[Deep breathe…you can do this.] Listen, baby, I’ve got something to say. I’m sorry. Four months ago I said I wasn’t really digging you. I said you bored me. I said you were turning into a bland retread. I was thinking of…oh my gosh, it’s so hard to say. But I started this li’l tiff in public so I need to reaffirm my love in public too, awkwardness be damned. I said I was thinking of breaking up with you. There! I said it! But I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. Every single issue since that post went live has been amazing. It’s some of the best Spidey I’ve ever had in my entire life! So Amazing Spider-Man, I’m sorry. I love you. Can you ever forgive me??
I admit it. I was wrong. I don’t know what I was thinking. As soon as I wrote that post lamenting the state of The Amazing Spider-Man and thinking of – GASP! – breaking up with the title, Dan Slott delivered “Threat Level: RED” and “Go Down Swinging.” Honestly, these are two of the most exciting Spider-Man stories I’ve ever read. The magic was back! Maybe it never left. Maybe I was just taking The Amazing Spider-Man for granted. You’ve always been there for me. And I’m sorry. These are exactly the types of stories that have kept me coming back to Peter Parker’s adventures for so many years – epic adventures, a vibrant cast, and humor ringing through it all. There are few authors who capture Spider-Man’s banter as well as Dan Slott does too. The humor always feels so real.
In the lead-up to the conclusion of Dan Slott’s epic run helming The Amazing Spider-Man (which ends with this week’s The Amazing Spider-Man #800 and 801 to follow in two weeks), “Threat Level: RED” delivered classically fun, single issue stories. We see Peter settling into his life post-Parker Industries and getting reacquainted with being a friendly neighborhood webslinger with no money and a spandex suit as opposed to a friendly international one with a huge bankroll and spider-armor. However, it was in the chilling postscripts to each story where we found the tension! In an effort to reclaim “the madness” and become the Green Goblin again, Norman Osborn has his lackies steal the Carnage symbiote which he then bonds with. I’ll say that again in case you missed it. NORMAN OSBORN HAS BONDED WITH THE CARNAGE SYMBIOTE. NORMAN OSBORN HAS A SYMBIOTE. THE GREEN GOBLIN HAS RETURNED BUT NOW HE’S THE RED GOBLIN BECAUSE HE’S BONDED WITH CARNAGE.
I’ll pause for a moment to let everyone soak this in…
Yep, you read that right. Norman Osborn has the Carnage symbiote and they’ve bonded. Are you freaking kidding me?!? Back in December I wrote a post about Venom where I said, “Whenever I’m asked…about my favorite Spider-Man villain I always say/think it’s the Green Goblin. But…[i]f I’m being honest about the comics that made me most excited as a kid and the character I sought the most in back issues, there was no baddie I loved more than Venom. After Venom, Carnage was a close-second. There was nothing more exciting…than seeing one of those ghastly symbiote grins starring back at me from the cover of a Spider-Man comic book. ” Now it’s the Green Goblin with that symbiote grin. Dan Slott has combined Peter’s two most ferocious foes into one. My first thought was, “AAAAGGGHHHH!!!! HOLY $#!T!” My second thought was, “How has no one ever thought of doing this before??” But then my third was, “No, Dan Slott’s the only man who could bring the Red Goblin to life.” This is a fan’s monster and perhaps the most terrifying thing Spider-Man could face. No one other than Dan Slott could have imagined it. The one clear thing radiating from every page of every single issue he’s written of The Amazing Spider-Man is the man knows Spider-Man as much as he loves him. The Red Goblin is the ultimate finale.
“Go Down Swinging” then sees the Red Goblin descend into Spider-Man’s world, ready to burn it to the ground. Thankfully, this isn’t a story of darkness and unrelenting pain. It’s one of trying to rise to face a seemingly unbeatable foe. I’d expect nothing less from Dan Slott. Of course Peter is there to go toe-to-toe with Osborn but Slott also utilizes Spidey’s great supporting cast. Everyone you could want (save the Black Cat and Mockingbird) is here – Mary Jane, Aunt May, Robbie Robertson, Betty Brant, Phil Urich, Johnny Storm, Flash Thompson as Agent Anti-Venom, Miles Morales, Cindy Moon, Harry Osborn, Liz Allen, and J. Jonah Jameson in the most emotionally rich role I’ve ever seen him play in a Spider-Man comic. I was going to outline just what it is but then I decided, nah, this is spoiler-free. You should read it for yourself ;).
