As part of their 75th Anniversary, Marvel decided to give us an imaginary “sneak peek” into their “100th Anniversary.” Which, instead of taking place 100 years after Timely Comics #1 from 1939, takes place 100 years after the début of Fantastic Four #1 from 1961. If that’s not confusing enough for you, this particular comic is the “final chapter” from an imaginary story arc that’s been going on for “several issues” of The Amazing Spider-Man, of which we don’t actually know what the “official number” of the issue is. Anyways, since this comic is “from the future,” I guess it’s only fair if I warn you there are “spoilers,” right?
“Great Power, Part 8 of 8”
WRITER: Sean Ryan
ARTIST: In-Hyuk Lee
LETTERER:VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER: In-Hyuk Lee
VARIANT COVER: Alexander Lozano
EDITOR: Jake Thomas
SENIOR EDITOR: Nick Lowe
THE STORY: A recap page informs us that Spidey has been wearing a “techno-symbiote suit,” which allows a person “to control nearly any machine on the planet.” After getting into a fight with Eddie Brock, who wanted the suit back for himself, both Peter and Eddie agreed it should be destroyed. However, the Kingpin abducts both of them and, as the story begins, Eddie has been shot and killed. The Kingpin reveals that he funded the creation of the techno-symbiote suit, and, given its power and the money he’s invested, he couldn’t allow for either Peter or Eddie to get rid of it. The techno-symbiote then bonds to Kingpin and he punches Peter out of Fisk Tower, where he collides with an holographic billboard showing Mary Jane. Kingpin emerges from the billboard, making a crack about how MJ is just “always a bit out of [Peter’s] reach,” and revels in the power of the techno-symbiote suit. Peter says the suit is “too much power for anyone,” but of course, the Kingpin disagrees, flinging Peter to the street below.
Peter brakes his fall when he lands on a self-driving car, and he asks its passenger to tell him where north is, having forgotten how to find his way through New York due to being so accustomed to the techno-symbiote’s built-in GPS. Kingpin attacks Peter again, controlling and exploding the cars, and hurls him several blocks. Peter, seeing a street sign, figures out which way he needs to go, and sprints at high-speed, fleeing from more of Kingpin’s remotely controlled vehicles, including an armed helicopter. At last, Peter arrives at some woods outside of New York, a builds himself a fire to make himself a torch. Kingpin arrives, and he and Peter charge each other. Peter manages to stab Kingpin with the torch, causing the techno-symbiote to separate from its host. Peter pulls an unconscious Kingpin free and lets the techno-symbiote burn. Later, Peter returns to the house at Forest Hills, where we see that he has been packing away Aunt May’s belongings in boxes and, based on his narration, it’s implied that Aunt May has died in a “previous issue.” Peter cleans himself of his wounds, he thinks how he lost himself inside the power, and that he “lost sight of what’s important.” But he also remembers that Aunt May taught him “nothing is unfixable” and, as Peter sews himself a new red and blue Spider-Man costume, he vows never to “forget it again.”
THOUGHTS: It appears the overall theme Marvel is going for with these “100th Anniversary” one-shots is a variation on the adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” In that regard, 100th Anniversary: Spider-Man #1 is successful in encapsulating this idea; unfortunately, it’s also this very concept which, among other things, makes this issue all the worse.
With the exception the futuristic technology, Sean Ryan writes his “final chapter” of his “eight-part story” as though it could have taken place at almost any point (for me, it felt as though I were reading a comic from the early 1990’s, in part because the cover uses the Spider-Man logo from during the 1990s and early 2000s), clearly to prove that Spider-Man and his core themes are “timeless,” whether it be 2014 or 2061. But by doing so, he also raises the question as to the necessity of even setting this story some 50-odd years from now. Unlike 100th Anniversary: Fantastic Four #1, which truly created the illusion that several years have passed with all sorts of untold adventures in-between and without sacrificing the same theme of the mutability of time, this comic reads as if could take place sometime within the next few years. Peter still looks to be in his late-twenties, still separated from Mary Jane, and still making the same mistakes he, by his own admission, he should have already learned a long time ago.
