Amazing Spider-Man #684 Review


So the Avengers are down and the world’s leaders are about to agree to Doc Ock’s terms, but Spidey’s saved at the last minute by Silver Sable and he teams up with her and Black Widow to try to shut the operation down. There are some plot points that don’t make a whole lot of sense here, which is nothing unexpected when it comes to one of Slott’s tangled event storylines. And Ramos is back on art in this issue. Oh joy.

The Amazing Spider-Man #684: Ends of the Earth Part 3

Words by Dan Slott

Art by Humberto Ramos

Inks by Victor Olazaba

Colors by Edgar Delgado

Letters by Joe Caramagna

I’ve said it before a number of times, but I simply can’t help repeating myself: changing artists in the middle of a storyline sucks. And yeah, I always complain about Ramos’s art and I always gush about Caselli’s, and to a certain extent that is just personal taste. But I’m really starting to long for the days of consistent writer/artist collaborations. Sure, every now and then there will be reason to bring a guest artist in. But at the very least, why can’t we let this event, which is supposed to be one cohesive story, have a single look from start to finish? The change was particularly jarring in this issue because Ends of the Earth was billed as being Slott/Caselli, and I don’t look at previews of upcoming issues because I like to approach them completely fresh, so in this case I had no idea the switch was going to happen.

Now, with that said, I can honestly say that much of what I think is bad about Ramos’s style is stuff that he has improved on dramatically since he first started on ASM. His stylized approach to proportion has gotten a lot more subtle, and his action scenes in this issue were actually not at all difficult to follow. Perhaps he has been listening to some of the criticism and reined it in a little bit, or maybe it’s just the natural development of his style, but either way I think it’s gotten a lot better. It’s still not my preferred approach and I’d take Caselli’s art any day, but I don’t hate the way this issue looks.

But still. Come on, Marvel. If you’re going to play musical artists, at least wait until an arc is over. That’s all I ask.

You looking for a little Otto-Spidey quality time, huh?

I thought having this issue open with Sable distracting Ock and getting Spidey out of there was a nice way to move things along, because we naturally kind of forgot about her implication last issue that she was going to be following the Avengers. But what I don’t get is what exactly Ock did last issue to take over Spidey’s power armor. It was explained how he shut Iron Man’s down (and the explanation was kinda BS, but whatever), but this is obviously a different thing since he seems to be doing it psychically; did he anticipate that Spidey would try to control his octobots and reverse engineer the process or something? That was my assumption, and I was sort of figuring I’d find out if I was right, but I guess we’ll never know, or else I just missed something.

That’s a relatively minor point, but my main problem with this issue is that there is a pretty large collection of these minor points that are sort of silly. Granted, it’s nothing like the astonishing mountain of nonsense that made up the first issue of EotE, but I still feel like this plot is so full of holes that Sandman ought to be falling right out of the book. So let’s get started, I guess.

With the Avengers helpless, Mysterio blatantly points out that if they aren’t killed immediately they will inevitably come back to turn the tables later, and Ock brushes this off because he has “plans” for them. Really? I mean, this is something Slott does all the time — making a point of observing his own cliches and oversights and then treating them like a joke instead of finding a way to fix them — and it’s one of my biggest criticisms of his writing, even more so than his cheesy dialogue. But it’s especially bad here, because the whole point of this story is supposed to be the conflict between the every-angle-covered master planning of Ock vs. Spidey. Last issue made a big deal of how the villainous doctor crafted this super meticulous plan to deal with the Avengers, and he’s actually saying here that he’s going to keep them around after defeating them? Slott wants us to believe that Ock is an equal to the greatest minds of humanity, that he can figure out how to take down the Avengers and that his scientific knowledge can impress Mr. Fantastic. That means making the effort to actually fill in plot holes instead of just making these meta excuses for them in the dialogue and moving on. At the very least, he shouldn’t acknowledge that he’s using an old cliche right on the page, because it just draws attention to it, and it really isn’t funny.

