I Wasn't Surprised, but Still Wasn't Prepared for This
Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...
Okay, I needed a couple days to write this review. The big development was a lot to absorb, and I wanted to be sure I came at this piece with a clear head.
I know most fans have read the issue by now, and while I'd love very much to talk plainly about the plot of this issue, I don't plan on spoiling anything until at least next Wednesday. So, with that in mind, I'll launch into what I hope is a mostly spoiler-free review.
The cover is a picture of Doc Ock, on his deathbed, and truly looking like he's at death's door. He has two words on his lips that you know are going to mean big things for the issue: "Peter Parker." Paolo Rivera does a great job of making Octavius look both sinister and pitiful, as the condition of his body clearly shows the abuse he's endured (and, it could be argued, inflicted) over time. What do these words mean, coming from this man, at this time? It's a compelling hook, and grabs the reader's interest from the get-go before you even open the issue. Excellent job here.
It is the writing of this issue that will take center stage, as things are laid out in the form of a typical slice-of-life vignette from Spidey's point of view. He starts off web-slinging through the city in a carefree manner, moves to intercept a small-time crook robbing a business, and then glides into the non-superhero aspects of Peter Parker's life. We see that Aunt May, Mary Jane, and Horizon Labs occupy the lion's share of Peter's time, and he moves smoothly through each of them with newfound boldness and confidence until he receives a distress call from his teammates on the Avengers.
He meets them at the Raft, a prison for super-powered inmates administered by S.H.I.E.L.D. When he's told that Doctor Octopus is moments away from finally dying, Spider-Man asks for a private moment with him. In the final pages and panels of the issue, they have a brief exchange that changes the entire dynamic of the story and suddenly makes for a harrowing, if not outright horrifying realization.
This is one of those stories that will send you scurrying for your back issues, re-reading and searching for clues as to where the seeds of the current plot were planted. That's a fun treat in and of itself, but what makes this issue even more noteworthy is that it truly is well written, and would function ably as a "day in the life of" story by itself, even without the big reveal at the end. It's fluid and versatile, moving effortlessly through the myriad touchpoints in Peter Parker's life and making each of them important without getting clogged by any particular one. There's humor, heart, and plenty of action that would make it a worthy glimpse into the web-slinger's life. Dan Slott has always been good with Spider-Man, and it shows here, on several levels.
I'm very happy with the artwork on this issue. Richard Elson does a remarkable job of matching Slott's storytelling style. The lines are clean, and convey a kinesthetic confidence that makes it easy to imagine the action in between panels. Costumes and characters look classic yet fresh, realistic yet dynamic. Fabela's colors succeed in making both the characters and their environments vibrant and compelling, and round out an amazing visual depiction of a memorable issue.
If you've kept abreast of what's going on and what will be happening in Spidey's universe, you knew this issue would be the start of a harrowing ride. For me personally, that still did nothing to help me prepare emotionally for the revelation that pops up here. With the #700 finale just around the corner and the new Superior Spider-Man title coming out soon, this final arc has my full attention. I'm sure the rest of Spidey's readers will agree. Highly recommended.
I'll have a more spoiler-y video review/reaction next week.