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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Grade: C-

29 Responses to “Amazing Spider-Man #685 Review”

  1. #1 Kent Larson says:

    “It’d just about take saving the world to be worthy of her.”
    I’m not assuming “her” to be MJ. Could be Aunt May. Having MJ show up just after spidy’s statement seems like misdirection.

    Good review. Good insights.

  2. #2 Enigma_2099 says:

    I’d like to go on record.. I blame JOE QUESADA for what happened with Mary Jane.

  3. #3 Eddie says:

    I like your review. Probably because I agree with every point you make! I am afraid they are going to get Pete and MJ together just to kill her off.

  4. #4 Phantom Roxas says:

    I’m still guessing that Mary Jane will die by the end of this story, although I won’t deny that Doctor Octopus has an equally high chance.

    I’m sorry for sounding like a broken record, but I really want Ramos off this book, or at least for the art to be consistent within the same story. People have problems with Spider-Man’s mask’s eyes moving, which I could understand, but I can defend that by saying it’s a mask, and the material might make it possible for the eyes to move, even if that’s exaggerated. However, the armor has no such excuse. Having the eyes move on the Spider-Armor is just cartoonish. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I also don’t like how Mary Jane is designed in that panel. This is why I’m reluctant to pick up the Big Time Ultimate Collection. There’s no way that I’m going to start ASM at a point where Peter is dating Carlie Cooper and the art is being handled by freakin’ Ramos.

    I agree about the “X-Men, Defenders, and Fantastic Four are off world” excuse. Look, I’m okay if that was the case, but WHY are they off world? I could believe the Fantastic Four and Defenders are unavailable, but the X-Men have a ridiculously large roster. The part that really shows that this is just a big-budget movie is the involvement of the Avengers, which I’m also sick of. Ignoring the blatant continuity gaps regarding Black Widow’s involvement alone, do we really need everyone there? They made Avengers Assemble just to show off those characters, so don’t make things more confusing by bringing them in here. Spider-Man is a part of the New Avengers, so why not bring them in? Oh wait, because Wolverine, Thing, Doctor Strange, and Iron Fist are supposedly all off-world, and there are totally no other members from the New Avengers that can help. It would also present a more interesting approach to the battle with Doctor Octopus. If he prepared to battle against the Avengers, then bringing in the New Avengers would mean they would have to deal with heroes they didn’t exactly prepare for.

    Let’s just move on to No Going Back already. At least that storyline makes sense as a movie promotion.

  5. #5 EvO_oU says:

    Once again MJ saves the event, great review even thou the story seems to have prety much zero movement, I completly agree with the 3 days thing, its hard to belive that Spider-man (or any hero on the planet) could just sit and wait while Dock Ock tempers with the atmosphere, besides if the greatest minds and powers of the world assembled so quickly in the first par of the event, its to much to ask us to belive that for 3 days nothing happend, those details can really mess the enjoyment of a story

  6. #6 Dan says:

    At least Dan was able to do something that no other previous Spidey writer has ever done the Earth-616 continuity: Acknowledge Silver’s feelings for Spider-Man. Also, if Dan had gotten his way, it might have been the Black Cat in that situation. Let’s be glad that Silver Sable was used at all. However, it clearly looks like a huge set up for the return of Peter and Mary Jane. Although, when they split-up, I wished that the focus was on developing his mutual relationships with Liz Allan and Betty Brant. Followed by expanding his super heroine relationships beyond The Black Cat. I always felt that Silver had strong feelings for Spider-Man. Until recently, no past Spidey writer was ever interested with that as he was married to Mary Jane. At least we know that Silver’s feelings for Spider-Man is in line with Ms. Marvel. Does anyone else feel that once this saga is over, Silver Sable, Black Widow, and Spider-Man are going to be very close with each other as mutual friends!!! Thus, Silver Sable will definitely be there for either Spider-Man or The Black Widow. Imagine how EotE might have been if Venom and Black Cat were used instead of Silver Sable and The Black Widow? The setting would certainly be quite different than what we have thus far. This is a good reason to why alternative heroines could be used in place of The Black Cat. And the examples are Silver Sable and Black Widow.

