The Ninjabot

Down Came the Rain: Amazing Spider-Man #700

Posted on December 25, 2012 at 8:16 pm by Tyler Waterman

The world of comics involves a great many necessary evils, things that we all must accept because, well, that’s comics. There’s the suspension of disbelief that of course our favorite heroes can be on seventeen super-teams at once. There’s the acceptance that of course no one can tell who you are once you put that tiny mask over your eyes. There’s the understanding that no one will notice that you got a new sidekick the same day your secret identity adopted a new ward. In fact, the understanding that we all must endure a lame “regular” identity to enjoy our favorite heroes is the original necessary evil.

Peter Parker broke that last convention.

Fifty years and seven hundred issues ago, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko began Amazing Spider-Man, and forever changed the very idea of the secret identity. That’s not to say Peter was the first alternate ego to gain popularity. By the time Spider-Man hit the scene, identities like Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent were already household names. However, the secret identities of the time served no real purpose other than being the place to hide our heroes in plain sight, the proof of which is the one-dimensional quality of these identities. Batman and Superman were complex and compelling characters, while Bruce and Clark simply filled the shoes of “billionaire playboy” and “mild-mannered reporter.” Secret identities absolutely enriched their hero counterparts, but no one was banging down the doors at DC to produce Bruce Wayne #1.

Then along came a Spider-Man, and for the first time we had a character where the man behind the mask was just as important to us as the mask itself. As any long-term fan of Spider-Man will attest, we didn’t just read the comic to find out which villain the webslinger would foil next. We were just as compelled to discover how Peter would deal with a new job, or interact with his family, or who he’d fall in love with. I can think of countless issues of Amazing Spider-Man that barely involved Spider-Man at all, and never once did I finish those books and feel like I’d been reading a “boring” issue. No longer was a secret identity a means to an end; Peter Parker was integral to the Marvel Universe, regardless of whether or not he was in costume.

And now he’s gone.

Needless to say, comic deaths are best taken with several grains of salt. How many heroes have we buried that have actually stayed buried? I’m hard pressed to come up with one that isn’t so obscure that they aren’t actually missed in the first place. Comic deaths are rarely anything more than an excuse to bring the character back later on, and this could very much be the case this time too. It’s not like they haven’t left the possibility of resurrection wide open. The golden Octobot is still around, and even more so, you can’t lose sight of the fact that Peter’s body is still very much alive. But there is something about this particular death that weighs heavy on the mind, something that conveys a sense of permanence not usually felt in a comic death.

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See what I mean? Uncle Ben isn’t reassuring me here.

It’s not just the heavy words of Uncle Ben that make me feel this way. A near-death Peter seeing all those he’s lost and being both reassured and driven forward by them is classic Spider-Man. In fact, I was thrilled that Dan Slott included that moment in this issue; Slott is a man who understands the history of the wallcrawler, and if that moment was missing from this issue the entire tale would suffer for it.

No, as I read this issue for the first time, and my sense of impending doom grew, that wasn’t the moment where I felt like there was no hope for my childhood hero. Nor was it watching Ock’s body slowly fail with Peter inside, or watching Ock-Spidey constantly be one step ahead of Peter-Ock’s desperate plan to return them both to where they belonged.

No, I knew that nothing would ever be the same the moment Peter almost won.

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I’ve spent three decades reading Spider-Man comics. I’ve watched Kraven the Hunter bury him alive. I’ve watched a small army of symbiotes kill thousands of people just to watch Peter blame himself for it. I’ve watched the Jackal tear Peter’s entire life apart from the inside out. I’ve watched the entire Osborn family do everything they can to threaten everything Peter holds dear more times than I can count.

You know what I’ve never seen? Peter actually try and kill any of them.

Lots of heroes are known for not killing, but none hold the rule more closely to their heart than Spider-Man. For most, even Batman, that creed is just their most important rule, their modus operandi. For Spider-Man, it’s his entire identity. Life is more precious to Peter than the One Ring is precious to Golem. He will sacrifice anything to protect it, and when he loses someone on his watch it crushes him, regardless of who the victim is.

As he threw himself from that window, as he consciously made the decision to end the life of Otto Octavius, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would be saying goodbye to Peter before the issue was over. He said it himself: there was no way he could go on being Spider-Man after making that choice, and it was a safe assumption that Superior Spider-Man wasn’t going to be a comic about Peter thinking about how he couldn’t wear the webs.

I wish I could say knowing it was coming made it easier. It didn’t.

So where do we go from here? If you read the reactions on the internet, the most common response to that question is “kill Dan Slott and raze Marvel to the ground.” Those people are fools, and should be treated as such. Yes, my initial reactions were focused solely on the loss of one of the heroes I love dearly, but the work Slott has done on Amazing Spider-Man proves he loves him just as much as we do. Instead of grieving what we’ve lost, it’s time to have faith that this new Spider-Man could in fact prove to be superior after all.

I know that’s almost impossible to believe. This may be Spider-Man, but it’s not Peter, not really, and I’ve spent this entire article explaining that both parts are equal to the whole. This could end up being a total flop, failing to ever be superior in any way, and if so then rest assured that we’ll see Peter back in control of his body faster than you can say “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.” But there was one part of ASM 700 that made me feel like there was hope for this bold new experiment.

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Before he died, Peter made sure Otto understood why he’s been Spider-Man this whole time, and after learning the pain and responsibility first hand, Otto is nearly crushed by the pressure that comes with it. He gets it. He understands that “with great power comes great responsibility” isn’t a tagline, it’s a creed that dictates every decision you make. I can’t promise that Otto-Spidey is ever going to live up to the legacy left to him, or that he’ll ever fill the void left by the loss of Peter, but what Slott has shown us is that he’ll never stop trying. Never stop trying: yeah, that sure sounds like Spider-Man to me.

Whenever a long running book has a final issue, it’s inevitably a beginning and an ending, and never has this been more true than in the case of Amazing Spider-Man #700. We say goodbye to the Spider-Man we’ve loved for so long, and we say hello to a new Spider-Man that may not actually be all that different from what we already loved in the first place. Will he truly be superior? Only time will tell, and even with my positive outlook on this new development I’m hesitant to think he will be. But what we do know is that this new Spider-Man understands what it means to be the webhead the same way that we do, and furthermore, we know that it will still be in the hands of a writer that loves and respects Spider-Man enough that he was able to kill him without killing him at all.

When the rain came down, the spider was washed out. When the sun came back, the spider started crawling again. The rain has come and gone: let’s find out if this spider does indeed continue to climb.

You can follow Tyler on Twitter @BatmanIncVP.

    • Well said!

      This issue struck me like a punch to the gut from a prime Tyson. I am still processing it.

      • Tyler

        Man, it's been over a week since I read it and it STILL feels like a punch in the gut… but I'm actually on board, I think this could be really cool, and if not there are plenty of ways to reverse it. Also, if you haven't read it yet, check out Avenging Spider-Man 15.1, it does a really good job of getting you kind of pumped for Octo-Spidey

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