Amazing Spider-Man #676 Review

Have you ever read through an issue of ASM and thought to yourself, “this is cool and all, but I sure wish it didn’t have this Spider-Man character in it”? If so, then 676 is the issue for you: Spidey never makes it past the cover. Instead, the Sinister Six fight the Intelligencia, and… that’s it. That’s the whole issue. Be warned, crawlspacers: this is gonna be harsh.

The Amazing Sinister Six #676 – Tomorrow, the World!

Words by Dan Slott

Pencils by Humberto Ramos

Inks by Victor Olazaba

Colors by Edgar Delgado

Letters by Joe Caramagna

Last week, Don linked to a Comic Vine report that another spider “event” is already in the works for this coming March, titled “Ends of the Earth.” Aside from a, uh, unfortunate sequence of comments the discussion mainly focused on two things: 1) We just finished the last event three issues ago, so isn’t this kind of fast? and 2) What is going on with those Ock arms?

As it turns out, issue 676 reflects on both those topics. We’re given an explanation for the arms, as Ock’s undergone yet another redesign here. As his whithered organic body draws its last breath and he ponders his mortality, Electro and Mysterio help him into an entirely artificial body with just his head attached–at least, I think that’s supposed to be his head. It actually looks more like some kind of alien bug creature’s head.

But more important, in my opinion, is what “Tomorrow, the World!” says to us about events: it says, “That’s right, we’re not remotely done and we’re not even giving you a holiday break until we get this rolling in March.” They even brought back Humberto Ramos and his creative interpretation of anatomy.

This is “event” comic storytelling at its worst, and we’re not even supposed to be into the event yet. It’s 100% filler from start to finish, because it’s essentially a twenty-two page advertisement for something happening two months from now. And it commits one of Spider Island’s primary sins in that it pushes the title character, the guy we’re supposed to be paying to read about, off to the sidelines. It does it so badly that Spider-Man isn’t even in one single, solitary panel.

Well, that was good while it lasted.

It may be the most-noted element of Slott’s approach to writing ASM that he tries to recreate the flavor of the classic issues. Characters often unnecessarily monologue, especially during battles, and his dialogue often has a certain element of camp to it. I believe that this issue is hands down the most blatant example of that element of his style.

Consider the Winter Guard cameo, which seems to exist for the sole purpose of including some obscure characters. “You, and your fellow members of the Intelligencia, shall be brought to justice! So say earth’s mightiest heroes! So says–THE WINTER GUARD!”

Consider the Rhino’s admonition to “Don’t underestimate them, Marko! They have androids! And super-apes!”

How about Thinker’s way of telling off Shocker: “Perhaps you are forgetting… it was I who gave you your last upgrade. And with a simple energy disruption field… it is I who can take it away, and then some.”

There’s hardly a line in the whole book that these selections aren’t representative of. Most dialogue is delivered with an exclamation point, and in the middle of intense battle. It really does evoke the style of 60s Marvel, where much of the exposition served as a way to remind readers of a character’s powers as he used them, or introduce them if they were new. But that was only part of it. Exposition was also used in that time as one of the primary ways of advancing the plot, and that’s where this throwback style issue is lacking: it doesn’t have one.

I love the Stan Lee era of ASM. You kind of have to, really. But the reason why its dated style doesn’t bother me is because it feels natural. It’s cheesy, but that’s really the way Stan wrote, because that’s what was popular and expected in comics at the time. He wasn’t doing it to be funny or out of an ironic love of camp, and it wasn’t a replacement for story or character development. This issue, on the other hand, takes that style and turns it into a self-aware joke. I simply don’t find it funny though, nor do I find it a good excuse for things like Mysterio playing Angry Birds on a pink iPad while the battle rages. No, I didn’t make that up. This is the kind of thing some people defend as “bringing fun back to Spider-Man.” I don’t equate fun with stupid.

The really sad part of all this is that I know Slott understands how to use his retro-flavored style for good. I just got finished expressing my satisfaction with his doing exactly that for the last two issues. That simple, well-told Vulture story was good old fashioned Spidey fun–not dead serious, and nothing that would impact the character much in the long term, just a nice soft cushion to land on after getting buffeted around by Spider Island for seven issues. And then he pulls this out on us? I’m incredibly disappointed.

So, Doc, I’m glad we won and all, but I gotta ask… why’d we even bother?

One of the best things about Spider-Man, hands down, is his supporting cast. That might just be the one thing every single person who loves him can agree on. So, if we absolutely have to have an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man that doesn’t have the amazing Spider-Man in it, the least we could have gotten is a good story about some of those characters. Hell, I’d have taken a bad story over this. This isn’t even a story in the first place.

Something’s gotta give. I really don’t see how the big two can survive this way; when I buy a Spider-Man comic and it turns out to be nothing but a protracted joke battle without Spider-Man, I start to really question what I’m sticking with the title for.

He’s on the cover, of course, which makes it even worse. And here’s a grimly amusing thought. I get what the joke is supposed to be when he says, “If you don’t read this comic, the bad guys win!” But there’s another, much funnier joke buried in there:

The winning move would be not to waste your time or money on this crap, so… apparently Marvel thinks its readers are the bad guys. Gee, where have I gotten that impression before?

Pros: There are none.

Cons: This is a 22-page advertisement for an event in March, filled with bad jokes and pointless dialogue. It has no story, develops no characters, and isn’t relevant to anything. And Spider-Man doesn’t even get a cameo in his own book.

Grade: F

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