    Until recently, The Black Widow didn’t respect Spider-Man because the way other writers have portrayed her and Spidey in The Avengers. If a person like Silver Sable can learn to respect Spider-Man and his abilities, then the Black Widow will want to have a partnership with him. And with them working together in the current story arc, I feel that it will convince The Black Widow once and for all that Spider-Man is a man who falls into the Winter Soldier/Daredevil category. Men who she respects. My opinion is that The Black Widow should have been Spider-Man first costumed relationship after ASM #86. And Silver Sable rarely gives glowing reviews about anyone. Thus Silver’s words carries a lot of weight. And The Black Widow has witnessed a side to Spider-Man that she has never seen before: A man who is very resourceful like Bucky and Matt Murdock. Those are the types of people that Natasha is attracted to.

  7. #7 Valiant says:

    Sincerly, I don’t care a little bit about Black Widow. It could be Mockingbird instead her, I could care less.

    Meanwhile I concurr is out of blue for Sable suddenly almost confess herself to Spidey (that “burst of loyality”, almost as Sable thought they are already an item is abrupt, indeed), these two have a good amount amount of team ups and hate-admiration relashionship under their wings. If Sable was never seen as a love interest in the 616 mainstream, it was because Peter was totally with MJ since Sable was created. But, I remember a few books, like Web of Spider-man 50 and 72 where she displayed some genuine (inner) concern and admiration for him. So, I can believe she always have that tender spot for Spidey. I just wished she had more apeareances to justify her openly pro spider opinion now.

    So… I don’t want to start a tiresome pairing war here (and I’m not a hardcore fan). Can I just be glad to see the Spidey x Sable goodness I waited since that old What If 21?

    At the end of the day, EotE is a little better on my sight than Spider-Island and so much better than any crap from the BND phase (BND hater). I probably won’t dig No Going Back, though.

  8. #8 sthenurus says:

    I like this event so far, but i agree with the art consistancy issue; even a crossover between 3 books (daredevil, avenging and punisher) can get that right, so why can’t a hugely hype event such as EotE? And can you imagine what this event could have been with black cat and venom in it? I for one almost wish it would have happened that way. Would have been interresting to see. Beside, the SECRET avengers could have been used, which would have been a nice change from the regular avengers (even if Spidey isn’t part of it)

  9. #9 Dan says:

    @sthenurus: I feel that if Venom and Black Cat were used it might have been interesting to the hardcore Spider-readers who just want to read about Spider-Man and his world. But I am glad that Dan Slott used The Black Widow and Silver Sable because it has been a long time since Spider-Man has worked with either of team. And this is the first time that we see The Black Widow, Silver Sable, and Spider-Man working together which was a dream of mine. I certainly would love to see more Black Widow and Spider-Man interaction as we rarely ever see them team-up together. And I feel that she’s been quite surprised about Spider-Man. It would be great to see the Black Widow finally establishing a serious partnership with Spider-Man after seeing him in action in a manner that she’s not seen before.

    @Valiant: It’s true that Silver’s feelings for Spider-Man are sincere. However, I would rather see Silver Sable and Spider-Man’s mutual relationship develop over a long period of time (like the Black Cat was before OMD) than become a crash and burn type romantic relationship. I feel that it’s best Spider-Man to keep things at the “Close Friends” level, as he has with Ms. Marvel. This means no Friends with Benefits and no serious romantic relationship.Dating is ok because that’s the best way for them to get to know each other better.

    As for the Black Widow, I would love to see her establish a mutual friendship with Spider-Man. I feel that she should have been one of Spidey’s oldest crime fighting partners. But past Spidey-writers were never interested with having The Black Widow make a guest appearance in Amazing Spider-Man as his team-up partner. She would make as a great alternative to The Black Cat on occasion. I just feel that same Spider-Man x Black Cat partnership is old that I feel that there needs to be some diversity. Thus, I feel that The Black Widow, Spider-Woman, Silver Sable, Ms. Marvel, and The She-Hulk would make things interesting for Spider-Man. And the list of heroines mentioned would ensure that there is diversity among the heroines he could be close friends with. I don’t care so much for Mockingbird because I feel that she and Hawkeye will eventually get back together.

  10. #10 crutch says:

    if they kill MJ…. I may be done.

