The Amazing Spider-Man #673 sees the end of Spider-Man centric mini-event “Spider-Island” Most event books eschew the the charm and aesthetics of the books they trample over in favor of fast-paced, high octane action sequences and money grubbing reveals (that have already been spoiled by the marketing, of course) in hope that they’ll bring in new readers who will then be forced into the vicious cycle of endless event loops. “Spider-Island” never changed The Amazing Spider-Man, not for a moment.
Dan Slott’s run on ASM has been a joy to read each month. This is a guy who truly loves the character and everything comes with it. I always love when a writer is able to work within the bounds of a character but still create stories that are fresh and fun.
At the end of the last issue, Spidey almost single handedly saves New York from the threat of the Spider virus and Kaine takes out the monstrous Spider Queen while flashing some powers from the past that we thought may have been erased. This issue opens the only way it could. What happens when over a million New Yorkers get turned into spiders and then turned back? You end up with a lot of naked and confused people and pants are in high demand. Slott blends humor and plot development seamlessly by using the absurdity of an island of pants-less citizens and heroes to frame smaller scenes like the return of the Jackal. This is very much an epilogue and the scenes jump around to a few different clusters of characters as a means to tie up all the lose ends. It’s not confusing or discombobulated. It flows.
The scenes where Slott really starts tugging at the ol’ heart strings are the ones with the ladies in Peter’s life. As much as “Spider-Island” was about all of Manhatta getting Spider powers is was also about Peter’s continued struggle with his personal mantra “With great power comes great responsibility.” This event turned that on it’s head. If everyone has power, where lies the responsibility? Peter finds it’s still squarely on his shoulders but he also watches Carlie Cooper and MJ really rise to the occassion. These two ladies have been around Peter for long enough to know what he’s all about and they reacted just the way he would. But while his scenes with MJ are satisfyingly nostalgic, the one with Carlie goes to remind us that the Parker luck is always lurking. It’s an emotionally charged scene that gets Peter and Carlie down to brass tacks about their relationship and Peter blows it like only Peter Parker knows how.
What I wasn’t expecting was the inclusion of Doctor Strange. In comics, it can be easy to forget even relatively recent events and Slott is sure to bring history back into the mix. Becuse of Peter’s actions during “Spider-Island,” Strange’s spell has been broken and we’re left with a pretty familiar status quo.
Stefano Caselli handles the art on this “Spider-Island” epilogue and I’m glad he did. Humberto Ramos’ pencils for the duration of the event were exactly what was needed for those issues: a fun, kinetic style suited to fast-paced storytelling and loads of action, but it’s time to be more contemplative. Caselli has a more refined, realistic approach that suits the emotional beats in this story. The pained look on Carlie’s face before she leaves, Jonah’s subtle acceptance that Spider-Man really did save us this time and Peter’s frustration with Strange magic spell are all moments that are very palpable. This isn’t to say that Caselli isn’t good at big action scenes or that Ramos is bad at small character moments but the beauty of Slott’s collaborators on ASM (including Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin) is that they draw the stories that are better suited to their styles. None of the artwork feels like it’s been shoehorned in like swollen foot in a new pair of dress shoes.
The book ends on a perfect note. This event will not have .1, .2 or .3 issues. You don’t need to read a thousand other add-ons to get the full effect. Spider-Man saves the city and the city thanks him. It’s a perfect marriage of art and scripting. Spider-Man makes me happy to be a New Yorker. The Amazing Spider-Man makes me happy to be a human being.
WRITING: 5 / ART: 4.5 / OVERALL: 4.25