Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth (comics)

Writers: Dan Slott, Ty Templeton
Artists: Humberto Ramos, Stefano Caselli
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #682-687, Amazing Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth #1 and Avenging Spider-Man #8

This volume may have busted Spider-Man again. I suppose it's been happening since Dan Slott went solo on the title, but it isn't until this volume that it became unbearable. The reality is that Spider-Man has been on a backslide to a place Marvel went to a lot of trouble pulling the character out of. Slott clearly loves and respects Spider-Man, but perhaps has lost sight of what makes him work.

Once again, things are way too perfect for Peter Parker. I guess it started back with Big Time. Suddenly, Parker's so smart he lands a job at a big time science lab where he makes ridiculous amounts of cash. He can come and go as he pleases, something that takes care of all the realities of vigilantism that kept him from holding down a regular job. He has access to anything he could ever need. He can devise weapons to use against his villains in his spare time, while the tech also has practical use as inventions for his job. His rich supporting cast has been scattered to the four winds yet again*. On top of all that, the series has fallen back into that annoying habit of treating Mary Jane like she's "The One" and that they're perfect for one another, whether they're together or not, and she's patient and never mad at him when he has to run off and did I mention she's a supermodel or an actress depending on what you're reading**?

The pressure has been building for some time and Ends of the Earth is where the dam burst.

Slott obviously meant it as the culmination of everything Doc Ock has been doing since he returned to the book in... #600, I think it was. The scope and scale is suitably epic. The odds are insurmountable. The world is against him and it seems hopeless. All that is precisely the problem.

Within the second issue, the Avengers - called upon by Spider-Man to give him a hand - get the hell beat out of them with ease. It's not even a clever out like in Spider-Island; they're actively jobbing to Doc Ock. From then on, it's Spider-Man, in a spiffy new suit designed to counteract the powers of the entire Sinister Six - because he can come up with shit like that in his spare time now - against, quite literally, the world. Silver Sable and Black Widow are along, but Sable's the only one of any use. In this story, Spider-Man by himself is more resourceful than an entire team of Avengers. He comes up with the big ideas that take down the Six, he has Ocks plan figured before anyone else, manages to defeat several mind controlled Avengers in combat (he comes up with the solution to the predicament too) and... need I go on?

To top it all off, he has this "no one dies" thing going on and literally sulks after saving the entire world because one person died.

I just... what in the actual hell did I just read? I realize it's his solo, but suddenly Peter Parker is the smartest, toughest, bestest superhero around. There isn't even a "his deeds will never be known" bit; everyone knows he just saved the entire planet more or less by himself. I'm not saying stories like that can't work, but this one sure as hell doesn't. There are few, if any, points in this story where it seems like Spidey is on the ropes or in a difficult situation. Also completely ignored is the fact that, if he can seriously come up with a counter for all his villains now, no one should pose much of a threat to him going forward.

It's too much. I'm not going to pretend I don't know where this is going, but I have a hard time believing the events a couple volumes from here can salvage this, in my opinion, misguided direction. At this point everything Brand New Day brought back is being slowly tossed out the window again and it's annoying the piss out of me.

Arts pretty great though, I'll give it that. Stefano Casseli is just as great as when he did Venom issues during Spider-Island. Humberto Ramos is around, but only does two issues of the storyline. And hey, credit where it's due; I liked his work in this one a little better than I usually do. The art is the only reason you're not seeing red right below this.

My Opinion: Skip It

This is a bridge too far. I'll be around long enough to try out Superior Spider-Man - I love the concept, so I'm going to give it a chance - but if it doesn't seriously impress me I think I'm done until there's a serious change in direction or creative team. This book just is not working for me anymore.

* Characters are going to come and go depending on what happens to them, but we're at a point where a bunch of the characters Brand New Day went out of its way to bring back are flat out gone now. Slott has tried to control the damage by giving Peter some new friends and colleagues at Horizon Labs, but most of them - except maybe Pete's boss and I suppose Grady's alright - aren't on par with the best.

** All the other love interests are, yet again, either gone or a non issue. This is exactly why I dreaded the day Mary Jane returned to Amazing Spider-Man. I was afraid the series would fall back into old habits. Sadly, I was right.Time will tell if it holds, but I'm not optimistic.

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