Open Mike Night: Amazing Spider-Man #700

Maillaro: Welcome to the inaugural Open Mike Night! Today we tackle the finale of Amazing Spider-Man with its 700th issue.

Amazing Spider-Man #700

Dying Wish: Suicide Run
Written by: Dan Slott
Pencilled by: Humberto Ramos
Inked by: Victor Olazaba
Colored by:Edgar Delgado
Lettered by:VC’s Chris Eliopoulos

Written by: J.M. DeMatteis
Pencilled by: Guiseppe Camuncoli
Inked by: Sal Buscema
Colored by:Antonio Fabela
Lettered by:VC’s Chris Eliopoulos

Date Night: A Black Cat Storybook Adventure
Written by: Jen Van Meter
Pencilled by: Stephanie Buscema
Lettered by:VC’s Chris Eliopoulos

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $7.99

Maillaro: Hopefully, I can convince SeƱor Weaver to do Open Mike Night more regularly! Just a quick intro about who we are.

I’m Mike “Skitch” Maillaro, a regular contributor to Comics Nexus. The gentleman to my left is Mike “Havok3595” Weaver. We’ve been friends for like 8 years now, and comics has always been at the heart of that friendship. We first got to know each other when that madman talked about how badly Peter David portrayed women on X-Factor back during his first run. Something about this costume really seemed to annoy Weaver:

For the past six years, Havy (as I affectionately call him) has been my co-conspirator on a series of role playing games based on the X-Men.

Weaver: Thanks for having me. As stated, I’m Mike Weaver. I’ve been into comics since the 1970’s, and I’ve seen a few internets split in half in that time, even before there were internets. I’ve written comics articles for other sites in the past, but it’s been a long time…my last regular column talked about the Birds of Prey TV show. So I’m thrilled to be here, breaking an internet in half with my good friend Mike.

Let’s start out with the stuff that’s less controversial, the art of Amazing Spider-Man #700. I don’t really like Humberto Ramos’ style, I’m much more of a fan of the more “hyper-realistic” comic art, or the surreal stuff…cartoony was never a style that worked for me. But if it’s going to work on any book, that book is Spider-Man. One thing I noticed looking through the pages again is that Ramos has a mastery of how to set up the panels. His layout is really good, and the later pages showing classic Spider-Man moments with Octavious’ face on them…beautiful. The Master Planner tribute, in particular, caught my eye. I’m still going to put it at a 3/5, because I couldn’t always tell the important people apart in the main crowd scenes.

Maillaro: The sad part is that when I first saw his work back on Impulse or X-Nation, I really liked Ramos. His art needs to be on the right title, typically something that features young characters. But Ramos has been part of the artist rotation on Amazing Spider-Man for a while now, and I really have grown to dread when he’s on the book. Actually, this issue in particular was some of his best work on Spider-Man so far, but it still never feels like Spider-Man for me. I started reading Spider-Man during Mark Bagley’s time on the book, and I like when Spider-Man and his enemies seem grounded in reality. Sadly, it looks like Ramos will continue to be part of the artist rotation during Superior Spider-Man. Glad Slott will still be here, but I would definitely prefer someone else on the art. 3/5 seems like a fair score to me, too.

Weaver: Well, Mark Bagley is the best Spider-Man artist in my opinion, being less than Bagley is no crime. Remember when Bagley did a bit of art for Alias? That was good stuff. But I digress. I think that as an artist, you know you have to do a great job with an anniversary book, especially one like this, and while I agree that I generally don’t care for him on the title, it works here. I’m still going to give it a solid 3.

Maillaro: Yeah, Bagley drawing Jessica as Jewel was pretty awesome.

Cheap plug, his work on Fantastic Four has been pretty great too!

All right, next topic: back-up stories and extras. I loved the cover gallery. I actually got a big goofy smile on my face when I saw the covers for 350 and 351, which were basically my first real superhero comics. That said, it would have been nicer if you could have blown them up in the digital edition and take advantage of the “guided reading aspect.”

