This review will not spoil the punchline, as I think the internet has already seen ample discussion of it, so try to avoid doing so in the comments as well. Instead I’m going to focus on the delivery and the issue itself.
The Amazing Spider-Man #698
Words by Dan Slott
Art by Richard Elson
Colors by Antonio Fabela
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
We’ve known for a long time that this was supposed to be the start of something big. And in a sense, it certainly is. But I’m not at all convinced this isn’t heading for the kind of overhyped, overblown and overpriced mess that Slott’s last major Spider “events” have turned into. This issue itself has done nothing to inspire confidence. Short of some nice art and an amusing scene, I found it was mostly lacking any kind of content that would have justified my picking it up. Instead, as has happened many times before with Slott’s biggest stories, most of what’s contained here is filler that’s designed not to tell a story but simply to provide setup to one big revelation that only lasts a few pages. An hour of foreplay for thirty seconds of action.
As the issue begins, Peter Parker is in a good mood. Slott has a fondness for setting up issues where something is going to go wrong in ways that remind me of Spider-Man 3 Pete walking along to “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” You can imagine that big, “slap my mouth please” Toby Maguire smile on his face as he intros with “Today is going to be the best day ever!”
From there, things meander from scene to scene without any clear indication of where it’s all going except that there is something slightly off about Peter. He stops a super villain robbery but doesn’t realize it’s just an ordinary guy bluffing powers, in what I’ll readily confess is a highly amusing encounter and probably the best part of the issue (yes, better than the big reveal.) “Stay where you are! Or I, Destructor, will fry you where you stand!” the villain announces, to which Spidey replies, “My God. Who talks like that?” It’s at least good to know Slott can poke fun at his habit of using 60s super villain-speak.
Pete seems to momentarily forget later that his latest scar came from his recent Hobgoblin battle. He ponders why he hasn’t gotten back with MJ and resolves to do so. He’s fixated on it in a way that’s totally incongruous with his totally platonic attitude towards her over the past few years, to the point that he’s even trying to bring it up while the two of them are watching Aunt May take her first steps with a cane after her recent injury. Needless to say, Slott wants us to see that something’s different about Peter, and he’s building up to letting us in on what it is. The problem is that in the meantime it’s just page after page of Peter internally talking to himself about how great he is. It gets dull pretty fast, and I found myself annoyed that I was reading what is essentially an entirely plotless issue just to get to the punchline.
The issue finally finds its legs when Peter gets an emergency call from the Avengers and goes to see what’s up. On board the Raft he comes face to face with the truth about what is happening to him, and it’s a tough scene to read. This part of the book is pretty well done, as it lets the impact slowly set in. You can almost feel what Peter must be feeling when he starts to realize what’s happened, and I’m sure that Slott will be getting the huge reaction out of readers that he’s obviously been looking for.
But it’s one thing to write a clever twist, and it’s something else entirely to write a great story. Slott’s got the twist, but so far he’s doing what it’s always seemed to me he does with his big ideas. He came up with something he wanted to do, and then he bent and twisted the world of Spider-Man into the shape of a story to fit around it, rather than letting a story grow from it organically. Amazing #698, despite being controversial, is no One More Day — yet it does have one other thing in common with that story. It will be remembered not for the story it told, but for the action it took. In my mind that’s not a good thing for any book.
But there is potential here. One thing that the issue has done successfully is set up a great deal of new, smaller questions. Despite that I’m not excited, I can’t deny I’m curious, and I’m crossing my fingers that Slott is going to use this setup to tell a story worthy of the greatest superhero on earth. He’s been dragged through the mud an awful lot in recent years, but I’m still waiting for the day when all that changes. Cautiously hopeful.
Pros: I liked the humorous Destructor scene, and even though I’m not buying into the hype this issue did successfully invest me in knowing what comes next by dangling many tantalizing questions in the reader’s face. I found Elson’s artwork pretty enjoyable, too.
Cons: For the most part, this just meanders through extremely well-covered territory in Peter’s life, with periodic hints that something is off about him all that exists to give the reader any motive to keep going. The big secret at the end is competently executed but it’s disappointing that an entire issue of mostly filler had to come out just for the sake of these few pages.