We’ve passed the halfway point for Ends of the Earth, and I’m becoming as tired as I was with Spider Island. In this issue, Spidey keeps attacking Doc Ock’s factories while the world turns against him, some more things explode, and there’s an “all is lost” cliffhanger. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys obscure character cameos you might get a kick out of one segment in the middle of this issue, but it’s only there to try to get you to buy EotE’s sole tie-in, a one-shot about a bunch of international heroes trying to help Spidey’s campaign.
The Amazing Spider-Man #685
Words by Dan Slott
Art by Humberto Ramos
Inks by Victor Olazaba
Colors by Edgar Delgado
Letters by Joe Caramagna
The biggest thing I have criticized Slott’s “event” writing for is story progression. These things tend to move at bizarre paces and find strange ways of getting there. As the fourth issue of EotE opens, we’re told that three days have passed between this one and the last. It may seem like it’s nitpicking, but it’s not something I would normally care about all by itself; it’s symptomatic of the larger issue I have with the way these stories are written, which I would describe as “haphazardly.”
Now, you can jump ahead in a story and say “time passes” sometimes. But I normally find that this is something to be done after an arc within the story has completed itself, where it feels like a chapter has closed. In this case, it’s dead in the middle of the plot, and feels like it comes out of nowhere.
Did no one miss Peter Parker for three days? (Is Horizon still trying to get ahold of him or are these “geniuses” smart enough to have all figured it out by now?) Why I find this so baffling is that later in the issue Spidey acts surprised when it turns out that S.H.I.E.L.D. is acting on Ock’s side now, and Black Widow says “Now we know why no one’s come to our aid.” But after they’re tipped off that Ock is recruiting new super villains to come after them, Spidey announces, “If Doc Ock can raise an army, we can too! Open a line.” If all he had to do was “open a line” and he can suddenly talk to obscure heroes from all over the world, why hasn’t he already done so? Has he seriously been waiting three days for help to show up without even bothering to get in touch with anyone? Okay, so “the Avengers have been captured, the X-Men, Defenders, and FF are off-world.” (Again. Everybody’s off world… again. That excuse really is getting old.) That still doesn’t change the fact that he waited three days to dig deeper into the literally hundreds of Marvel super heroes he could have called on.
Truth is, what we’re really looking at is an excuse for Slott to show off his obscure comic knowledge again, as the team Spidey manages to assemble is a collection of lesser-known international Marvel heroes like Union Jack and Kangaroo. Now I’m not saying I’m opposed to obscure references; I happen to think they’re great. But I also think they should be bonus material, not something that takes up several pages of the issue and does nothing to actually advance the plot. Since I’m apparently making this comparison every review now, though, I’ll just go ahead and say it: that’s why this event is like a big-budget, low-story action movie. It’s all spectacle and no plot.
I know some will feel this is a minor issue and I should just ignore it and try to be entertained. I don’t believe it is, but that’s the “big, stupid action movie” argument in a nutshell. Does bad writing matter if it’s supposed to be over the top anyway? In my opinion, yes. I think the writing quality is what makes the difference between “From Russia With Love” and “Moonraker,” or “Die Hard” and “Live Free or Die Hard.” It matters to me when I feel that I’m reading something where the coherence of the story is brushed aside for whatever scene the author wanted to write.
It’d just about take saving the world to be worthy of her.
On the positives side, this issue is our first reminder since EotE 1 that Mary Jane is supposed to play a role in this story. It’s only a one page reminder, but it was nice to see her, and it’s nice to see that Slott appears to be continuing in his apparent plans to bring her and Peter closer again. Whether this means the two are going to get back together or not is something I am not willing to opine on, but as of this issue, we do now have confessions of remaining feelings from both characters. Is Marvel stringing us along, only to decide they won’t deliver at the end? Anyone who wouldn’t put it past them is blind. But I’m making no assumptions.
However, the greater tease is that Slott keeps putting MJ in issues for a couple pages or so, and making her important for the time that she’s there, but we’re still getting only the occasional glimpse of her. What I really want, regardless of whether the two are eventually getting back together or not, is for her to have a more solid presence in the books again. Obviously this doesn’t mean that she needs to show up in every issue, but let’s get her a little more involved in the plots again, instead of just being a minor support character. I say this not as a fan of the marriage but just as a fan of Mary Jane.
I know that Slott knows how important she is, and I know that he writes her and Peter together very well. There’s a nice moment in this issue when Silver Sable appears to be about to confess to having feelings for Spidey — I still think this is kind of ridiculous and out of the blue considering she started by shoving her tongue down his throat a few issues ago, but I can accept her feelings could develop over those three days we skipped — and he interjects a reference to MJ that makes it pretty clear his heart is otherwise occupied. I don’t know where that was when the Carlie thing was happening, but I’ll take it when I can get it.
Like MJ, we all know that Spidey will find a way to succeed, despite this issue’s cliffhanger ending. Faith in the webslinger is important, no matter what he — and by extension, we — gets put through by forces outside his control.
- The scene between Sable and Spidey which cuts back to MJ thinking about him is very nice, even without speculating on whether she’ll be getting back with Pete. It is an example of the kind of thing Slott writes well, and that I really wish he would focus on instead of action movie stuff.
- Very little plot-advancing material here, and plenty more that happens just to happen. This feels like a stalling issue that exists almost entirely so that Slott could write a scene where Big Hero 6 crash through a factory ceiling. And… that’s all there is to say.