Writers: Dan Slott, J.M.DeMatteis & Jen Van Meter
Art: Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Sal Buscema, Antonio Fabela & Stephanie Buscema
Spoiler Note: In order to provide any sort of review of #700 certain plot details of #698 are contained within the following piece. Please be aware of this if you are yet to read #698! There are no spoilers for #700 though so enjoy!
Stewart R: It’s a good bet that a high percentage of the comic book related reaction and commentary this week is going to be focussed on this book; not only is the seventh hundred edition of Amazing Spider-Man Marvel’s highest issue number for any of its titles, but it marks the end of the 50th Anniversary celebrations and also brings the title itself to a close in quite dramatic style. As we try to avoid spoilers here at the PCG for those readers who might be convinced to pick up a comic with the mystery, twist or payoff left intact, and the experience remaining as pure as possible, I will dance around the key points of the finale and leave my thoughts about the repercussions to another time.
What Slott delivers though is a terrific clash of minds (literally) as Peter Parker and Otto Octavius try to outsmart each other in a deadly race against time as the body of Doc Ock begins to fail completely with our hero trapped inside and the villain beginning to exploit his knowledge of his victim’s life and history to consolidate his position in the body of a superhero. What I particularly appreciated about Slott’s delivery is how he has these two characters keep their distinctive voices as far as the knowing readership are concerned, but at the same time enables them to impersonate each other rather convincingly in order to conduct their respective plans. There are one or two moments where I’m not entirely happy that certain parties related to Peter seem nonplussed or ignorant to some pretty borderline, out-of-character behaviour and dialogue coming from their friend’s mouth, but then that might just be down to how I’m reading it and hearing the voice in my head considering that I’m aware of something that these supporting characters are not.
The cat-and-mouse nature of the plot keeps things really exciting from beginning to end and the true success lies in the fact that I could never be sure just when things might come to a head thanks to the uncertainty surrounding the timing of any inevitable conclusion and Slott’s general writing style that has always reflected his fine skill with keeping the cards incredibly close to his chest. There’s an accomplished feeling of escalation as this substantial comic book read plows on and the situation gets increasingly desperate. I dare say that Slott probably manages to find that rare sweet spot where regular Spider-Man readers are bursting with nervous excitement as they read through this issue and see all the nods that hark back to Spidey and Ock’s clashes of old, while newer readers are given a well considered summary of what makes Peter Parker the exceptional young man that he is and has always been.
Humberto Ramos - given fine and deserving credit in Slott’s note in the back of this issue - plays his part in finding that aforementioned sweet spot, delivering his usual high standard of visual storytelling and ensuring that the emotionally strung moments are powerful and carry the all important punch. While I’ve always regarded Ramos as one of the top Spider-Man pencillers of all time, his skill with the expression of the Spider-Man mask is simply masterful here and with just the slightest and most subtle of changes - read back again and just look at the eyes - he has managed to clearly define the difference in the Webbed Wonder following the events of #698.
As is the standard for these landmark (and pricey) Marvel issues there are a couple of additional stories following the main chapter, one by DeMatteis offering a future reflection on the hard choices that someone like Peter Parker might have to make while also taking some consideration into the effect that age - and degenerative conditions such as alzheimers - can have on the memory, the other a rather strange Black Cat tale that offers up a light-hearted rush through the New York in which Spidey provides his heroics which unfortunately feels slightly out of place considering the well measured tension and drama of the rest of the issue.
At the end of the day though, this issue isn't going to be remembered for the backup stories, it’ll be remembered and possibly honoured for being a dramatic, somewhat controversial and fitting finale of one of the greatest comic book series of all time. Whether you agree with the conclusion that Slott has spent long hours developing and building towards over the course of several years - and I’m not entirely sold on what we’ve been left with, but can spot the subtle seeds that may have been sewn here to allow for further changes down the line - I don’t believe there can be much argument that as far as daring, nail-biting, emotional and entertaining comic book writing and illustration goes, Amazing Spider-Man #700 is a prime example of the medium. It’s certainly an unmissable event and is one of those Spider-Man moments that deserves as many readers as possible to cast their eye over, hopefully enjoy the ride and offer their own views and opinions over the internet or around the water cooler if they have access to one. 9/10