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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.