The greatly hyped Ends of the Earth brings this Spider-fan back to Amazing Spider-Man to check the new story arc, and I might just stick around for the whole thing if it stays as strong as this opening issue. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good Spider-Man versus the Sinister Six story. Ends of the Earth looks like it has the potential to be exactly that.
Let me be upfront about something first. I’ve taken a few shots at Amazing Spider-Man in some other reviews and articles here. I’ve probably given the impression that I don’t think much about the title and haven’t for quite awhile. ...Well, that’s all true. Spider-Man is my favorite superhero, but it has been years since I’ve found his own title any good. Am I one of those fans who was turned off by Brand New Day? Kind of, but the truth of it is that I was having a falling out with Marvel’s handling of Spider-Man well before that game-changing story. I’ve read several random issues of the book in the past few years. While I found some things to like, it was never enough to keep my interest or overcome my dissatisfaction. On top of that, I’ve generally not been a fan of Dan Slott’s writing, so while his full-time takeover of the series appealed to some, it didn’t do anything positive for me.
That is where I’m coming from. I’m a lapsed fan returning to the book. Realistically speaking, that probably makes me more the target demographic of this story than brand new readers. Despite claims to the contrary, Marvel lost a chunk of Spider-Man’s readership, and they want those readers to come back home.
Also, I just wanted to make it clear that I’m not up to date on all the developments in Spider-Man’s life recently.
The premise here is a very strong one with how it positions Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus. Spider-Man has reached a high point in his life where he has finally found a way to balance out his life as Peter Parker with his life as Spider-Man. His responsibilities as a superhero are no longer plaguing his civilian life. In fact, his two lives are complementing each other. This contracts with Dr. Octopus, whose terminal condition is nearing the end. The man is dying, and he’s going to die a shell of a man. So here we have Otto’s attempted to rise from that low point threatening to tear Peter down from his high point. That’s great stuff.
I’ve always thought Dr. Octopus was Spider-Man’s top villain. I like Norman Osborn, but Otto Octavius just works so much better against Peter Parker. Some of the best villains are in some ways twisted reflections of the heroes, and that’s what Otto is to Peter. He also was an awkward genius who had it rough. But he didn’t have the guidance of an Uncle Ben, and his radioactive accident came too late in life, when the bitterness and misery had just gone too deep. Dr. Octopus is definitely the selling point for this story for me.
Slott handles Spider-Man’s side of things in a very interesting way too, though. Now, Peter is probably right about Otto’s shot at redemption being a lie. But it’s very interesting how certain Peter is. He doesn’t even glance at what Otto is offering or listen to anyone who does. It’s an unusually closed-minded and determined reaction from the character, and if Slott means it to be that way, I’m interested to see if this is a factor in Peter losing the great life he currently has as a result of all this.
Because come on, Peter can’t keep this job at Horizon Labs. It’s interesting as a short stint, but letting Peter Parker live his dream life is just un-Spider-Man. This has to fall apart. Anything else would be a terribly boring thing to do with the character.
Peter’s current life as a scientist does relate to one of the main problems I have with this issue. One of the reasons I don’t usually enjoy Dan Slott’s writing is that he has a tendency to badly oversell things. Restraint and ideas like “less is more” rarely seem to factor into his decision-making. His overselling of Hank Pym made Mighty Avengers unreadable, as far as I was concerned. Here, he oversells Peter’s successful life as a scientist. It’s not to the usual extent I'm referring to, but a little restraint still would have done a better job. Slott could’ve stopped with the thermodynamic foam for firefighters that Peter invented and maybe touched on other inventions as works in progress. But instead, we get a few other great inventions from Peter that are out there. It’s a bit ridiculous. It’s too much to have Peter churning these things out and honestly not very believable given everything else he’s supposed to be up to. Again, Slott crosses the line from something that could be impressive and interesting to eye-rolling.
Besides that, the science fiction of Dr. Octopus' big scheme is a little hokey with its grand scale and usage of global warming. It's really nothing terrible in the grand scheme of bad science fiction, but I do find myself wishing Slott could have come up with something better.
Stefano Caselli rocks this issue on the art side of things, though. I became a big fan of him during Secret Warriors, and he doesn’t disappoint. Still, I don’t think he’s a natural fit as a Spider-Man artist. I actually like his Peter Parker more than his Spider-Man, but that tends to be because I just like how Caselli draws people. And man, seeing his Avengers leaves me wishing he could be the artist of that book. His Dr. Octopus is fantastic as well.
Now, I can’t touch on the art without commenting on the new Spider-armor. The thing of it is that I don’t really have much to say about it. The armor is... fine. It makes sense for the character at this time, when he’s using his employment as a scientist to equip himself better as Spider-Man. The design is also sleek and well done. It just doesn’t blow me away. I don’t see it becoming a favorite of mine or something that I would care to see him use again after this story. So... it’s fine.
The first issue of Ends of the Earth brings this lapsed Spidey reader back temporarily, but it’ll be up to the rest of the story to decide if I stay. This is a good start. The way the conflict between Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus is set up has some really great potential, but knowing Slott’s tendency to get a bit ridiculous, I worry that Spider-Man’s secret contingencies for the members of the Secret Six will get too gimmicky and derail the story. I’m cautiously optimistic, and that’s better than I expected coming into this issue.