90s during the “Clone Saga,” too.  That death, however, was pretty cheap and undeserving of a character who rivals Green Goblin as Spider-Man’s biggest enemy.)  Anyhow, the writing here has the perfect balance between humor and seriousness, not letting the one-upsmanship and one-liners between Spidey and the Torch overshadow the gravity of the plot.

Giuseppe Camuncoli, Klaus Janson, and Frank D’Armata do a great job of conveying all of this in their art, as well.  Jonah’s bug-eyed expression of panicked rage on page 4 perfectly captures the emotions of a parent whose son is in grave danger, especially when you factor in that Jonah is still probably grieving his recently-murdered wife, Marla.  In fact, practically every panel in this issue featuring Jonah is a hit.  Hell, this whole issue is gorgeous.

If you weren’t already excited for “Ends of the Earth,” the panels of Doc Ock in this issue might change that.  Never before has he looked so menacing.  If this is just the lead-in to that story, you really have to wonder how big the endgame is.

STORY: 9.5/10
ART: 9.5/10

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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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