  11. #11 Enigma_2099 says:

    … why aren’t people trying to hook these people up with anybody else? Why do they have to be paired with Spider-Man? Hell, after Web of Shadows, I’d rather he slapped Black widow rather than try to nail her… which is basically, in my opinion the REAL reason people want these different hookups anyway.

    And has the “new readership” become large enough to even dare kill off MJ?

  12. #12 spideytothemax says:

    @Dan – Just curious, but have you ever read the old Marvel Team-Up issues featuring the Widow where she’s stuck in one of her deep cover aliases?

    I thought this issue was better than the last in general. Someone on the board said they thought the ending was a huge fake out what with Mysterio and Chameleon being sent to perform some secret task. Sounds like a safe bet to me. To be honest I didn’t care for the MJ stuff. I love her and all, but it’s just too damn easy to tack her into a story and have her spout some gobbledygook about Peter and improve my opinion of an issue. I don’t really like that that’s the case, but…that’s the case.

  13. #13 Erik Lexie says:

    I’m not sure what’s got some people thinking MJ is going to die. I suppose you never know what Marvel’s going to pull, but nothing has given me that impression.

  14. #14 Dan says:

    I certainly hope that Mary Jane doesn’t die as it would be crappy writing. I do want to see Mary Jane and Peter reunite back together. But I am in no hurry to see it happen right away. I say let them take their time slowly. To rush into something will only backfire.

  15. #15 Phantom Roxas says:

    @13:

    1. Dan Slott responded to a question about Peter and MJ reuniting, saying that we’ll get what we want, but not in the way we want.
    2. The solicit for #687 reads, “Can Spider-Man sacrifice one life to save the entire planet?”
    3. They’ve been showing MJ every now and then in this arc, possibly to build up to her demise.

  16. #16 crutch says:

    #15. maybe it’s doc ock?

  17. #17 Dan says:

    Who would support the idea of The Black Widow as a crime fighting partner for Spider-Man?

  18. #18 Epidot says:

    Why would Black Widow fight crime with Spider-man? I’d be more interested in a good story, where writing is more in focus than any guest staring hero. The only link I can see between Black Widow and Spider-man, is the name reference to spiders, which is not really a good way to base a partnership (teamed up, or othervise).

    I’m not trying to be difficult here, I just don’t see a good reason for it, that’s all.

    As for MJ and Peter…could it mean that they may get back together, but not being married? I’d become a reader again for that (the seperation being my main reason to stop reading in the first place. If that makes me petty reader, so be it).

  19. #19 DPFW says:

    Maybe I missed something or my memory is faulty, but what issue is the reference about Sable where she was practically “shoving her tongue down his throat a few issues ago”?

  20. #20 Erik Lexie says:

    Part 2 of the time travel story. My review talks about the kiss: http://www.spidermancrawlspace.com/wordpress/2012/02/01/the-amazing-spider-man-679-review/

  21. #21 Erik Lexie says:

    Epidot: Yeah, I honestly think that is far more likely than MJ dying. Marvel has tried killing MJ before, and as much as we may disagree with what’s been done regarding her and Peter recently, I don’t believe that the current staff dislikes her or wants her out of the title.

    I’ve learned not to be surprised by anything Marvel does so I’m not saying it won’t happen, but I would rate it very low on the likelihood scale.

  22. #22 DPFW says:

    @#20- Ah, thank you. I had completely forgotten about that!

  23. #23 Dan says:

    @#18: Why would Wolverine fight crime with Spider-Man? It seems that a lot of folks have an extreme biases against The Black Widow as Spider-Man alternate crime fighting partner. And one as to ask why would Ms. Marvel fight crime with Spider-Man? I feel that the story can sometimes be interesting that has The Black Widow in it instead of The Black Cat.

  24. #24 Epidot says:

    I must admit that there is very few team-ups that I’m a fan of. Wolverine and Spider-man is not one of them. That particular one just seemed to me, a way to bring the two most popular characters in the same story, and having the writers trying to bring a bit of dynamic into the mix (not something that is a sure thing, and have failed many times in my opinion). Daredevil, I’m more a fan of. He knows Spider-man, and they have better reasons for working in the same area and with the same issues. Not that every DD / Spider-man team up has ever been a winner, mind you, but they are often far more enjoyable than many of the multiple other team-ups I’ve read.