It’s not just the action though that’s brought me back. It’s the personal relationships between the characters. The costume and adventure first caught my eye as a kid but it’s Peter’s relationships with all those around him which made me a lifelong fan. There are particularly poignant conversations with Mary Jane and J.J. that aren’t to be missed. And I know in my last post I lamented Peter’s return to the Daily Bugle. I felt it was a hackneyed retread; he was back where he’d always been but now he was just the Science Section editor as opposed to taking pictures. I thought it was unimaginative. Again, I was wrong.
It seems like a weirdly perfect fit! In The Amazing Spider-Man #798, Peter is trying to locate some tritium (a highly explosive metal stolen by the Goblin King). As Bugle reporter Phil Urich asks how he’ll do it, Peter replies, “Well, the highly explosive metal that you nephew Phil stole…it leaves all kinds of traces. It even affects barometric pressure. So my skilled team of Science Section nerds have reconfigured the Bugle’s doppler radar system…We’re seeing if we can use it to pinpoint that hunk of tritium to wherever Phil’s taken it.” As everyone’s hunched over their computers working, Peter thinks, “I’m back at the Daily Bugle. AND I’m using my big ol’ science brain…to help my friends and make the world a better place. After all the ups and downs I’ve been through, everything’s finally started to click.” You know what? He’s right. I find myself a little upset each time Pete has to flee the Bugle for Spidey business because I want to spend more time with his staff. Clearly the story and the characters have me invested!
I also know I lamented the impending end of Peter’s relationship with Bobbi Morse. They were one of my favorite things about “Spider-Man Worldwide.” I loved Spidey and Mockingbird together! Like when he dated Felicia back in the 80’s, this was a relationship that fit in both parts of Peter’s life and it was so perfect. But, as sad as I was by their break-up, Dan Slott reflected an authentic slice of life with it. In The Amazing Spider-Man #795, while out to lunch Bobbi tells Aunt May, “We broke up. It wasn’t just him. When we got together it was in this hectic, fast-paced job, globe-hopping on one…Parker Industries venture…after another. Barely time to breathe. It was great. Then, recently, we went to England to…wrap up a loose end…and on the flight back, we didn’t have any work to talk about…our TVs were broken…it was just us. And after being stuck together for seven hours, we finally realized…outside of work…we have absolutely nothing in common.” As I read those lines I didn’t see it as lazy writing. I saw honesty. In (500) Days Of Summer, one of the greatest/most honest films every made about romantic love, there’s a scene where Tom asks Summer what happened to cause her other relationships to fail. She replied, “What always happens – life.” Sometimes we want more of an answer. Sometimes we need more. But that’s not always how life works.
Sometimes relationships can end inexplicably. You wake up and realize the love that you thought was holding you together, is no longer there. Or, maybe, it never really was in the first place. That’s hard. It hurts. But it’s life. However, that’s not my experience with The Amazing Spider-Man, no matter what I said four months ago.
I want to thank everyone who commented on that post, urging me to stick it out. Had I walked away from The Amazing Spider-Man then I would have regretted it. And I would have missed so much! But you’re not the only ones I need to talk to.
So, The Amazing Spider-Man, I…I don’t know why I said what I said. Sometimes I just say things! I’ve been busy at work and I’ve been staying up too late to grade. You know I can get ornery when I’m tired. Wait! I’m not trying to excuse anything. I just want to explain myself. Maybe it’s work. Maybe it was the pressure of trying to get caught up with ten years of Doctor Who in a few months. Maybe I’ve just overcommitted myself and I’m a little stressed. Or maybe it’s an attention-seeking thing, I don’t know. I don’t know where my head was. But I wasn’t giving you the attention you need. I took you for granted. But the magic is far from gone. Your stories are great and they are absolutely hooking me. The fire is BURNING BABY and the passion is alive and well! You don’t deserve to be treated like this. I freaked out, made a scene in public, and now I’m ready to say how much I love you and how you’re the best. It’s always going to be you and me baby; you’re home.