After two issues of sleepy storytelling, the Smythe arc ends with extremely life-altering consequences! Am I lying? YES! But learn how, now! “No Escape Part Three: The Slayers and the Slain”
Story by: Dan Slott
Written by: Christos Gage
Illustrated by: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inked by: John Dell & Terry Pallot
Colored by: Antonio Fabela
Lettered by: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
THE PLOT: After issues of bravado and exposition, Spider-Man takes on Slott head on and seeks to finish him once and for all. The Lizard intervenes an attack on Jameson, proving to everyone that Curt Connors is the real persona. SpOck kills Smythe in cold blood, explaining it to be the most obvious way to save the hostages. As a result, all of the villain upgrades disappear.
LONG STORY SHORT: Smythe’s final revenge involves his technology using his dead body to launch an attack on Spider-Man, taking out one of Ock’s former guards. Smythe tries to switch brains with Peterpus (because apparently it’s that simple), but the cranial shielding Ock had from ASM#700 is still installed. Ock tells the dying scientist that he already pulled that stunt on the real Spider-Man, sending Smythe to Hell with the information that he wasn’t even battling his true enemy the entire time. Later, SpOck blackmails Jameson into letting him keep the raft to turn into his new headquarters, Spider-Island II.
MY THOUGHTS: Like Chris, I feel a temptation to heap more praise upon this issue that I probably should considering how it had so much more happen than the previous chapters did. In this issue we see Smythe die, Jonah’s evil finally being acknowledged, “Spider-Island II” announced, and the Lizard revealed to be Curt Connors in his mind. It was the kind of tight, solid development that you want in every issue. Storytelling doesn’t necessarily allow for that, but I do still think that we didn’t need two weeks of filler to get to the good stuff.
Should Camuncoli be blamed? He’s done a good job, but I can’t help but feel that if we had a more dynamic artist, general interest in this story would have been earned. This really was boring for 2/3rds of the arc, but let’s not dwell on the negative past.
GOOD IDEA: Killing off Smythe. Don’t get me wrong, I love the character and he is awesome…in the 1994 animated series. The Smythe in the comics was never a very memorable villain aside from bringing back a familiar yet potentially overrated Spider-Man antagonist concept with the Spider Slayers. I just never buy Smythe as a villain enough, and this story really made it hard to care about him. The line at the start of #12 has him say he was born to kill Spider-Man. Does he really hate the character that much? Maybe, but he appears so infrequently that we don’t feel that kind of hate. With Venom, we do. With the Goblins we do. But Smythe? Ehh…and plus, in this issue he tells Spiderpus he just wants to leave and not fight him. Hooray for consistency. His death in this story was cathartic in that I kept wanting him to shut up, but mainly because it keeps Ock as a consistent character. At no point have I ever been given the sense that Ock feels any sort of weight in killing villains, and this story almost pulled out the idea that he did. It worked out by the end, but either way Smythe’s gone and we never have to hear that silly name “Spider-Slayer” anymore…until he returns.
BAD IDEA: As laudable of an action to kill off Smythe as it is, the fact that Ock justifies it with a “Well of course I KNEW! that the only way to save them was to kill you!” That was cheap and robs us of the potential drama in the public realizing that Spider-Man would much rather kill people than save people, which is what the cliffhanger in the last issue did. It’s a small thing, but it’s Slott either going back on what he put in the story or fooling the audience into thinking that interesting consequences will result from Ock’s actions.
GOOD IDEA: Peterpus blackmailing Jameson for the Raft was a good scene. It broke the almost friendly relationship the two had since the title started and confronted Jonah’s corruption. The line Ock gives about Spider-Man never surviving public scrutiny before was delicious.
BAD IDEA: Conversely, is Jameson really the type of person who will allow himself to be blackmailed? If you’ve read the original Hobgoblin saga, the answer is a blatant “NO”. He immediately came forth with his complicity in creating the Scorpion the moment he was confronted with it, even after Spidey said it was unnecessary. So why would he let it fly here? Especially from Spider-Man of all people?
I’m really wondering about Slott’s mindset with Jameson in this run. Is he supposed to be corrupted due to the power of being Mayor? Or is Slott just writing him like it’s the Ditko era again? There’s even an echo of ASM#20 at the top panel with Jameson wanting to look hard and battle-ready for the cameras. This is just puzzling, as he was dead serious about finishing off Smythe less than an hour ago. Now he wants to lie about it an gloat? Look, J. Jonah Jameson can be morally unscrupulous, even misguided. But he has long since shed any remnants of his outright antagonistic villainy that he started out with in 1963. Slott just continues to make Jameson look bad in a way that never feels right. I don’t mind the idea of Jameson being shady, but this feels like it’s going about it all wrong. The fact that Jameson balks at the notion of the blackmail proves that he knows he’s in the wrong, when in the last two issues he acted as though he had total moral authority. Now he’s retreating back like a coward. Slott’s all but stripped him of any redeemable qualities by this point, and I honestly don’t know why. It just doesn’t gel with any Jameson appearance of the past 45 years.
I don’t mind the idea of Spider-Island II, but I don’t love it either. It feels like Slott writing in a crazy notion for an action figure or something, it’s very wacky. Perhaps it will lead to Ock just being Spider-Man 24/7 and have a place to sleep away from his apartment.
This issue is very clearly better than the story as a whole, and yet it’s still not perfect. Peterpus had some choice moments in this issue, but a lot of things don’t feel thought out. I don’t want to be a copycat, but Chris’ grade seems appropriate here.