If the sole reason for setting this comic in the future is make its central plot-device work, that the Kingpin, with the techno-symbiote, can control machines and pop out of video screens because “everything is connected,” we’ve seen plenty of comics set in contemporary times which use an almost identical plot-device. After all, didn’t Doctor Octopus, with his mini-octopots, do something similar that the techno-symbiote appears to be capable of in Amazing Spider-Man #600? So again, why even bother setting this comic “several years in the future” if you’re not only going to make it seem that barely any time has passed for Peter Parker and his supporting characters, but also show that this story really didn’t need to take place several years in the future to make it work?
Also, if this comic is supposed to be what Marvel imagines their comics will be like in the year 2061, then decompression appears to be alive and well. There are several panels in which there is either little dialogue or captions, or none at all. In fact, by the time you get to the half-way point of this issue, we get, aside from the occasional sound-effect, there are seven entire pages composed of almost nothing but silent panels. Not that In-Hyuk Lee’s art isn’t gorgeous to look at, with his more naturalistic style given the narrative’s darker tone. And in truth, the silent panels and their composition are extremely effective, almost cinematic, which shows that Lee knows how to tell a story using only visuals, a sign of a comic book artist with real talent. Even so, a comic book is more than just a series of nicely arranged pretty pictures. It’s also a verbal, written medium as well as a visual one, and it terms of the script for this comic, it would take about five minutes at most to read through in one sitting. That’s not a lot of content even for something which has the same page count and price tag of a regular issue.
But there is a glaring and fundamental conceptual problem with this comic, one which we see from the beginning: it’s the climax from a story we haven’t even read. Sure, to Ryan’s credit, there are enough hints and indications of what has happened in “previous chapters” for the reader to put together, and, I admit, these teases do sound quite intriguing. My own personal interpretation is that Peter, due to the grief of having lost Aunt May, succumbed to donning the techno-symbiote believing he could become a “better Spider-Man” and, in typical “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” frightened and drove away his friends and loved ones, especially Mary Jane, and, to his horror, was becoming the very menace he’s been so often accused of being. If that’s the actual “back-story” for this comic, it has the ingredients for an engrossing “What Aunt May Died For Real This Time?” or “What if Spider-Man Donned the Symbiote Costume Again?” And this makes me ask a rather simple, straight-forward question:
Why only write part of the story instead of the whole thing?!
If the makers of this comic went through all the trouble in creating an imaginary “part 8 of 8,” then it stands to reason they also came up with a basic outline for all “eight parts.” But if that’s the case, doesn’t it make far more sense to go ahead and write-up the entire story? So what if you “ruin” the illusion that this is a “single issue from 2061” and that it’s from part of a “crossover event?” By setting this comic during the “last chapter” in which there have been several other developments we haven’t actually seen take place, there is no emotional connection to any of these characters or events in this comic. Again, we can only assume what has happened to Peter in this story because we have no real context of how he arrived at this point other than a recap page and whatever narrative exists in Ryan’s head. As a result, crucial storytelling elements like empathy, suspense—everything that would make readers want to actually read and appreciate a story—are nonexistent. It’s like showing up to a movie for only the last ten to fifteen minutes, or reading the last chapters of a novel without reading the beginning or middle. You don’t really care what’s happening because you don’t really know what’s happening. And if you don’t really know what’s happening, if you’re not being given the complete story, then the so-called “story” is a complete waste of time.
100th Anniversary: Spider-Man #1 has, at its heart, a neat and clever hook inviting all sorts of possibilities and imagination that end up being completely squandered. It would have made for a nice curiosity had the idea of “what would Spider-Man be like if published in 2061?” had been explored to its full potential. Or better yet, have a genuine story with a true beginning, middle, and end instead of just the end. The only thing I really have to recommend is, again, In-Hyuk Lee’s illustrations, but otherwise, don’t even bother. If this is reflective of what Spider-Man and comics will be like 50 years from now, then the readers of the future must have really low standards.
