Comic Book Review: What a non-Spidey Reader thinks of Amazing Spider-Man #700

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by Howard Decker @HowardTheDeck on December 27, 2012

in Geeky

Before we get started, a couple of confessions:

 

Confession #1

I’ve never reviewed a comic.

I’ve reviewed a few toys now, but as much as I enjoy reading and collecting comic books, I’ve always been afraid that if I commit to reviewing them, reading them could start to feel like work.

If you know me, you know I’m not about work.

Confession #2

I know nothing about the comic book industry.

I’m familiar with plenty of comic book story arcs and characters, but I know relatively nothing about the companies and creators that are behind the books I’ve loved ever since I plucked issue #29 of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero off of a grocery store spindle in 1984.

As an 8 year-old kid, I loved the dialogue and was captivated by the art- but I would rarely commit to memory the name of the writer or the artist.

Perhaps this is normal for an 8 year-old, but it’s not the norm for adult comic fans.

Find me a run-of-the-mill Spider-Man comic book fan, and they could probably tell you who the current Spidey writers and artists are, which creative team was behind their personal favorite run on the character, and run down the behind-the-scenes happenings that brought us to the character’s current state.

I can’t do that. It was only recently that I started taking note of these things as they pertain to the books I read. That’s weird, right? I know it is. I was the same way with movies until only about 5 years ago. I had no idea who had written or directed most of my favorite movies up to that point (besides the obvious- Lucas, Spielberg, etc.).

I realize that’s weird. I understand that to some of you that will make me seem like an ingrateful, unsavory fellow who selfishly consumes things with no appreciation for the creators who worked so hard to produce them.

Trust me when I say I do appreciate them, it just took me longer than it should have to realize it.

Why did I begin my review of Amazing Spider-Man #700 with these confessions?

Because I have no idea how we got to this point.

Was there a creative team shake up? Is ASM ending as part of the Marvel Now! initiative? This is the last issue, right? See what I mean? I know nothing. I just dutifully report to my LCS every Wednesday, cash in hand and handsy 3 year-old in tow, and buy books I like. I go home, and after everyone’s asleep I read them. I never read about creative team shake ups, corporate reorganizations, or long-term company plans. I just buy books and read them.

So here I am, on Christmas vacation with my lovely wife and handsy son, 800 miles from home. They fell asleep, and I read a comic book. But ASM 700 wasn’t just any comic book. ASM 700 was an event. I don’t read Spider-Man but the marketing genius at Marvel piqued my interest weeks ago, and in anticipation I picked up issue #699. The final panels sealed the deal- I was pumped for #700.

I paid a visit to an old and beloved South Carolina LCS that I had to say goodbye to years ago with our move to New York. Its warm embrace surrounded me as I quickly spotted ASM 700 on the top left corner of the beautifully manicured Marvel racks. (Don’t worry Mike- it was a one time thing, she meant nothing to me, and I’ll be back home next Wednesday. We were on a break!)

I was on Twitter just enough early in the day on Wednesday to see a lot of ASM 700 talk. I saw enough to know that if I wanted to avoid spoilers, I’d best avoid Twitter. Still, all the talk reinforced the feeling: this was an event. Amazing Spider-Man #700 was the issue everyone was talking about.

From my point of view, this has to be a success for Marvel. Take me for example: I’m not a Spidey reader, but I was excited about it, I bought it, and I’m talking about it.

So let’s talk about it. To make a long story short (too late), I loved it. Dan Slott has turned me into a fan with just one issue. The art was perfect too.

One thing Marvel does really well with all of their books is give you a blurb on page one that gets you up to speed on where the story left off. I love this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a book without this feature and had to set it down to go find the previous issue for a reminder of how it left off. It’s been a month, people! I’m not Walter Bishop for Pete’s sake- give me a blurb!

After page one of ASM 700, you’re caught up. You don’t need Cliffs Notes on 699 issues. You know who Doc Ock is. He’s got Peter Parker in a compromising position. We’ve reached the climax, now it’s time for the resolution. One hundred and four pages of sweet, sweet resolution. There were so many ways this book could have “taken the easy way out” but it definitely does not. The ending gave me a ‘whoa, wait a minute..’ as opposed to a ‘yep, saw that coming’.

