Before we get started, a couple of confessions:
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.
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:
- that I couldn’t put this book down,
- it had me wondering why I’d never been a Spidey reader before,
- 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.