Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man #700 (Spoilers)

Amazing Spider-Man 700 Cover

The Amazing Spider-Man #700
Copyright Marvel Comics

Peter Parker is dead.

Well, for now at least.

The Amazing Spider-Man #700 hit comic shops on Wednesday December 26th.  Normally I look forward to a milestone issue with a sense of celebration as a comic book withstands the test of time and reaches another multiple of 100.  But the internet was buzzing in the weeks prior with rumors of Peter Parker’s death in this final issue of Marvel Comics’ flagship title, and I approached Wednesday December 26th with a sense of dread.

I bought a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #700 from my local comic shop that morning (autographed by writer Dan Slott), but I needed to prepare myself  before reading this final issue because regardless of the quality of the story, by the last page Peter Parker would be dead (for now at least) and there would not be an Amazing Spider-Man #701 next month.

One of the first comic books I ever owned was The Amazing Spider-Man #175 (read the About section of this website).  Of all of the characters in the Marvel Universe, I could empathize with Peter Parker the most.  That sense of empathy only increased back in 2010 when I had the opportunity to see Steve Ditko’s original pencil and inked splash page to the first Spider-Man story in Amazing Fantasy #15 at the Library of Congress.  This page was our introduction to Peter Parker, the young man who would become Spider-Man and carry the responsibilities and burdens of his powers for the next 50 years of his comic book life.

Part of my emotional investment was from nostalgia, but most of it was respect for the character and the creators that worked on the Spider-Man titles over the last 50 years.  Leading up to Wednesday December 26th, I was fully prepared for the outcome of Dan Slott’s story.  I didn’t agree with it, but I had to accept it as reality.   If The Amazing Spider-Man was going to end its run, I could only hope the final issue would be worthy of its history.

For me, issue #700 doesn’t measure up.

Leading up to issue #700, Doctor Octopus pulled a mind/body switch with Peter Parker and is now fully entrenched in Parker’s body while Parker is trapped in Octavius’ dying body, each man with access to the other’s memories. Parker/Octopus, with hours to live, breaks out of prison with the memory of an Octavius escape plan and the help of Scorpion, Hydro-Man and The Trapster.  A showdown ensues and Octavius/Spider-Man is victorious.  But as Parker/Dr. Octopus lays dying, he forces his memories onto Octavius/Spider-Man though a link their minds still share.  Parker’s key memories as Spider-Man (the death of Uncle Ben, the death of Gwen Stacy, etc.) are too much for Octavius/Spider-Man to handle and he is overcome with emotion and the realization that “with great power, comes great responsibility.”  Octavius finally understands, and with his dying breath Parker declares him Spider-Man and makes him promise to keep his loved ones safe.  At that moment of Peter Parker’s death, Octavius/Spider-Man promises to use his “unparalleled genius” and “boundless ambition” to be an even greater version of Spider-Man.  From that moment on, he will be THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN!!!

Which reminds me, The Superior Spider-Man #1 comes out Wednesday January 9th.

But back to Amazing Spider-Man #700…

The Freaky Friday-esque plot was disappointing enough, but the ending was the true disappointment for me.  I find it hard to believe that Dr. Otto Octavius, one of Spider-Man’s greatest nemeses, could suddenly feel sympathy for Peter Parker to the point where he becomes overcome with emotion and converts from evil to good.  Even with full access to Peter’s memories, he is still first and foremost Dr. Otto Octavius.  After an intense fight sequence, this resolution is a letdown.

I hope the death of Peter Parker is just a sales gimmick that will be reversed down the line.  But regardless of whether or not this happens, the damage has been done: The Amazing Spider-Man has ended.

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Mike Grell’s Jon Sable, Freelance

Recently I opened up a box of  old comics from my youth and revisited a few titles that I enjoyed back in the 80’s.  One of the comic books that caught my eye was one of my favorite independent titles of that decade: Mike Grell’s Jon Sable, Freelance published by First Comics.  It instantly brought me back to my prime years of comic book collecting.