I promised to keep this review spoiler-free, so I won’t highlight any plot points. Just know three things:

  1. that I couldn’t put this book down,
  2. it had me wondering why I’d never been a Spidey reader before,
  3. and it recruited me into the legion of Spider-Man faithful who are looking forward to Superior Spider-Man in January.

 

Ok, SPOILER ALERT.

I love it, but I know the new direction will alienate some long-time Spidey fans who gravitated to and cherished the ‘trying to balance life and heroics’ teen/young adult aspect of Peter Parker. The new Spider-Man seems to be advertised as a web-slinging super-scientist; a great mind along the lines of Bruce Banner, Tony Stark and Reed Richards. What makes those guys cool is that their genius is unrivaled- but it won’t be if Marvel continues to bolster the brain cred of other major characters. That said, Spider-Man always seemed like the ‘odd Avenger out’ during the super team-up crossover events. He was good for an upside-down conference room one-liner during game-planning panels, but he rarely had much to do with the major battles and game-changing moments, even when the Marvel U’s biggest threat was his own arch-enemy, Norman Osborn. Superior Spider-Man will certainly have much more to offer the team in terms of out-smarting whatever galaxy-threatening transgressor we run up against next.

To those who blame Dan Slott for ‘killing Peter Parker’: just remember- George Lucas killed Darth Vader. We’ve still found ways to love the hell out of that character for 30 years since. Sometimes iconic characters die. It doesn’t mean you can’t love them anymore.

As I said, I’m on board with it. I’m just thinking about the big picture, which I am excited about. The true testament to Spider-Man’s power: I’m already worried about the direction of the character, and I’ve only been a fan for one issue.

Overall: A+

  • http://aeiouwhy.blogspot.com Dex (@Dex1138)

    I\’ve been reading almost anything with Avengers or X- in the title since the \”Heroic Age\” and I couldn\’t tell you who any of the artists or writers were/are. The only time I pay attention to either is when they suck, not when I like it.

    • http://underscoopfire.com Howie Decker

      Ya know, it makes me feel bad not taking the time to ‘get to know’ the creators, but you’re right. A lot of times the only reason a creator achieves notoriety is because people want to vilify them.

  • http://www.shezcrafti.com shezcrafti

    You did a good job with this, Howie. And it sounds like we\’re on the same level when it comes to comics. I love comics, but I\’m not obsessed with knowing everything about the industry or the people who make them. For me it comes down to what stories and characters I enjoy. If I don\’t like the direction a comic is going, I won\’t continue to buy or read it. My only criteria is how much I like something.

    • http://underscoopfire.com Howie Decker

      I swear, people only keep tabs on creators so they know where to sling their hate as soon as something isn’t to their satisfaction.

      I shouldn’t say that, I follow Scott Snyder, one of my favorite comic writers, and I do see a lot of positive sentiment toward his work. (that’s probably because it’s unbelievably awesome, but still..)

  • http://www.williambrucewest.com Will

    Great review! It\’s refreshing to A)read a review that\’s not the \”crazed fanboy\” perspective and B) read a positive take on the whole thing. I made my feelings knownon Twitter: I dont hate this new direction, and im curious to see where it goes. I\’m just so damn tired of all this \”event\” stuff. I feel jaded whenever there\’s a death/final issue in comics, but I\’m definitely curious to see where this goes.

    • http://underscoopfire.com Howie Decker

      It’s funny, I’ve never felt compelled to review a comic book but when I finished that one there was so much that I wanted to say. Then after reading that most of the general feedback on it was negative, I had to get to writing. I think if they wanted to try to generate interest among non-Spidey readers they succeeded, at least once!

  • Paul G.

    This was a nice read, are you thinking of reviewing comics regularly? What current titles do you read, if you don’t mind me asking?

