Marvel Comics has just released the 700th and final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man in a story called “Dying Wish: Suicide Run”. It’s publication can be seen as the nail in the coffin for the old Marvel universe as the comic book company re-launches itself with its Marvel NOW! comic books aimed at bringing in new readers. Their core titles have been canceled and relaunched with new number ones and new titles altogether. In Spider-Man’s case, an all-new comic book is set to debut in two weeks called The Superior Spider-Man.
Why such an unusual title? Well MAJOR SPOILER WARNING it turns out that this is a different Spider-Man. He’s actually Otto Octavius, yes, Doctor Octopus himself is now Spider-Man.
We have to go back to around issue 600 of The Amazing Spider-Man, in that issue it was revealed that Doctor Octopus was dying, in fact, his body is a shriveled, helpless husk kept alive in a mechanical cocoon. With his dying breath, Octavius has been obsessed with finally defeating his arch foe Spider-Man and making one big impact on the world. In issue 698, it was revealed that Doctor Octopus knew about Spider-Man’s true identity of Peter Parker (never mind that he learned this shortly before dying and forgetting it during the Clone Saga fiasco), then it was revealed that he had transferred his mind into Spider-Man’s body, while Peter’s mind was implanted into Octavius’ dying form.
In The Amazing Spider-Man # 700 Peter, in Doctor Octopus’ decaying body, desperately tries to undo the switch before time runs out. Written by Dan Slott and drawn by Humberto Ramos, this issue is a bonafide tour de force that touches on all aspects of Spider-Man’s life. The highlights were when Peter has a couple of near death experiences and glimpses the afterlife populated by his deceased loved ones like Gwen Stacy and his Uncle Ben. These sequences and Peter’s failing struggles are very heartfelt and exemplify why Spidey has been so popular. It nearly undoes the bad taste that the infamous “One More Day” storyline has left with many fans.
The ending to this issue and story will be as controversial and radical as that of “One More Day” for one obvious reason.
DO NOT READ BELOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED
Peter Parker dies.
Ultimately, Peter was unsuccessful in switching back to his true body, and the effort made him consider doing the unthinkable such as attempting to willingly kill a person. However, his efforts weren’t in vain. While Doctor Octopus took Spider-Man’s body, his mind absorbed Peter’s memories and behavior. In the end, after Peter dies in Doctor Octopus’ body, Octavius finds himself learning about responsibility, empathizing with Peter and promises to take up Spider-Man’s heroic cause. The story has an epilogue in the comic book The Avenging Spider-Man # 15.1 where Octavius slightly alters the Spider-Man costume and leads to next month’s new title of The Superior Spider-Man.
It’s always sad to see Spider-Man die (usually in What If? stories and most recently the Ultimate Comics version) because he always seemed so vulnerable compared to other superheroes. But this time it felt sadder than normal since this is the true Spider-Man that dies not an alternate version. It does feel like the end of an era, the comic book had its highs and lows but The Amazing Spider-Man was one of Marvel’s most consistently good titles. At the same time, this story celebrates all that is good and noble about Spider-Man and does set up a very intriguing direction for the character. Being that these are comic books, of course, this development will be undone in some way and Peter will be resurrected. If they could revive Steve Rogers and Barry Allen they can bring back the true Spider-Man. In the meantime, this new take of Spidey (is it even proper to refer to him as that? The new Spider-Man seems much less happy-go-lucky than the original.), offers a new way of looking at Spider-Man and brings up new questions. How will he fit in with Peter’s life? Can he really become a hero? Can he leave behind his former villainous life? Will anyone catch on to what is going on? Is Peter Parker truly gone? Careful readers will spot an escape hatch or two. One certainy is that Doctor Octopus has elevated himself to become Spider-Man’s greatest foe. He accomplished what others failed to do by killing him but now he has to pay the price by assuming Spider-Man’s heroic role.
The rest of the oversize comic book features two back up stories and artwork including a complete gallery of every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Hopefully by the time the next anniversary arrives, TPTB at Marvel will decide to resume The Amazing Spider-Man and with the original numbering. As to how readers will react to the new title and hero is open to question. While these new changes are a good jumping on point for new readers, “Dying Wish: Suicide Run” also serves as a bittersweet goodbye for older fans who may not want to follow the adventures of the new Spider-Man. At the same time, for cynical readers who have read countless stories about dying superheroes (only to see them resurrected), this can be more of the same even though it was well done in “Dying Wish: Suicide Run”. The fact that the new title will be called The Superior Spider-Man belies its transient nature of this new Spider-Man until the proper hero makes his eventual return.
Until then, long live Spider-Man.