    The thing is, I don’t see any difference between Black Widow working with Spider-man, than Black Cat being there. Do I know this will be the case? No, no I don’t. For all I know, the story can be brilliant, and Black Widow will reach new hights in popularity among the readers…do I think that would be the case? No. All I’m thinking of Black Widow / Spider-man team-up, is that it is going to be a fan service, where Spider-man is teamed up with an attractive female hero . Nothing wrong with attractive female heroes, but in these situations, it is mostly a flip of a coin on who’s going to lead whom in the pursuit of the eventual goal in the story.

  25. #25 Dan says:

    @#24:
    I personally feel that Ed Brubaker should do a Spider-Man and Black Widow team-up story as a mini-series. If Ed Brubaker wants to do The Amazing Spider-Man someday, the best way for him to do so is to be a guest writer for Avenging Spider-Man. But, if he could do a 4-part mini series with Spidey and The Black Widow in a team-up adventure, I would definitely buy the book.

    As for Ends of The Earth, it was true that Dan Slott had planned to use The Black Cat and Venom; but neither character were available. So he used The Black Widow and Silver Sable instead. It has been over 22 years since Silver Sable and The Black Widow team-up together for the first and only time in Marvel Comics Presents. And it has been almost 30 years since the Black Widow team-up with Spider-Man in the old Marvel Team-Up series. However, what excited me about this story was the first time we see The Black Widow and Silver Sable working together with Spider-Man against the Sinister Six. Had Venom and The Black Cat were used, I might not have picked up the book because the storyline would have been quite different than what we have.

    As we have seen thus far, I would assume that Silver Sable and The Black Widow are potential alternate crime fighting partners to The Black Cat for Spider-Man. But. I will agree that it all depends on the story rather then just a fan service. The important thing about a Spider-Man x Black Widow or a Spider-Man x Silver Sable partnership is it will likely be a different vibe than his past partnership with The Black Cat. In addition, The Black Widow and Silver Sable are not technically super powered heroines as one is a super spy and the other is a mercenary for hire. I will also assume that Silver Sable was endowed with the Super Soldier Serum, like the Black Widow. And the reason why we never saw a progression of Spider-Man’s relationship with either Spider-Woman or Ms. Marvel was because neither Dan Slott or Brian Michael Bendis are interested. This would explain why the alternate Valentine’s Day cover for Spider-Man was moved over to Winter Soldier #2, which made no sense at all. That cover as it should have been an alternate cover for ASM. I will assume that Dan Slott didn’t want that cover to be used because it featured three of Spider-Man’s super heroine admirers who has a mutual interest in him: Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, and The Black Cat.

  26. #26 Epidot says:

    @#25:

    …you lost me. All I’m saying is that I don’t usually like team-up stories, because I think the writing is often lacking. As I’m not really a fan of Slott’s style, a team-up under his thumb dosn’t transelate all that much interest for me, but I’m happy that the prospect seems to interest you.

  27. #27 Dan says:

    @ #26: I was implying that it would be cool to see a team-up adventure between The Black Widow x Spider-Man that would be written by Ed Brubaker, who is currently writing Winter Soldier. I never said that the story has to be featured in Amazing Spider-Man. But the reason why I am happy that Dan Slott decided to use The Black Widow in a team-up story with Spider-Man because it has been a longtime since the last they team-up together, which was in the old Marvel Team-Up series in 1984/1985. I just feel that the recent exposure of The Black Widow in Amazing Spider-Man would encourage Ed Brubaker to do a Black Widow mini-series that would feature Spider-Man as her crime fighting partner. I do not expect Dan Slott to do another story on Spider-Man and The Black Widow after The Ends of The Earth story has concluded. I was hoping that another writer, like Ed Brubaker, would consider the idea.

    You’re right to say that they are better writers than Dan Slott who could create an interesting team-up adventure. However, I doubt that any of them would have considered using Silver Sable and The Black Widow working together with Spider-Man, which Dan Slott is the first person to do so. Thus, I would like to think that he started a thread that might allow future writers to consider with it comes to writing stories about Spider-Man.

  28. #28 Epidot says:

    Well, the era of terrible Spider-man guest apperances seem to be over, so there is always the chance of him appearing in other titles in the future.

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