Amazing Spider-Man #681 Review


The followup to last issue’s space station mess is a quick, decent read. The plot starts to make no sense at all, but you get the feeling not that much was lost.

The Amazing Spider-Man 681

Words by Dan Slott & Chris Yost

Pencils by Giuseppe Camuncoli

Inks by Klaus Janson

Colors by Frank D’Armata

Letters by Joe Caramagna

There’s a joke on the internet about Lord of the Rings, which you may have heard–but if not, I guess, spoiler warning? How when at the end of everything, Frodo and Sam get rescued by Gandalf with his giant eagle buddy, and it’s kind of ironic that after all that fuss it turns out there’s this enormous bird that can fly to Mount Doom while carrying people. You can explain it away as much as you want, and I’m sure it makes perfect sense if you’re steeped in that world’s lore, but it’s still funny.

ASM #681 has a similar moment. After two space ships are blown up, plenty of fretting is done about a dwindling oxygen supply and Johnny Storm despairs “I’m usually a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy, but it kinda seems like we’re going to die here,” two seconds later he reveals that he has a super science space cell phone designed by Reed Richards which can call anyone, ever, even from outer space–“it’s got Galactus on speed dial.” I bet you could call someone from the Negative Zone with this thing if Dan Slott needed a quick plot device.

I suppose that deciding to call Horizon with it is an okay idea. They might have also tried, I don’t know, the Avengers, who they were just talking about alerting once they got off the station in one of the spaceships that got blown up. Or maybe they could have called Dr. Strange and asked for a quick teleport. Maybe he would turn out to have his phone off, though. Wouldn’t that just be the ol’ Parker luck!

Spider-Man?! What are you doing up there?!

J. Jonah Jameson is hard to do anything with. If I were an ASM writer, I don’t know that I’d spend much time with him. Slott & Yost (for whatever influence Yost may have had here–to be honest, this and last issue just read like straight up Slott to me) do a fine job of capturing what the old bastard is about in this arc, but I find myself feeling a little weary of it anyway, and why not? At this point in his life, what could you possibly do with Jonah besides make him the mayor?

When the station first goes offline, Jonah throws a fit. While everyone’s working on trying to solve the problem, he continues to throw a fit, his best line being “You, with the face!” When Spider-Man calls on Johnny’s super duper space phone, he grabs Max’s end and calls calls our hero a “space age saboteur.” And, of course, John asks him why he is yelling at the nice Spider-Man who is, after all, the good guy who is trying to save the day.

I’m not going to criticize this portrayal of Jonah because it’s spot-on, and it is in fact all you can really do with him. The problem with trying to develop this character is that his personality was developed early on to be a constantly stubborn jackass–the whole point of Jonah is that he never changes, so trying to legitimately develop him is… well, automatically illegitimate.

What I’m saying is, Jonah’s a prime example of what this arch, most of Slott’s arcs, and most of the current status quo regarding Spider-Man has been doing wrong in my eyes: it just can’t let go. ASM needs to let go of Jonah. Not forget the character completely. But his usefulness in Spidey’s story was worn out long ago. I care much more about the Horizon employees he’s harassing in this issue, and why? Because I don’t know everything about them. In fact, I know barely anything about any of them. 

Since we last met, my condition has… worsened.

So what do you do on a doomed space station with steadily depleting air, a bunch of octobot-infested crew members who are out to get you, and nothing to fly back to earth? Well, first, you crack a bunch of zany one liners with your pal the Human Torch, and then you fart around for a while, doing things that don’t make the remotest bit of sense and pull things out of nowhere, until the writer writes you out of your predicament. 

I don’t just mean that phone that would finally put an end to the eternal rhythm of Mr. Verizon’s “can you hear me now?”–that’s just where this begins to get ridiculous. You see, Spidey wants to shut the air off so the octozombies will pass out, allowing him, Johnny and John safe passage to… to… well, actually, I don’t know where, but presumably it must be important for the plan they have to get off the station. So they call Horizon to ask them to remotely shut off the oxygen for a while and slip into some space suits to keep themselves breathing. With Dr. Octopus having sent the station plummeting towards earth, Spidey just barely has enough time to gather all the survivors using his magnetic webbing. And here’s the thing. I don’t want to accuse Slott of phoning this in. But it’s really hard to believe he isn’t making this stuff up as he writes it, because he called himself on his own BS as if he suddenly realized it midsentence when an incredulous Johnny demands to know why he didn’t just use the magnetic webbing in the first place instead of taking all the air out of the station, and Spidey’s reply is: “I’ll tell you why. It’s because I… um, well, you see…”

So then everyone jumps into a giant metal canister that I guess was conveniently on board the station and Johnny absorbs the heat of the atmosphere as they plumet through it.

And you know, the end is pretty funny, and I like the way Slott writes Johnny and Spidey. If there’s a reason to read this, it’s that along with Camuncoli’s respectable pencils, although this script doesn’t give him much room to do what he’s best at, which is fight scenes. But Spidey’s Wacky Space Adventure ultimately did little beyond making me smile at some dialogue and scratch my head at the writing.

There’s one thing Johnny didn’t think to question, though. Even if he hadn’t remembered his magnetic webbing, what exactly was the problem with a crew of octobot-controlled ordinary dudes for The Amazing Spider-Man? Am I seriously supposed to believe this guy, who routinely beats up groups of ordinary thugs on his own or even groups of super-powered thugs, and has fresh kung fu skills to boot, would not have been able to get past them? Maybe he was having an off day–he apparently has those sometimes, like the day a chubby cinderblock-slinger took him out.

…and now that I think of it, if all that was needed was to temporarily incapacitate them to get to the escape jar or whatever, why didn’t they just use that anti-octozombie gun John had in the last issue for some reason?

And why am I actually putting thought into this when it’s so clear the writers didn’t?

Pros:

  • Again, the dynamic between Spidey and the Torch is well executed here.
  • Again, Camuncoli does a nice job on the pencils.

Cons:

  • The plot really deteriorates and you get the sense Slott either realized it halfway through or had Yost point it out to him. Either way, there’s no substance here. Just a lot of joke cracking, Jonah yelling and pulling solutions out of nowhere.

Grade: C

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