If you are a comic book reader who complains not enough change happens to superheroes, you probably haven’t read Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man. Over the last few years he’s killed Peter Parker, put Doc Ock into his body, made Spider-Man a personal protector of Parker Industries (a billion dollar company), and zigged J.J. Jameson’s story for every zag. It has been an exciting time and the latest trade paperback out this week reveals Slott (along with writer Christos Gage) is changing everything, again.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
What will Secret Empire mean for the Amazing Spider-Man? The return of Otto Octavius! But this isn’t the old Doc Ock – he’s back as the Superior Octopus! He’s allied himself with Steve Rogers and Hydra, and he has a personal mission – to take down the company that he helped create: Parker Industries! Spider-Man is already overwhelmed from the chaos of Secret Empire – but now, facing one of his greatest enemies who’s back from the grave, more powerful than ever before and following orders from Captain America himself, does Spider-Man stand a chance? Peter must use the full force of his company, every asset at his disposal, to stop Ock and Hydra – but will it be enough?
Can I jump in easily?
There is adequate backstory when necessary, but if I hadn’t read Superior Spider-Man I would have been lost when it came to supporting characters and the weight of Doc Ock and Peter Parker’s past. There is a lot of change in this book and much of it requires some knowledge of past events (like Mockingbird and Spidey getting it on!).
Reason 1: Ends Parker Industries and sets up a new job too.
Peter Parker has been on top of the world when it comes to work, which is a rare thing for the character historically. Super rich and running a global business was an interesting twist Slott dropped on readers, but it all comes to an end in this book. It ties into the “Secret Empire” storyline, but at its root is Doc Ock who wants to tear it all down. Having read and reviewed every issue of Superior Spider-Man I can say that reading this collection brought the glee of seeing Ock pester Peter some more. It also allows Spider-Man to get some revenge and in the process literally wipe out everything Ock did in Peter’s body. A huge blow indeed.
This book wipes that entire job and all its perks out of Peter Parker’s life in a well earned sort of way. Slott then shifts the story to Peter being unemployed and then by the end landing a brand new job that’s actually more old than new. The Daily Bugle is a great place for him to end up since he started working there as a teenager, but also because the science editor position further carries forward Peter’s more science-focused approach in life.
Much of the change is due to Secret Empire.
Reason 2: Heats up the Mockingbird romance.
For most of this collection Peter is sleeping on Mockingbird’s couch. An interesting development considering it’s made quite clear they’re sleeping together. Be that as it may, as the story progresses she helps support him because she loves the bugger and also helps him land his first story for the Daily Bugle. Slott writes a solid romance between the two in part because they can do their hero work and banter all the way.
These two go together very well and it’s nice to see Spider-Man dating someone in his own superhero class. Black Cat was always interesting, but her bad again, good again shifts didn’t jive as well as Mockingbird’s wholesome persona does.
Reason 3: Builds up the villains for future stories.
The prior volume to this collection had Spider-Man take out Green Goblin’s stranglehold of a country, but fear not, as he makes a quick appearance in this one. In this chapter Greg Smallwood draws an excellent done in one story showing Norman Osborn seeking to find his way back to the goblin which he has lost. Slott writes an excellent mystical tale here that has Osborn basically follow the path of the Iron Fist, seeking knowledge from masters on a mountaintop. This tale comes with a nice twist, but also a promise that he will return again someday.
Speaking of Osborn, Slott also gives time to his son Harry who isn’t crazy anymore. He does have a power hungry wife though and it’s a character to watch as she’s sure to ruin Peter Parker’s life eventually.
Then you have Doc Ock, who is probably the main villain of this collection. The new costume–complete with octopus arms–is excellent and it’s cool to see a more powerful than ever Doc Ock go toe to toe with Spider-Man. The history between these characters is incredible and Slott utilizes that history well in this collection.
The Green Goblin one-shot story not only looks great, but sets things up well for the character’s future.
Reasons to be wary?
The dialogue can get a bit wordy in portions of this book. On the one hand it does take longer to read this than other six issue collected trade paperbacks. On the other, it drags the book down to a crawl and can make it boring to get through. A particularly heavy section focuses on the Shanghai offices of Parker Industries. Parker gives a speech or two, works out things with his co-workers’ dying mother, and basically stands around talking as he awaits Doc Ock’s attack. This portion reads more like Slott wrapping things up that matter to him rather than the story wrapping up in an organic and entertaining way. It’s safe to say we may never see these characters again so it makes sense he’d devote so much time to them, but it hurts the enjoyment of the book.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
There are a lot of changes going on in Peter Parker’s life, nearly all of them taking place in this collection alone. That makes this a must read for folks who will be reading his future adventures and want to see what Marvel is cooking up for his villains.