So then, after Spidey is rescued by Sable and he jets off with her and Black Widow, the Horizon crew gets in touch with him from a floating laboratory they apparently have in international waters — I guess Max decided to have a contingency plan in case the mayor’s son was ever on his space station while it got taken over by a supervillain — and they help him to come up with some on-the-fly tech for taking out Sandman. As Max says, the whole Horizon crew is present except Peter, because they “couldn’t locate him in time.” So then Spidey works with them to create a new science gizmo. Which is normally what Peter supposedly does for him, as the story goes. While Peter is nowhere to be seen. You see what I’m getting at, right? There was an indication last issue that Max may have figured out what Peter’s playing at, and that would make sense, but the fact that the whole team isn’t going “Hey, wait a minute!” at this point is just too far beyond believability.

The issue concludes with a battle at Ock’s largest facility for producing his “micro-sattelites.” But how they get there is a convoluted mess. When Ock explains his plan to the G8 summit he reveals the locations of all his factories, then this info is relayed to Sable by the Symkarian Prime Minister, and they fly to the factory “marked off as his main fabrication site” in the Sahara. When they get there it turns out to be fake and a trap, with Sandman ready to attack with all the sand in the world’s largest desert behind him. But then, after they beat him, Spidey says he anticipated that Sandman would be there, and that is why he came — “I’m gunning for you!” 

The amount of assumptions contained in this ludicrous sequence on the part of both Ock and Spidey are almost hilariously similar to someone shamed in an internet argument switching gears at the last second and claiming their whole intention was to cause havoc by merely pretending to be wrong. At least the Sandman fight is a pretty decent sequence. I quite liked the idea that Slott came up with to take Sandman down in this case, that because he seems to be able to constantly change the amount of sand making up his body, he must have one grain of sand that contains his actual consciousness. That actually makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately the trick he came up with for Spidey to get at that one grain of sand was sort of silly. Okay, device that puts an idea in his head so he has to shape himself that way, fine. But why are they doing it with cell phones? Is it an app or something? Did Horizon put it up on Google Play for them to download?

Cue Michael Bay!

Yeah, Michael Bay really is directly referenced in this issue, and as far as I’m concerned that’s all the proof I ever needed that I’m right about what kind of material is influencing this story. While I am much more a fan of those Spider-Man stories which carefully explore the characters and actually make use of the great depth in them, I’m certainly not opposed to some lighter stories that are just entertainment about good guys vs. bad guys. There is just so little meat on these bones, though. After three issues of this, I’m left craving an original thought, a clever plot element, some insight into a character I love — something more than endless action movie cliches and thin excuses to move to the next sequence. It’s had a few moments I’ve enjoyed so far, but Ends of the Earth is really falling flat for me overall, and with this latest issue it’s just gone further towards ridiculous without bringing anything new to the table. There’s still time for things to get better and based on my experience with Spider Island I’m not assuming they won’t. But this issue was not a step in the right direction.

Pros:

  • I like the idea Slott came up with for Sandman’s one central grain. That’s about all I can come up with to really praise this issue.

Cons:

  • This is a step backward to the first EotE issue in that its ways of getting from point A to point B feel totally contrived. The “summer blockbuster” feel is getting more and more a part of this, and the quality of the writing is proving to be about on par. I know Slott is capable of much better than this so it’s really disappointing.
  • Switching back to Ramos on art for an issue was a frustrating move. Not just because I think Caselli is a much better artist, but because it makes the story feel disjointed when the whole look changes from one issue to the next.

Grade: D 

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(37) Comments

  1. best cpa forum

    I don't even know the way I finished up here, but I assumed this publish was once good. I don't understand who you're but certainly you're going to a famous blogger in case you aren't already. Cheers!

  2. Erik Lexie - Post author

    I do know what you mean about length, Chris. Sometimes it's hard to find the right balance between maintaining your own voice and cutting things down to Hemingway levels. One of the reasons why I feel that reviews on this site tend to be somewhat lengthy is that it is quite community-driven and so there is a more conversational element to the articles than, for example, Roger Ebert writing for the Sun Times. That sense influences the way I write these a lot; I've written comic book reviews for other sites too and they have usually been shorter than my ASM reviews. I don't think it's a bad thing at all, but brevity is certainly something to consider. I will keep your thoughts in mind as I'm writing. I don't completely agree with the way you cut down my example sentence, but I agree that fat trimming is always helpful to making an article read nicely. Two-Bit: Always welcome feedback, but this is one I have to respectfully disagree on. I feel that for an intro that goes above a "read more" link, there should be some indication of what is going to be said. For opinion pieces, I like to have the writer's opinion established in a uniform way throughout the article, so I try to set the tone from the beginning to exactly what it's going to be at the end.