I also love that Stan Lee came back to answer the final letter page. Just something very appropriate about that. I have no delusions that this really will be the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man ever, but still it does give a nice bookend to the book’s 700 issue run.

Weaver: Stan writing the letters page was great. And I’m glad I wasn’t alone in reminiscing with the covers gallery, although the ones I was reminiscing about were…slightly lower in number. Guided reading would have been good on it, but I was fine just looking at it as one big mass. Now…the back-up stories. I really liked the alternate reality style one with the kid’s great grandfather claiming he was Spider-Man and giving an interesting rundown of how that worked out. It was fun and gave a bit of light heartedness at the end of the issue.

The Black Cat one, on the other hand…ouch, I could barely look at it. It was a pretty by the numbers silly story, and I don’t really have anything against that, but I felt that we would have been better off without it and with a slightly lower price.

Maillaro: The future story was interesting, especially how different all the heroes were. DeMatteis has long been one of my favorite writers…I still think Kraven’s Last Hunt is one of the most disturbing comic stories ever written.

It was never really clear if Martin was just making things up or a very old and senile Peter Parker. I definitely liked the story, though I did think the ending was a little corny. I would have liked it better if it was left a total mystery.

Normally, I wouldn’t have minded the Black Cat story, but DC actually did a very similar story this week as the “New Year’s” issue of Batman: Li’l Gotham. Same kind of silly art, and featuring Catwoman trying to be good…in her own special way. Since that story was done FAR better than this one, it really made this suffer in comparison.

But I do agree with the fact that I would rather have paid far less for this issue and skipped the backups. I can’t think of too many times I have ever felt that a backup justified the extra cost. And since this issue was cover priced at $8, it would have just been better to go with the main story and leave it at that. 2/5 for the extras for me.

Weaver: I agree that back-up stories are generally not worth the extra cost. However, I always liked comics that were regular priced and had a feature and a back-up…Firestorm as a Flash back-up, Whatever Happened To… as a DC Comics Presents back-up. In this case, they knew they had us as consumers, so they could charge a little extra and put in whatever. And as far as that goes, I’m going to endorse the future story, expanded Stan letter page, and covers gallery as things that I don’t really mind as “extra” material. It’s better than just charging us for Amazing Fantasy 15 again. Honestly, I think I would have preferred that they toss a few pin-ups in if they want to charge eight bucks rather than forcing that Black Cat story in. Obviously, with lead time, they wouldn’t have known Batman was doing the same thing better, so I’ll forgive them a bit. I agree on preferring a mystery on the future story, but it was strong enough that it’s forgivable to me. I’m going to go higher with a 3/5 for special features, but it’s one of those 2.6 rounded to 3 kind of threes.

Alright, I guess we’ve talked about everything but the main feature. You know what I liked about the main feature? You had Spider-Man trying to concoct a Doctor Octopus style plan but tossing in “Don’t hurt the cops” while Ock is pulling off a Spider-Man style plan but tossing in “I’m protecting you all…IN AN INESCAPABLE DEATH TRAP!” Especially great were the times that they accurately predicted what each other was going to do.

Maillaro: The parallels between Peter and Doc Ock were really well done. I was actually reminded a little of some of the classic Doctor Who episodes featuring the Master. Two foes who know each other so well, they are always one move ahead of the other.

Just to catch people up a little, way back in issue 600, it was revealed that Doc Ock was dying. Over the last hundred issues, his plans have always been in the background, culminating in him trying to destroy the world in Ends of the Earth. A few issues ago, Octavius was able to do his most vile plan yet, he swapped bodies with Peter Parker! Doctor Octopus is now Spider-Man, and Peter Parker’s mind was trapped in Doc Ock’s dying body. They sort of share each other’s memories, and Peter was able to escape from prison last issue by reaching out to Hydro Man, Trapster, and Scorpion. Peter desperately tries to get his body back, but in the end…well…

Weaver: Yeah, a few people may have heard that it doesn’t end so well for Parker, right?

