Spidey faces mind-controlled Avengers and races to halt Ock’s doomsday plot as Dan Slott wraps up his latest Spidey epic in a fashion that’s both suitably explosive and jarringly abrupt. It’s a strong finale that serves to throw into perspective just how disappointing this event as a whole was, because it leaves every dangling thread untied and every gaping hole unplugged.
The Amazing Spider-Man #687
Words by Dan Slott
Art by Stefano Caselli
Colors by Frank Martin Jr.
Letters by Joe Caramagna
This issue is like the final level of the video game, to use the analogy aptly brought forth on the Crawlspace podcast. It’s a sequence of boss fights. Fortunately, each of the three major confrontations is different and engaging enough to keep the pages turning readily.
686 left us with Spidey, Sable, Black Widow, and their surprising new recruit Mysterio facing off against six mind-controlled Avengers, a fight that I was looking forward to seeing play out. This issue doesn’t disappoint on that front. The battle is lengthy and well-executed; instead of trying to pretend that this outmatched team could really go toe to toe with the Avengers, Slott implied pretty heavily that they were actively working against Ock’s control to give Spidey and his allies an edge in the fight, which made sense. I particularly loved the scene where Sable goes hand to hand with Captain America. Caselli’s terrific when it comes to anatomy, facial expressions and perspective, and the scene really showcases his skills. The whole sequence is dampened a little by a slightly gimmicky final solution, but Iron Man’s “Freed by Mysterio? That is not going into the mission log” was amusing enough to make up for it.
A nice touch to the “boss battle” sequence is how allies disappear as it progresses, upping the drama. With Natasha knocked out and Mysterio pulling a vanishing act, it’s just Sable and Spidey who face the Rhino while proceeding through Ock’s fortress, and it leads up to an encounter which became my favorite part of the issue. Instead of resorting to more fisticuffs, Slott pulled a move that genuinely took me off guard by having Rhino simply hold Sable to the ground as the base begins to flood, promising that he won’t move an inch no matter what happens. It’s a ruthless way of challenging Spider-Man’s determination not to let anyone die on his watch, a theme which I thought was a little heavy-handed in past issues but worked out very well here — I really felt the pain as Peter was forced to accept Sable’s dying request that he leave her to drown and go after Ock. Of course the feeling doesn’t last long because her death is off panel in a comic book, so there’s not much chance of her staying dead, but it’s a touching scene nonetheless.
I was less blown away by the final confrontation with Octavius because it’s really nothing we haven’t seen before. Ock’s an egomaniacal nutjob, and the last-minute revelation of his true motivation for trying to scorch the whole planet is both believable and unremarkable. It’s written well, though, and is a suitable final confrontation of the arc.
And just like that, it’s over. Spidey gets picked up by Horizon’s mobile lab, he laments that he couldn’t save Sable, and there’s simply nothing else. I started getting a weird feeling as I finished the book, because I wanted to say, “Wow — I guess he just ran out of space or something,” but I couldn’t do that. This event contained more empty space than actual content. How could he run out?
The only conclusion I can come to about Ends of the Earth is that Slott was playing it by ear the whole way through, making everything up as he wrote it. The result is a complete mess. Many of the things I’ve harped on as being nonsensical over the course of this event were things I’d assumed or at least hoped were going to be explained or wrapped up at the end.
Jonah acting like an absurdly extreme version of himself the whole time, for example — I felt that was supposed to go somewhere. Issue 685 had an alternate cover that implied the Chameleon may have been acting in his place. Was that just supposed to mislead us, or was it just another one of those “let’s draw something completely irrelevant to the issue” variants like the symbiote-clad Mary Jane from a while ago?
And since that tied into the events around Horizon, I assumed it was all going to cohere somehow with the genius team’s involvement at the end of the event. But when the smoke clears, it turns out that all the Horizon crew did was have a boat for Spidey to clime aboard in the end. That’s it. All those asides we got in the past few issues where they were working on figuring out Ock’s stealth technology were utterly meaningless: it never happened, and it never mattered, because Spidey stopped Ock from hitting the “on” switch in the first place. Iron Man, Thor and Red Hulk launch themselves into the atmosphere to try to stop the satellites midway through the issue and we get a pointless aside updating us on their progress, only for the issue to then forget about them completely and their efforts to become irrelevant anyway. So why was it in the story?
This is why I have to imagine Slott just kind of wings these scripts and never goes back to revise when it turns out things don’t make sense. It’s as if he meant the whole time to have Horizon and Jonah (maybe the Chameleon as Jonah?) involved more, but then realized at the end he didn’t know what they were going to do and just switched gears.
Hurry! The entire structure is collapsing!
I enjoyed 687. Yet when I was finished with it, I still found myself annoyed, because I instantly started thinking about what this story could have been if it wasn’t bloated beyond comprehension. This is one of the very worst cases I’ve ever seen of decompression in modern comic book story telling.
Everything related to politics and global warming could have been cut out. Just call it a super bad heating device since it didn’t actually have anything to do with “global warming,” and skip the “summit” which did nothing to advance the plot and was only a vehicle for silly caricatures. Cut out every scene involving Jonah and Horizon labs, since they ended up doing absolutely nothing. Cut out the scenes with Aunt May and MJ; MJ’s scene could just as easily have been included in whatever upcoming issue actually explores that plot thread. Cut out the three day interim and the pointless obscure character cameos to sell a one-shot spinoff book nobody wanted or asked for. Cut out the crap about Spidey being hunted by SHIELD.
When you really start to think about it, the length of this whole arc is absolutely staggering considering how little actually happens in it. But wait — there’s more. Steve Wacker left us a punchline at the end of the book on the letters page.
“The debate rages pretty strongly,” he writes, referring to the debate over Spidey’s evolution — or lack thereof — as a character. “But there’s an old saying in comics,” he continues. I have to wonder how old this saying really is and how many people really say it, but you know what? Given the state of the comic book industry these days, I believe him. Steve’s old saying:
“Never give the reader what they think they want.”
Pros: A mostly tight, well-told final issue. Three solid battles with gorgeous art, good characterization, and I really liked Sable’s big moment.
Cons: A very abrupt ending that does nothing to tie up all the arc’s loose ends. Still some superfluous content that ends up being irrelevant by the end.
Overall EotE grade: D