  3. Jack Brooks

    I think you should only write every third word, and let everyone try to figure out what the thing is about.

  4. CrazyChris

    Lol don't feel like a jerk. We're all equals so if you disagree with my stylistic preferences then that's dandy. I called you out because it was the best example in the most recent batch of reviews. Personally, unnecessary intros and long-winded reviews make me less likely to take the time to read it. On the other hand, I appreciate the hard work and creativity it takes. The way you write the AvX reviews IS very creative. It's just not my preference.

  5. Brian Bradley

    Whoa... what did I miss...And how did I only get called out for my unnecessary intros? I guess it's because people don't make it past those too often apparently, ha! I feel like a jerk now for posting this forthcoming AvX review. Super long winded. Spider-Man is referenced in it though this time! Chris, I may take you up on the code and the caption stuff. I've been looking on cleaning up my review formats but just haven't had the time outside of my work to look into it.

  6. Sarcasmic

    Oh btw Erik, I would love to say anything, but I didn't read this issue and I really can't find anything in your review to play off of, but I thought it was a good review.

  7. Sarcasmic

    Lol, at least this time it's self contained war and not extending out to other sites and creators.

  8. Two-Bit Specialist

    @Enigma - "If anything, you’re complaining about him letting you know what his opinion is first before explaining it. Sounds like you’re letting on what you actually think of HIS writing. If this isn’t the case, explain. I am asking WHY you think it’s wrong for him to do that." 1) I was not complaining. I was offering advice that turned out to be not very good at all, 2) I WAS letting on what I think of his writing. It could use improvement, but, then again, we just agreed that we ALL do, 3) I never once said it was wrong. I offered my opinion on how I would like to see reviews laid out. Once again, I was in the minority on that, so it's all moot at this point.

  9. CrazyChris

    @Sarcasmic - I think the challenge is to get a long and detailed enough review while still being concise. That is, if its going to be 1,000 we should try to make all 1,000 words necessary so that it is impossible to cut out even one of those words without losing some meaning. That would be extremely challenging. I usually find that if I make a huge effort to cut out everything that isn't necessary to get my points across, I have a 750 to 850 word review. I've also had a lot of frustration getting the pictures to go where I want them to. A reader offered an HTML code that puts pictures between lines of text instead of off to the side (see venom #16 review to see what I mean). If anyone wants to know it I can share it. While I like that this method lets me predict how the review is going to be laid out, I prefer having the pictures off to the side because that way the pictures do not interrupt the flow of my writing. On the other hand, when you put the pictures off to the side where they will actually land in the published product is completely unpredictable and a lot of times the text wrapping around them looks horrible. That said, the pictures in this review look perfectly formatted. I wish I could figure out how to achieve that effect. @Mike - Yeah I do the Venom reviews and I put captions on the pictures.

  10. Mike 13

    I like the reviewer that puts captions under some of the comic content... that's brilliant... I think it's the guy (gal?) that does the Venom reviews...

  11. Sarcasmic

    @Crazy Chris: My point in all of this is this: We are writing reviews that might be twice as long as they need to be in order to contain the actual substance of our thoughts. We complain about decompression in comics, but we are not holding ourselves to that same standard. Good writing is concise writing. Let’s make it our collective goal to trim all of the fat. I totally see what you're saying there, I try to trim mine down, but I've had times where my recap are longer than my thoughts and I find if it's shorter than 800 words, my pictures start jumbling together and I have a hard enough time trying to pick 3 pictures to best represent an issue as is. I've cut out categories and the likes to make them shorter though, I can usually keep it just under/over a 1000 words. And honestly, I enjoy reading more detailed and spoiler filled reviews than short and trimmed ones... I like getting in the head of the reviewer. I would love to get some kind of picture formatting tool for the review module...