Or does it?

Early in the issue, he nearly dies from the extreme incompetence of Trapster being his tech guy, which I liked because of the obvious parallel that the Avengers can pretty much run into the breakroom, yell, “I need to get a cybernetic harness attached right now!” and have like eight completely competent professionals ready to head to the lab. It’s kind of rare to see the incompetence of henchmen level villains played out in anything but a combat situation, especially the fact that Trapster is a techy villain…just a really bad one. Anyway, during that sequence we get a glimpse of what we can assume is heaven. It was interesting to see Parker’s guilt complex, always a defining feature, show up even there, where he assumes when he’s being told to leave that he’s being ushered to hell. But he’s being sent back to Earth, to try to stop Otto. And he almost gets him too…but…that doesn’t quite work out.

Now, I don’t think this is as extreme as we’re being told. Otto already had some of Peter’s memories, Peter’s last attempt very clearly injects a level of his morality into Otto as well. There’s definitely some control that the, for lack of a better term, soul of Parker has on Spider-Man. And I think it’s also telling that we get that heaven sequence early, but not at the end.

Maillaro: Another part of this comic that really caught my attention was when Otto punched Scorpion’s jaw off. You don’t often think about how much Peter Parker is holding back, but seeing what someone a little more ruthless can do in Spider-Man’s body was real eye-opening. It was especially telling that JJJ seemed to enjoy this new attitude Spider-Man put out.

Speaking of that, I was more than a little creeped out on Otto putting the moves on Mary Jane. It’s probably better not to think too much about the morality of those sequences. Though I did think it was great that at one point he called her “woman!” You almost expected him to order her into the kitchen to make his dinner.

Which really brings us to the real big controversy. In the end of this issue (and I was totally trying to get havy to say this so Dan Slott won’t get mad at me), Peter dies in Otto’s body, sort of giving Otto his blessing to carry on as Spider-Man. Peter trusts that his memories will be able to guide Otto into being a real hero. In the end, Otto promises to do good, and plans to be a far Superior Spider-Man to Peter (giving Spidey yet another adjective in his ever growing collection).

Weaver: Oh yeah, you know, the biggest sigh of relief ever was when Otto was thinking that he was about to do something Peter hadn’t done “in a very long time”…and then gets an alert on his computer about his Doc Ock breaking out. I’d just like to thank Dan Slott for NOT going there in the end. Phew. There were a few times in that later MJ conversation that you reference where I think Mary Jane was beginning to figure something out and Otto had to severely backpedal from his “Woman!” stance. A good thing too, because she’s not the sort to go back in the kitchen and make you a pie.

I’m not sure it’s just the memories in Otto…he already sort of had those. Parker was able to exert some additional control past that. And yes, I remember an old Marvel Team-Up annual I had where in the back Spider-Man was ranking the strength of various heroes, and he’s up there with Sasquatch and such. It was admitted in the explanation that Spider-Man isn’t often seen as that strong because he holds back a lot. Seeing him not hold back was eye opening. Jameson was great throughout the issue, I also liked him reassuring people earlier that while he didn’t like Spider-Man, he had to admit that Spider-Man knew what he was doing.

I honestly believe that what we’re going to be seeing here, at least for a while, is a Spider-Ock hybrid with input from both. I like it. You know, a villain redeeming themselves is a great story that’s been told a lot in comics. Many times, that villain will eventually return to villainy of some stripe, Magneto pretty notably. Other times, they become a hero for so long people forget they were ever a bad guy, like Black Widow. It’s rare that a longtime villain becomes a serious hero…Songbird might be the closest one to that. I want to give Octavious a shot at this. I want to see what happens. And it’s been rare that a comic has gripped me that way, not for a long time.

I know it’s not permanent, I even see the route for it to become reversed. And in some ways, that makes me like it even more.