Jon Sable Freelance by Mike GrellFirst Comics

Jon Sable Freelance by Mike Grell
First Comics

My brother and I started collecting comics around 1977, and our collection is still intact.  Very few issues are mint or near mint condition, with 90% falling into the category of “well read.”  When comic book values increased during the 80’s we bagged and boarded them in an effort to keep them in good enough condition to fund our retirement, but that wasn’t realistic since we read them enough to crease the spines and wear out the covers.  There was a time when I would buy near mint copies of some of the comics that were worn out, particularly some Claremont/Byrne/Austin issues of The Uncanny X-Men, but I stopped several years back when I opened up our box o’comics, looked at the wear on the covers, and was transported back to a days when I read them the first time around.  Each worn cover was a reminder of the fun I had reading them, and I wouldn’t trade any of them for a mint copy.

We were strictly Marvel and DC readers in the early years of our comic book reading, buying most of our comics at the local convenience store.  But on our first trip to the Galleria Mall in White Plains, New York around 1982, we discovered something that we only could have imagined in our dreams, a store devoted entirely to comic books: Heroes World.  Our corner store probably had about 10 Marvel and DC titles, mostly for the well known characters (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Marvel Team Up, Action Comics), but Heroes World had dozens of titles (and back issues!!!).  It was our first exposure to independent comics.

Jon Sable: Freelance #1 hit the stands with a cover date of June 1983.  The cover shows Sable dressed completely in black with his signature battlemask with a skyline in the background.  We were familiar with Mike Grell from his work on Warlord with DC, and his art and writing got us instantly hooked on Sable.

Jon Sable is a New York based gun for hire in with a secret identity as successful children’s book author B.B. Flemm.  Issue #1 begins on the eve of President Ronald Reagan’s visit to New York City for a speech at the United Nations.  Sable is established as a thorn in the NYPD’s side as the press questions Police Captain Winters’ ability to control security for the President’s visit.  Sable returns home from a TV interview as B.B. Flemm and gets in his target practice at his home shooting range until his alarm signals an intrusion.  Sable makes quick work of the three intruders and calmly walks to the car of the man who sent them into his home.

Sitting in the back seat of the chauffeured car is President Reagan.  Sable passed his test by taking out the president’s three best men and is offered a job to add an extra layer of protection for his speech the following night at the U.N.  Reagan has received information that there will be an assassination attempt, but when Sable attempts to politely decline, the Gipper subtly encourages him by informing Sable that he is fully aware of his children’s author alter ego, and his multi-million dollar career would take a hit if his secret is revealed.  Reagan seals the deal by informing Sable that the assassin is Milo Jackson, a former teammate of Sable’s on the 1972 Olympic shooting team and fellow mercenary in Rhodesia several years later until  Jackson disappeared after selling out his fellow mercenaries in an enemy ambush.  Sable accepts the job.

No spoilers here.  Grell puts together 28 pages of tight storytelling and fantastic art that made me count the days until the next issue arrived.  Sable’s flashback sequence of his days as an Olympic athlete and mercenary in Rhodesia are just a small taste of his origin story that would be told over four issue arc from #3 to #7 that still ranks as one of my favorites.  When I dug into the box o’comics again and saw the cover for issue #3, I remembered the first time I saw it on the rack at Heroes World and how it stood out among the other comics with the sable horns added to the B and L of the title font.

Fast forward to November 1987 and the premiere of the TV series Sable.  I had grown up on The Incredible Hulk TV series with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno and the TV adaptations of The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America and Dr. Strange but after Hulk ended in 1982 it was difficult to find a comic character on TV with the exception of three subsequent made-for-TV Hulk movies.  When I found out about the pilot for Sable, I was happily surprised that this independent comic book character was getting mainstream attention.  But my enthusiasm quickly faded as I realized the show bore little resemblance to Grell’s comic book.  Twenty five years later I’m still wondering why they felt the need to completely change Sable’s battlemask. 

Jon Sable, Freelance was a title that made me count the days to our next trip to the comic shop.  Looking back on this comic book thirty years later, I’m reminded of what I enjoyed about it the first time around.  It was sharp, cool, and had a great lead character.  Hopefully one day someone that truly respects the property will bring Jon Sable back as a TV series or feature film and keep it true to the Grell’s original comic book.

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