- Based on the “recap page” telling us that Eddie Brock was the “former wearer” of the techno-symbiote suit, I suppose we’re meant to assume it’s the original Venom symbiote outfitted with cybernetic components. And yet, with Kingpin describing it as a symbiote and Peter realizing Kingpin created it, this would suggest the techno-symbiote is not the original Venom symbiote but another “offspring” like Carnage, Toxin, or Anti-Venom. Which makes me wonder in this imaginary future what happened to Flash Thompson, and whether he’s still Venom, and if Eddie Brock upon getting the techno-symbiote called himself Venom despite not actually wearing the original Venom symbiote? And how did the Kingpin even lose the techno-symbiote? Then again, I guess I should be asking, “Who cares?”
- And why is Peter yelling an anguished, Darth Vader style “No!” over Eddie Brock’s death. Did they suddenly become best buddies over the next few years, despite being told by the recap page that they were fighting each other over the techno-symbiote suit and thus suggesting they were still enemies? Sure, Peter doesn’t want any one to die on his watch, but, to paraphrase Johnny Depp as Edward P. Wood Jr., he wouldn’t be that upset over Brock’s death, would he?
- So, in spite of whatever fashion changes might occur over the next several decades, Wilson Fisk is still dressing like Syndey Greenstreet from The Maltese Falcon. Granted, I don’t expect him to be wearing something right out of The Fifth Element or something, but it’s funny that the Kingpin is shown wearing the same suit from the 1960s when, over the years, we’ve seen comics where his clothing is more modern and his iconography hasn’t been lost. Oh, right! It’s all about the “timelessness” of comics.
- Wouldn’t it be odd if this one-shot was actually spoiling upcoming events in Amazing Spider-Man? Because if so, we’ve just been told that Eddie Brock becomes Venom, Mary Jane went back to modeling, that she (maybe) broke up with Pedro “Ollie” Olivera and (maybe) got back together with Peter only to break up with him again, that Aunt May re-bought her and Uncle Ben’s house at Forest Hills, and that Peter moved back in and inherited the place again after May died for real. I’m surprised this issue didn’t also “reveal” that, at some point, Peter lost Parker Industries and was forced to take pictures for Jonah and The Daily Bugle again.
- Speaking of continuity, is this issue supposed to be taking place around the same as 100th Anniversary: Fantastic Four #1. Because in that story, it’s believed that Johnny Storm, along with Reed Richards, Doctor Doom, and Franklin Richards have been dead for the past 15 years, and that enough time has passed for Reed and Susan Richards to be grandparents and Valeria married to a “Banner” with kids of her own. So how come Peter still looks like he’s 28 years old? Or is he supposed to be in his late thirties going on forty? And is that Human Torch depicted on the guy’s t-shirt Johnny Storm or the original Human Torch, Jim Hammond?
- If cars in future are capable of driving themselves, allowing you to watch your favorite sports and shows on TV while driving, does this mean that driver’s licenses will no longer exist in the future as well? Not to mention that, if cars can be programmed to take you anywhere you tell them to go, that also means New York City’s taxi cab services—a staple of the city—have become obsolete.
- Gee, Pete…I realize your plan was to lure the Kingpin out of the city and away from any technology he could manipulate and use against you, and that you would build yourself a fire to use as a weapon, but…rubbing two sticks together? You couldn’t just pick up or ask that guy wearing the Human Torch t-shirt for a booklet of matches or a cigarette lighter? Then again, I suppose this was all meant to symbolize a conflict between man and machine, or that nature is superior to man’s technological advancements. Or, because you were striped down and running around in your underwear all issue due to no longer wearing the techno-symbiote suit or having any web-shooters, you building a fire with primitive methods is a character-defining moment showing us your resourcefulness after being when being stripped of all your gadgets or something. Either that or we just now learned that, once upon a time, you used to be in the Boy Scouts.
- So what was the deal with the sudden flash of lightning when Peter and Kingpin charge each other? After all, there’s no indications of there being an incoming storm on the horizon in the since we see there’s a full moon in previous pages, and it doesn’t even so much as rain after that single lightning bolt. Has climate change made weather patterns that erratic, brief, and random in the future?