“Well, if Peter isn’t going to right the ship, maybe there’s something I can do!”
Hail HYDRA, true believers! Tonight, Spider-Man teaches us that you can indeed have your twist ruined by the main title that you’re tying in to!
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #30
“Secret Empire, Pt 2: Master Planning”
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Stuart Immonen
Inks: Wade von Grawbadger
Colors: Marte Gracia
Editors: Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis
Taking place right after the end of Secret Empire’s FCBD issue, Spidey and the rest of the remaining heroes have been wasted by Cap and HYDRA in DC. Taking charge, Spidey has Quicksilver kick up cover while he instructs the younger heroes to make a run for it, retreating back to his plane with Mockingbird. The two part ways, Peter to check up on his company and Bobbi to gather what’s left of the heroes into an organized resistance, but not before promising to go out after the crisis is over. (If anybody read Secret Empire #5 before reading this, OMD-Peter has really bad taste in ladies and you’re probably laughing at him right now. I say this because I fill this qualifier checklist.)
Meanwhile, in San Fran, Beast allows Ock and his HYDRA troops to take whatever they need from Horizon University, on the condition that they leave as soon as they finish. (Boy, first siding with the Inhumans over a mutant-killing fart cloud and letting Marvel’s self-described Nazis loot San Fran corporations? Boy, Beast is the single greatest traitor in history.) However, Ock questions why Peter isn’t making his stand here, and ponders where he would be instead.
Turns out that Peter’s actually in Shanghai, and fails to rally most of his employees, who walk away given that HYDRA has occupied America, and Parker Industries is an American company. (I don’t think that’s how the corporate-political ties work.) After meeting Lia(e)n Tang’s mother, (For no other reason than…. Eff it, why not?) Peter begins preparing for Ock to get there. (Wait… as part of HYDRA’s cabal, isn’t Ock violating sovereign borders and invading China?)
As Peter begins ordering his employees to destroy their research if they can’t stop Ock, say his name and he appears! (And quite the unexpected entrance at that! He just randomly Nightcrawlered in! What else can he do?) Spidey suits up, and has Lia(e)n suit up herself and pilot the Spider-vehicle fleet to surround Ock! (Here she comes, here comes Spider-Racer, she’s a demon on wheels! Coming this fall in her own 5-issue ongoing as part of Marvel Legacy!) Ock, however, planned for this (But couldn’t guess Peter wouldn’t be in San Fran? SpOck’s only able to predict Peter when master writer Dan Slott deems it convenient for the plot, I suppose.) and hijacks the Spider-fleet, turning them on Peter.
I’m convinced that Slott just keeps Christos Gage in a coma, and only wakes him when he needs to write a good arc.
That’s not to say that Slott himself isn’t a competent writer. Far from it. When it comes to ideas, they’re actually pretty solid ones. What fails for most stories that he writes post-Superior is his execution of these ideas. (And even then, his execution of his ideas in the later stages of Superior were pretty bad, with Ock talking like a friggin’ cartoon character and all the supporting characters OD’ing on stupid pills) But now, it feels like all the little pieces of Slott’s story are just now coming together to make something worth reading and the end of a 10+ year saga. I just wish we didn’t have to wade through so much garbage to get.
Art: Stuart Immonen. Once again, rocking it. Not much I can say without beating the horse to death and into the afterlife.
I want to give Slott as much credit as I can here. But it feels like a challenge, especially given the time-tested method of “I’ll haul Christos Gage onboard so that the Crawlspacers bump it up a letter grade” is once again applied. But, I’ll give him credit that the story beats (The one thing I know he does whenever Gage helps him write these arcs) have improved significantly, and pass on organically from one location/event to another. It also helps that, for the first time in a very long time, Peter is written as a competent hero, and quick to adapt in situations where things have gone wrong. It’s been a while, and I appreciate Slott using an event as a way to express Peter’s lesser-seen traits and apply them in a leadership role. (Especially since he plays such a bit role Waid’s Avengers ongoing.)
It’s also fun to see him going full-ham with Otto and just letting loose. Every time he writes Ock it’s fun, and never dull. It’s kind of like watching a movie like The Room, or a car crash: it shouldn’t be this interesting to watch, but you’re so hypnotized by what you’re looking at that you can’t go away. It’s recently come to my enlightenment that Slott has always played Ock like a cartoon character, but under a poorly-veiled attempt at serious dialogue
with him. Otto’s dialogue in Superior never really worked because he should have been trying to impersonate Peter. If he had been using dialogue similar to what Peter was using, but had his usual Ock-hamminess going on in his caption boxes, that would have made sense and been funny. Because Slott’s Otto always worked best in stories like Ends of the Earth, where he was allowed to express himself because he was permitted to act like that, rather than be forced to wear another person’s skin and just have that dialogue read awkwardly from Peter Parker. Now that we’re past that story, it makes more sense because Otto isn’t trying to be Peter anymore; he’s allowed to be Doctor Octopus, and as much of a pet character Otto is to the writer, Slott at least gets him.
After a very long absence, the Shanghai PI crew makes a comeback in a main story, and frankly, I don’t remember a single thing about them. It’s been so long since we saw them that it’s pointless to reintroduce them, especially Lia(e)n. Not because she should be in prison (which is also a valid argument) but more because this issue highlights how absolutely pointless she was in the… three, four issues she made an appearance in? She has left such little impact that when she makes her little speech, it means very little to me, since she was introduced as Peter’s girlfriend, we’re never told why they’re dating, and then she tried to kill him. That’s all she was; a plot device for a single arc that simply served as a breather for the Zodiac arc. And when she takes the wheel, I felt… wait for it… nothing.
And finally, we get the most controversial part of the issue, at least for me. The culmination of Peter and Bobbi’s quasi-romance.
I say “quasi” because very little of their relationship has been truly developed between the within the multiple appearances they’ve shared during Volume 4 of ASM. There’s some light flirting between them at times, but nothing that would indicate a serious romantic interest between them. Still, I’m willing to let this come into play, especially knowing what happened in Secret Empire #5, and with the knowledge that this will inevitably come to a screeching halt come either Issue #32 or Legacy.
Either way, Slott has paved yet another hitter on the road he’s been paving since… I dunno, Big Time? But it’s been a treat to see what editorial events force Slott to do, proving my theory that once he’s put in a box with a handful to work with, he actually makes good content, but has to face the consequences of his less-than-satisfactory issues that drags him down.
Final Grade: B+