Happy Birthday, Spider-Man! The wall crawler reached his 700th issue this month in the character’s 50th year of publication. How did Marvel celebrate? With the cancellation of The Amazing Spider-Man and a storyline that completely flips the book upside down. If you haven’t read it yet, the 98-page finale hit stands (and the digital arena) this week, and it’s got everyone talking.
The seeds to the story were planted in Amazing Spider-Man #600, but if you want to catch up to #700, we suggest you read #698 and #699 first - two issues of classic Doc Ock versus Spidey action that more directly leads into the big finale in #700. Now that you have your required reading list, be warned... spoilers follow.
Okay, you totally read Amazing Spider-Man #700 by now, right?
Peter Parker is dead and Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man?! How crazy is that? Now, we all know that dead doesn’t mean dead; not in comics, anyway. The story here is less about Parker’s death (he’ll be back), and more about the story potential of the arrogant Otto Octavius trying to learn how to think like a hero.
In pure comic book sci-fi logic, the two rivals swapped minds in a way that allowed them access to each other’s memories. So while Peter passed to the great beyond in the body of a decrepit Doc Ock, his entire life flashed before Doc Ock’s eyes while the villain was in Spider-Man’s body. Octavius got the full weight of Spider-Man’s pathos and motivation, shaking the villain to his core and aligning him to the philosophy that with great power comes great responsibility. When the new Spider-Man book Superior Spider-Man begins this January, the man in the costume will look like Peter Parker but act like a reformed Dr. Octopus.
Some fans are acting like they’ll never see the original Spider-Man again, but let’s be real -- this is just one twist in the character’s long history. It’s not like the next Spider-Man movie is going to try to accommodate writer Dan Slott’s plan for the comics. When Amazing Spider-Man 2 is released in 2014, Andrew Garfield will be Parker under the mask, not Doc Ock as Parker. Maybe they’ll do a loose adaptation of the storyline in some Spidey sequel (like Face/Off but with superheroes!), but don’t look for a multipart film series about a classic villain’s internal struggle to fill Spider-Man’s shoes.
And who’s to say that Peter won’t be back from the dead by 2014 anyway? Doc Ock’s journey will eventually play out, and Peter’s consciousness will return to his own body, but getting there is half the fun. What’s the other half of the fun? Watching shortsighted fanboys lose their ever-loving minds over a simple change of pace for a 50-year-old comic book.