    • http://underscoopfire.com Howie Decker

      Sure! Still not leaning toward regular comic reviews, but definitely on occasion. A creator just sent me two books to review, and I’m working on getting an interview with him done as well!

      I read Deadpool, American Vampire, Aquaman, Batman, Locke & Key, Avengers Assemble, Justice League, Indestructible Hulk, Green Lantern, Masters of the Universe- and I know I’m forgetting something..

      I used to read a lot more (Superman, Wolverine, Flash) but the comic budget shrinks as the family grows!

  • James

    I like the confessions. It really sets the tone for the review, and is inclusive to others who don’t read spider-man or follow the comic industry closely.

    • http://underscoopfire.com Howie Decker

      Thanks James! Did you or are you planning to read it?

  • Mike R

    Thanks for the shout out mid article… I know you only have flings with the other LCSs…

    I too am not an avid Spider-Fan. I like him when he’s written by the right guys, and Slott is more hit than miss I guess you’d say. He’s done some really interesting things with ASM, and this is just another one of those try new things.

    I am one of those guys that pays attention to the creators, even before it became part of my job to do so. And not to vilify, but usually to follow them to other works. But the comics field is one that is love/hate with fans and creators. This situation is no different in that regard, as I can testify that there are at least a couple of guys that are dropping the book until Marvel ‘fixes’ this.

    And that’s another case of the love/hate thing that is so prevalent in comics and certain movie franchises. People get so involved with and attached to characters and stories that they have such hard reactions to events like this. By the same token, the same guys that are up in arms about this event are the same ones that a few months ago could be heard complaining about the wall crawler being boring and they’ve read all this stuff before. It’s that double edged sword when you have an iconic character and decide to do something new or at least different with him.

    I can say this, and I remember it being my gut reaction reading it a few days early (there are a perk here and there to owning a comic shop): “Man are there going to be a number of guys who hate this. I hope they pay attention enough of the book to see that Slott left himself at least 2-3 outs to fix this.”
    And that’s the crux of this brouhaha… Marvel learned a long time ago (Spider-Clone anyone?) that they can’t paint themselves into a corner. They will try new and daring things, but they have an opt out clause built in. They didn’t do this willy nilly. They knew that this was #700 and his 50th Anniversary. They planned a big eye popping event, that is probably arced out a certain length(12-24 issues is my off hand guess). It certainly won’t go longer than Spring 2014. Why? ASM 2 is in theaters May 2014, and you can bet Parker will be back in suit before that. Just like Steve Rogers was back behind the shield before Captain America hit theaters in 2011.

    So strap in gentle readers, it will be a bumpy ride getting to know the person that is now Superior Spider-Man, but my guess is it might just get interesting now and again. He’s already going to be fighting Daredevil in DD # 22…

    • http://underscoopfire.com Howie Decker

      Mike – I love your comment. So much insight there- and things I hadn’t thought about. You’re right, Parker coming back is inevitable, and anyone who reads comics enough to bitch about comics should know that. We’ve almost reached a point where it’s less interesting to see how they kill off iconic characters and more interesting to see how they bring them back, since you know it’s coming. I will definitely be picking up Superior to see where it goes, and I for one am not so self-righteous that I care if Ock sleeps with all of Pete’s ex-girlfriends. It’s just gotta feel good to get all that metal off his back :)

  • http://pushtoregen.com Jay

    Keep the reviews coming, Howie. Too often comic reviews are cynical and based solely on someones opinion of a writer or artist – I know I’m guilty of it when I review an Alan Moore piece, it’s almost always negative, because I find him such a detestable stain on the industry.

    But your review was a breath of fresh air – I’ve said it before, you’ve got a talent for writing and wordcraft. Please keep these coming!

    • http://underscoopfire.com Howie Decker

      Thanks Jay! Yeah there are a few artists out there that seem to be crowd favorites that I have never gotten, but besides that I am pretty easy to please as a comic reader, and I’ve been reading for the better part of 28 years. Thanks again for the kind words- sometimes it’s tough to motivate to put thoughts into words, but positive feedback is the best fuel I can get!

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