Maillaro: Along with the idea of a redeeming himself, I love the fact that Doc Ock’s ego is propelling him to be a better hero than Spider-Man ever was. Already in Avenging Spider-Man 15.1, we see Doc Ock working on expanding Spider-Man’s already impressive capabilities. I think a major part of Superior Spider-Man will be the struggle between the two personalities currently in Doc Ock’s body.

I have been surprised by how negatively some people have reacted to this change. Dan Slott even said he was getting death threats (before the issue came out once the spoilers were leaked). The sad part is that I bet most people who are most against this change haven’t even read Spider-Man in a while. Just to back that up, I saw a comment this morning which said “I’d boycott Spider-Man if I wasn’t already due to OMD/BND.” To me, that quote is just a picture perfect work of art!

This wasn’t a sudden decision on Slott’s part, you can see how this has been building for a long time. For me, I love when comic writers demolish the status quo. And like you said, in this case, Slott clearly has a few outs for when they decide to bring Peter Parker as Spider-Man. Actually, it could be kind of fun if they bring back Peter as the dominant personality, but keep Doc Ock along for the mental ride along.

Weaver: People hate change, but in a way, I see that as a good thing. Bear with me here. People are talking about this who have never read an issue of Spider-Man in their life. People are talking about this who haven’t read Spider-Man in years. It’s pretty true that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, this story has managed to get a lot of publicity, and I’m sure some percentage of those people have gone out to get the book. We’ve talked about the “Fandom Menace” before, but as of right now, I don’t believe the death threats on Dan Slott are likely to be serious concerns.

The truth is that if comics never changed…if instead, this was “Spider-Man defeats Doctor Octopus for the two zillionth time”…sales would continue to dwindle and there would literally be no point in buying the new product, especially in an era where the old product is very available. We know it’s not going to last, but instead of letting that get us down on the plot, let’s recognize that he set up the outs and enjoy the trip.

Ock’s ego driving him to be a better Spider-Man is nice, and I like the panel in here where Peter is surprised by a use Ock puts the webs to. Peter with Octavious riding shotgun would be like Firestorm on acid, and I don’t know anyone who would disagree with that being an awesome idea. Alright, story scores. I’m actually going to top the story out at 5/5. Dialogue was great, use of supporting cast was great, pacing was great, there’s just nothing to dislike about Slott’s writing here.

Maillaro: I hate giving perfect scores, but I would definitely give the story a solid 4.5/5. It hit all the right notes, set up an intriguing new direction, and I always love seeing the bad guy win, because you know it will lead to the good guy rallying back in a major way down the road. Unless of course your name is Mar-Vell…

Really good point about “getting people talking.” Just a few minutes ago I saw a post on GameFAQ’s that someone posted which said, “My mother just watched the news and is now upset about Superior Spider-Man. And she called me up talking about how Peter is dead and she finds it to be an outrage and stuff. Of course, she doesn’t really give a **** about comics. She got upset when the news did a big thing on Captain America dying too.”

All right, so final verdict. I hated that this book was 8 bucks, and Ramos’ art was better than usual, but still not my favorite Spider-Man. The story and writing were great as you come to expect from Slott. All in all, I give this book a solid 4.5/5, and can’t wait to see what comes next in Superior Spider-Man.

Weaver: Interesting that we rate it through three categories, and your overall score is similar to your story one. It shows a lot about what’s most important to you in a comic. I’m going to let the art impact my decision a little more and drop it down to a 4/5. While Ramos did turn in one of his best issues, and it did have some good artistic moments, it still didn’t quite do it for me, and it’s lucky I don’t dock it down lower for whatever that Black Cat thing was.

Thanks for having me along, it’s been a pleasure as always!

Maillaro: Yeah to me, comics are pretty much all about the story and the writing. We talked about that a few weeks ago, I typically don’t even obsess over the characters that much (says the guy who put Jack Knight in a banner for a column that has nothing to do with Jack Knight…) as long as there is a good story here, and this is shaping up to be a great Spider-Man story.

This was a lot of fun! We really need to do this more often!

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