  12. Enigma_2099

    If anything, you're complaining about him letting you know what his opinion is first before explaining it. Sounds like you're letting on what you actually think of HIS writing. If this isn't the case, explain. I am asking WHY you think it's wrong for him to do that. I'm not saying YOU SUCK and HE doesn't. I'm asking for an explanation of your opinion. STOP trying to turn my question into an insult. I don't have any problems with your writing. Stop pretending I do.

  13. CrazyChris

    20 - Thanks for the response, Two-Bit. I know I'm being a little bit of an asshole here but this is something I felt like I had to get out of me. And I know it's totally unrealistic that all of use who do this for fun in our spare time are going to produce truly polished writing. I just wanted to share my ideal of the direction we should strive toward. I think there's plenty of room for putting individual voice and personality into our reviews. I definitely don't mean to suggest there's one right way to write every sentence or even that fewer words always equates to better writing. I feel like we aren't being as conscientious about clear, concise writing as we should be. The number one thing that keeps me from reading everyone else's reviews is that I see a massive block of text and a lot of superfluous verbiage that makes it difficult to dive in.

  14. Two-Bit Specialist

    @Enigma - Is that what I said? No. I don't even know why you even had to say that. The only thing you accomplished is to let on what you actually think of my writing. Thanks. @Chris - I appreciate the time and effort you took to put that last post together. Usually when I write, I try to do it in my speaking voice, like in the example you used above. I see where you are coming from now and will definitely work harder on the editing part of my writing process.

  15. CrazyChris

    I wasn't directing that comment at you or any reviewer in particular. I think the overall trend of the reviews on this site is that they are too long. Or maybe I'm putting it the wrong way. A more accurate description is that we are using far more words then necessary to convey the ideas we have. I'm note sure this is the right forum to do this but since we already have a little writing workshop going I'll go ahead and illustrate what I mean using examples from everyone's reviews. I don't mean to crap on anyone's writing because I am as guilty of this as anyone. I do not mean to suggest that my writing style is superior to anyone else is. My inclusion of this in Erik's review is not meant to single him out. The goal of this exercise is for us to call upon ourselves to up our game when it comes to writing. From Erik's ASM 684 review "Now, with that said, I can honestly say that much of what I think is bad about Ramos’s style is stuff that he has improved on dramatically since he first started on ASM. His stylized approach to proportion has gotten a lot more subtle, and his action scenes in this issue were actually not at all difficult to follow." This could be revised to "That said, Ramos's style has improved. His stylized proportions have become more subtle and his action scenes have become easier to follow." Exact same substance, less than half the words. From Aaron Romero's review of Avenging Spider-Man #6 "If I had one problem with the issue is the dialogue during the rooftop scene after the Hand battle. Maybe I’m just a little slow, but, personally, I found the four characters’ plan of action a little hard to follow. You can understand the gist of it but it took me several read-throughs to understand what the heck they actually want to do. Ah, well. " This could be revised to "The issue's sole potential flaw is the dialogue during the rooftop scene after the Hand battle. I could not follow the four characters' action plan without rereading it several times." Again, half the word count but the same substance. From Shaun Martineau's FF #17 Review: "I’m going to be honest, the moment I put this issue down I had a grin on my face from cheek to cheek, it was just so crazy and hectic and I knew I had missed several things along the way, so I immediately picked it up and read it again. There was no grin the second time, as I picked up on one largely infuriating fact that I had missed the first time round and I’ll get to later." This could be revised to "Initially, I loved this issue. I finished it grinning and eager to reread it, catching whatever the details I missed in this crazy, hectic story. However, upon my second look I recognized one infuriating fact." From Brian Bradley's Ultimate Spider-Man review: "There’s always money in the banana stand. That doesn’t really have anything to do with this review, but to begin this little intro I wanted to borrow a quote from one of the best written shows out there, Arrested Development. I’m watching the show once again on Netflix so all the running gags and witty jokes are fresh in my mind. But this is supposed to be a comic book review… So now the story of a dangerous criminal who’s about to lose everything and the one nephew who had no choice but to keep his family together. It’s Arachnid Development. " This could be revised as, "This issue tells the story of a dangerous criminal who's about to lose everything and the one nephew who had no choice but to keep his family together." I chose this example because in my opinion these sort of "bells and whistles" do not advance the purpose of the review and stand between the reader and the review's substance. Don't mean to make an example of Brian. I understand that it takes a lot of work and inspiration to come up with clever ways to lead into a review, and it feels like its giving the reader something a little extra. I just happen to think readers will appreciate cutting to the chase more. From Donovan Grant's ASM 684 Review "I know there are people digging Slott’s run, and I have no problem with that. But as a whole, comics have moved beyond a certain level of storytelling to where they can’t really go back to anymore. Dan Slott’s Spider-Man feels embarassingly out of time in execution. The technical quality of the story isn’t necessarily bad at all, but the style of the storytelling leaves a lot to be desired. It just makes all the characters and the adventures they’re involved in seem all the more inconsequential." This could be revised to "I do not mind that some dig Slott's run. However, while Slott's storytelling isn't technically bad, his style has not advanced to modern standards. This makes the characters and their adventures seem inconsequential." From CrazyChris's Venom #14 Review "I declare, with no hesitation whatsoever, that Tony Moore is the best comic book artist working today." This could be revised as "Tony Moore is the best comic artist working today." Why the hell would I say "I declare"? Obviously I'm declaring it or else I wouldn't say it. And the phrase "with no hesitation whatsoever" is itself a hesitation before I actually say what I want to say. This is shitty writing. My point in all of this is this: We are writing reviews that might be twice as long as they need to be in order to contain the actual substance of our thoughts. We complain about decompression in comics, but we are not holding ourselves to that same standard. Good writing is concise writing. Let's make it our collective goal to trim all of the fat.

