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Comic Review: Amazing Spider-Man #700

Marvel Comics Amazing Spider-Man #700 variant cover Doctor Octopus

Marvel got it in right under the wire: in the final week of the 50th anniversary year of Amazing Spider-Man, the series – and its hero – are no more.

There’s no need for sugarcoating, elusive language or avoidance here: Peter Parker is dead, and Doctor Octopus is the new, Superior Spider-Man.

In issue #698, Spider-Man started acting a lot more confident, and it soon became clear that someone else was pulling the strings. At the end, Peter Parker woke up in Doc Ock’s body, only to face Octavius in control of Spider-Man.

In issue #699, writer Dan Slott explained the Freak Friday switch through some techno-mumbo jumbo involving brain mapping.

Now, it all comes to fruition: issue #700 has the inverted confrontation between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus, and between Otto Octavius and Peter Parker – in that order. It’s a strange twist but if one thing is clear, it’s that Doctor Octopus’ shattered body will not survive. With the outcome assured, the narrative tension lies in how Peter’s mind can possibly abandon ship in time to carry on – in one form or another.

It’s entertaining to see these two foes spend a day in the life of one another. Otto’s got a healthy dose of attitude and ego that Peter never showed, and the reactions of Peter’s loved ones are largely positive. It’s definitely amusing to see him call Mary-Jane “Woman,” and to hear him chastise people for “doddling.” But the change in character is not unnoticed: MJ and others pick up on it, and their suspicion will no doubt carry forward into the new series. The Amazing Spider-Man has always carefully guarded his secret identity; the Superior Spider-Man will have two secret identities to conceal.

Peter’s day as a supervillain involves stringing along Hydro-Man and Scorpion long enough to get what he needs without seeing anyone get hurt. It’s not too original but Dan Slott deftly meshes the lingering bits of Octavius with Peter’s voice, resulting in some amusing moments out of our dying hero.

Amazing Spider-Man #700 is remarkable more for its character implications than for its actual execution, but there are some strong moments here that aptly reflect on the long and colorful history of Peter Parker.

Peter briefly dies midway through, and he gets to see a parade of all the people he’s lost. Gwen and Captain Stacey make appearances, among others, but it’s Uncle Ben – it has to be Uncle Ben, doesn’t it? – who gives the heart to the scene and, really, this whole issue.

And that’s where the strength of this story really lies. It’s not so much about how Peter goes out, but about what brought him to this point. It’s about what makes Spider-Man a hero, and what will make the new Spider-Man a hero, too. For a 50th anniversary issue, it fitting celebrates the history of the character before taking a step into the unknown. Amazing Spider-Man #700 is a crash course in the loss and heroism at the heart of comics’ favorite underdog, and it’s Peter Parker doing the teaching. He’s ready to pass on the mantle, and remarkably, Otto Octavius seems ready to accept it.

Amazing Spider-Man #700 spoiler history Doctor Octopus

Otto Octavius, meshing histories with Peter Parker.

The art in this comic is definitely a mixed bag. Humberto Ramos nicely renders flashbacks and the afterlife sequence with all of Peter’s loved ones, but he gets tripped up by some garbled action sequences, particularly when Spidey punches Scorpion in the jaw.

Octo-Spidey gets some great shadows and sinister expressions, but not every character is so well-served. Ramos misses the mark in a panel where MJ is telling Peter she loves him, as her face looks like she just saw her puppy get hit by a car.

Nevertheless, Ramos delivers on the real emotional moments of this issue, and that’s what really counts.

You can debate the merits of Spider-swapping until the cows come home, but remember: this is comics. Dick Grayson became Batman for a while, but Bruce Wayne is back. No one ever stays dead, and no one ever stays gone. Marvel was clearly experimenting with a non-Parker Spider-Man when they made Miles Morales the Ultimate Spider-Man. The Superior Spider-Man is likely an extension of that experiment.

Let’s see where the experiment goes. After all, Marvel’s got a second Spider-Man film franchise with Peter Parker as its main character. How long can they go without returning his comic incarnation to the status quo?

This tougher, meaner, Superior Spider-Man will bring fresh conflict and an interesting new perspective to the wall crawler in Marvel NOW!’s Superior Spider-Man #1, and if/when Peter gets back – likely through cloning or more brain mapping – he’ll have an altered life dynamic, and Otto Octavius to thank for it.

Peter Parker is dead. Long live the new Peter Parker.

7 out of 10

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