Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Death of the Amazing Spider-Man and the Never-ending Battle Against Fan Hysteria


*Spoilers Throughout*

The Amazing Spider-Man is dead. And fans are going ballistic. Fans hate this story. They are swearing off Spider-Man and Marvel forever. The writer, Dan Slott, is even getting death threats, on Twitter of all places. People are furious. How could Dan Slott do this to Peter Parker?

But if we're going to understand the real ramifications of this story, we have to take a look at what has been done before: with Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Captain America, and oh yeah, Spider-Man again.

First, Batman. Knightfall (and Knightquest, KnightsEnd)

Ouch!!!
Remember this little injury? WHEN BANE BROKE BATMAN'S BACK? This was in '93, before internet fan forums, but I still remember the disgust, fans in comic shops shaking their heads in disbelief that they got rid of Bruce Wayne and replaced him with possible psychopath, Jean-Paul Valley.

You can't have 90's comics without pouches!
This was my first encounter with comic-book outrage and I fell into it too, angry that Bruce Wayne wouldn't be in the suit anymore and that Jean-Paul Valley would be Batman forever. But of course it didn't last, because it was never supposed to last. Jean-Paul Valley turns out to be kind-of-a psychopath and Bruce Wayne, who took a long journey to rehabilitation, has to take him down and reclaim the cowl. And when that story was all done I thought, Holy Shit, that story was incredible. Note: Knightfall is now one of the most celebrated Batman stories ever (though, I'd have to agree, Knightquest, the middle part of the saga, dragged considerably).

Next: The Death of Superman

Superman: SuperDEAD
Okay. Everyone should remember this. Superman falls to the monster Doomsday and dies. I remember the lines out the doors of my favorite comic shop, people (mostly speculators) picking up the issue where he breathed his last breath, never to be seen again.

Except he did come back.

As FOUR Supermen! 
Yes, it took a while. But, comic fans, do you remember how fun it was to speculate who here, in the Reign of the Supermen, would take over Superman's legacy (I thought it would be the Cyborg Superman, boy was I wrong)! And fans were angry. They were sad. They didn't like picturing a new Superman or Clark Kent rotting in the grave.

But he came back. And it was a pretty great story, with a couple of missteps...

Introducing: Mullet-Man
But overall, this tale, when it was all said and done, was epic.

See where I'm going with this? Good, because I might lose you with the next example.

Green Lantern. Emerald Twilight.

Hal Jordan: Cray Cray
This came out about the same period of the Death Of Superman saga (which pretty much lead to Hal Jordan going insane with the destruction of his beloved Coast City). Except this was sloppy. This took three, yes, THREE issues to take long-standing hero, Hal Jordan, and turn him into a mass murderer, in his quest to resurrect the city that he lost. This is not something you do to a hero if you ever want to bring him back as a hero, and, by all accounts, DC had no plans to do that, introducing Kyle Rayner to be, at the time, the sole Green Lantern in the cosmos. People were furious at the disrespect shown to Hal. And speaking of Hal...

Somehow, they redeemed this guy
...he goes through a lot of shitty stories where he's a super-villain  and then a ghost, before he redeems himself (in a way that I never really bought, sorry, DC) and becomes Green Lantern again like ten years later. EVEN HAL JORDAN THE MASS MURDERER SUPER-VILLAIN GHOST CAME BACK. Do you see where I'm going here?

Captain America, he died.

Steve Rogers: shot and killed...for like a few years and then he got better 
Don't worry, Bucky took his spot (and, surprisingly, fans took it pretty well) until he got better.

Human Torch died and came back so quick that it wasn't even a year. Funny enough, the Human Torch was replaced, in the Fantastic Four (who were renamed the Future Foundation at the time), by recently-dead Spider-Man.

But Spider-Man's been replaced before. I'm talking the controversial and terrible Clone Saga, which seemed to drag on forever (and at the time the writers were told to drag it out), until it was revealed that the Peter Parker that we had been following for some time was not the real Peter Parker, but, in actuality, a clone, and the real Peter Parker had been wandering around believing he was the clone and taken up the name Ben Reilly.

Peter Parker vs. Peter Parker?! 
Then Marvel, trying desperately to eliminate a lot of continuity baggage, restarted Spider-Man with Ben Reilly taking up the role of the web-head.

UGLY
Which, of course, didn't stick. Fans were not impressed. So reviled was Ben Reilly that not only was it discovered that, oops, he was in actuality the clone, and not only did he die, but he basically disintegrated from off the page, as if he was never there to begin with, a bizarre nightmare.

Ben Reilly will NEVER come back...right?!
And now, the Amazing Spider-Man is dead. If you've read #700, the climactic final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, which is priced at a hefty $7.99 for about 96 pages, you know this already. Peter Parker is dead, and comic fans are irate, not just with his death, but in the manner of his removal from the Earth. A quick explanation: One of Spider-Man's great enemies, Doctor Octopus, dying of cancer, swaps bodies with Peter Parker, who he finds out is Spider-Man, and Peter, in Doc Ock's ailing body, tries to stop him from stealing his life. In #700, he fails. But not before implanting Doc Ock with all of his memories, his victories and his tragedies, giving Doc Ock, in Peter Parker's body, a new, perhaps heroic perspective on life as he takes the rein as the Superior Spider-Man.

The cover is dark because this Spider-Man is dark, get it?! 
It might not sound like it, but The Amazing Spider-Man #700 is a beautiful comic. I can say that Dan Slott is not a hack, that #700 weaves tragedy, tension, a great role reversal, and just a damn good story in a surprising, and strangely uplifting way.

I'm not saying this will work as a story or how long this will last with Doc Ock in Peter Parker's body (though I don't think it'll be long). But I know that I'm intrigued right now. I know that I picked up a (very expensive) Spider-Man comic for the first time in years. And I know that, as history suggests, this will not be permanent. Why not see where this goes first and enjoy the craziness for a bit? Is that something fans can even do anymore?

In the Internet Age, fans have become emboldened. The final pages of #700 was leaked online just in time for people to say how much it sucked. Now here's what I'm questioning: Where's the wonder? The fun? When did comic fans become so bitter and jaded? Has the internet just sped up the whole disenfranchisement in the reader or has it simply given it a voice?

When it's all said and done, this story might very well suck as much as the Clone Saga. Or it could be an incredible experience like Knightfall. Either way, things will return to normal eventually. Don't worry, comic fans, knowing your wrath, Marvel wouldn't dare do otherwise.