  16. CrazyChris

    He didn't list his negative points in his opening paragraph. He said there were plot holes and he was not excited to see Humberto Ramos on art. Those are very general statements. What those plot holes are and why Humberto Ramos is a problem are the points and they are in the body of the review. I'm also not sure what you mean by setting a "poor tone." This is a D review so it should be clear from the outset that this is a critical review. In my opinion the area of improvement that is sorely needed on all reviews on the site, my own included, is to do more with less.

  17. CrazyChris

    @9--On the other hand, you might loose a reader's attention if you don't get to the point. These are reviews, not suspense novels. Frankly, I think the best reviews are the most direct and brief ones.

  18. Mike 13

    Actually... it was the Fang Jörmungandr.... And I'm digging the story so far... and at the end of the day, that's all that matters to me. :)

  19. Two-Bit Specialist

    @Erik - Pro-tip: Don't immediately start your article by complaining about the plot points and the art. It makes me less likely to read the rest if I already know what you think of it. Tease your audience and save it for the body of the article.

  20. Epidot

    A museum...? Well, the serpent was supposed to be coiled around middgard, so the tooth being on earth isn't all that off. It resting in a museum however, seems a bit odd.

  21. sthenurus

    @6: Yup. It was shown on the first page of the previous issue... Electro stole it from a museum...

  22. sthenurus

    @4: Thor was impaled because his horn as been remplaced by the tooth of ragnarok; the serpent that was supposed to kill him in myths. @Erik: Agreed on art and overall feel. But i enjoy it. It's a nice break from the dark stories we had the last couple of years.

  23. Jack Brooks

    It would take some creative fore-planning to explain why the Chameleon doesn't just fire a bullet into the heads of every Avenger who would be vulnerable to that (Hawkeye, Cap), or pour acid all over them. Or something. I still can't figure out how Thor was nearly impaled by the Rhino's horn, when Thor has been able to withstand blows from the Hulk.

  24. Iron Patriot

    Those are some really good looking panels there. I prefer Ramos' depiction of the new Spider-Armor to Caselli's.

  25. Enigma_2099

    Okay, last issue it was implied that the book FELT like it was directed by Michael Bay... this time he's actually referenced? That 's not a good sign...

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