In some ways this giant Spider-Man issue isn’t easy to read through. It’s the end of Peter Parker as Spider-Man, and the end of Marvel’s longest-running series. This issue is already somewhat controversial; people insulting Dan Slott on Twitter, and there are at least a few angry comments on pretty much every popular comic website. Is it a good comic though? Yes it is.
The bulk of this huge anniversary issue is the main story, while there are two backup stories afterward. In ASM 698, the dying Dr. Octopus swapped minds with Peter Parker, trapping our favourite web head in the body of a super villain that had mere hours to live. In the last issue, two super villains broke Dr. Octopus’s body out of prison. This issue is an extended battle between a hero stuck in a villain’s body and a villain using a hero’s body.
Because these enemies are in each other’s bodies with each other’s memories, there’s plenty of opportunity for some fascinating storytelling and character work. Slott doesn’t waste that opportunity. As Parker and Otto Octavius fight each other, they begin to understand each other better. Octavius starts to care about those Peter Parker cares about, while Peter Parker must become the villain to stop, well … himself. It’s fun watching the two of them interact, trying not to blow each other’s cover when other characters are nearby.
The ending is the most emotional moment I’ve read in a Spider-man comic (although admittedly I haven’t read much outside of Dan Slott’s run). To avoid spoilers, it’s a pivotal scene that drives toward Superior Spider-Man. The longtime enemies come to an understanding of sorts. While I wasn’t previously sure what to think of Superior Spider-Man, now I’m looking forward to it. Retiring Parker (temporarily at least) opens the franchise up to new storytelling opportunities in a franchise that has become fairly predictable over the years. He’s Peter Parker – we know he’ll return eventually, but after 700 issues and years of mismanagement (such as the Clone Saga and One More Day) he could use a long vacation.
The art is generally good. The facial expressions from both Peter and Otto make it clear that they’re in each other’s bodies. The action is easy to follow, and the flashback scenes look very good. There are a lot of panels that don’t have much detail though, and there are entire pages with little or no background detail. I’m aware that this is a big issue, but the art feels rushed at times. It never looks bad, but half the time it’s nothing special either.
This issue also has two backup stories, both feeling like what-if stories. They’re both decent, but not as good as the main story. The first is a story about an older Spider-Man talking to a descendant of his about his superhero life, while the second is mostly about Black Cat. They both have an innocent feel to them, contrasting the main story well. This issue also has a cover gallery with every main Amazing Spider-Man cover ever, and a letter column answered by Stan Lee himself. These extras are well worth reading through.
Not all Spider-Man fans will like this issue, especially those who are very strongly attached to Peter Parker. Regardless, this is an important issue for Spider-Man fans to read and it’s respectful to the character. This is an easy recommendation for anyone interested in Superior Spider-Man, or those who want to read Peter Parker’s sendoff.