There’s no good place to begin writing about Amazing Spider-Man #800, a book that might be the single-most loaded issue of a Spider-Man comic ever released. Let’s put aside the incredible threat that’s been presented to Peter, his friends, and family throughout this “Go Down Swinging” arc, of which this is the final issue, and take a look at the book itself. This book, the 152nd issue penned by Spider-Man writer extraordinaire Dan Slott, isn’t just a milestone for Marvel Comics, it is the penultimate issue and climax of a ten year run on the title, a compilation of the work of a series of superstar artist teams that have defined that run (where is Ryan Stegman?), and the longest regular issue of Amazing Spider-Man ever released. The book itself carries a massive weight for everyone involved, from the fans to the creators to the editors at Marvel; but when has a massive weight ever stopped Spider-Man?
Never you worry, Amazing Spider-Man #800 is the comic book equivalent of our favorite hero in webs confidently hoisting tons of falling metal, striding over to a cure-all, and scooping it up, all with a smile on his face. Let’s be sure, confidence has never meant perfection; Spidey most definitely buckled a few times under all that weight. The same is true of the creative team behind the massive undertaking of this landmark issue; let’s just list them: Dan Slott, Joe Caramagna, Nick Bradshaw, Edgar Delgado, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Java Tartaglia, Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, Marte Gracia, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente (plus editor Nick Lowe). But just like Spider-Man, his confidence, willpower and heart in the fact of insurmountable odds allow these stumbles to be easily forgiven. At least they did for this longtime reader.
But, metaphors comparing crafting comics to tackling supervillains are just that: metaphors. Ultimately, the strength of our heroes comes from the strength of a wide variety of pens, artist and writer, and all the other creators who left an indelible history to build new stories on. No one writer or artist is perfect, though Stuart Immonen makes a hard case to the contrary, but there is an attribute that I value above perfection any day of the week: heart.
Spider-Man has heart. Time and time again he’s proven that beyond fighting for his own survival. Peter Parker, as Spider-Man, is willing to put his life on the line not only for the people he loves, but for all of New York, and even the entire known universe (even if it was just in Marvel 2-in-1 Annual #2). But that heart didn’t come from nowhere. Peter was given that heart. Not just from the lesson he learned the day Uncle Ben died, but from the creators themselves, passing on their values and ideals to a character perfectly crafted to receive them.
Dan Slott and his creative teams have heart as well. Despite how critical I have been of large sections of Dan Slott’s historic run on the character, as catalogued in my overly exhaustive podcasts and reviews, I have always taken note of this special attribute. Let’s not take it for granted, because heart is certainly not a given for anyone working in comics or on Spider-Man. Yes, many of the same flaws I’ve perceived in some of Slott and his art and editorial teams’ previous works are on display in Amazing Spider-Man #800, including deus ex machinas galore, irregular pacing, and some uneven art, but I’ve never before seen them expose their hearts so plainly as they have done in this issue.
To avoid any potential spoilers or page by page analysis of specific details, I’ll say that every single character in this story is allowed a moment of dignity and redemption. Many of these moments moved me to tears, both in recognition of each character’s stunning humanity, bravery, sacrifice, and ultimate triumph and their reflection of the creators’ open-hearted kindness and generosity towards them. As it is his book, Spider-Man gets the biggest moment: a stunning double-page spread of images by Immonen that reflect all the lessons he’s learned on his journey.
At the heart of these images and lessons are nuanced portrayals of Peter’s friends and family in acts of equally stunning heroism. If a character isn’t given a heroic moment in these memories, well don’t worry… Dan Slott has included one elsewhere. Flash Thompson, Mary Jane, J. Jonah Jameson, Harry Osborn, Otto Octavius, Eddie Brock, and even the Venom symbiote, they all get an opportunity to prove how Spider-Man has changed them for the better.
Everyone, except Norman Osborn. Slott saves no love for Norman and instead lays bare his depravity. In a climactic moment, Norman shouts, “I NEED NO ONE.” Whether or not this is the truth for Norman, Dan Slott’s writing reveals that, in the face of Spider-Man’s love for his friends and family, this revelation by Norman is the ultimate sin. No man is an island or beneath saving, but there is a special circle in hell for the Green Goblin. As it always has been, the Osborn Legacy is revealed to be nothing more than Norman’s own quest for the accumulation of power and ability to slap his name on the sides of several buildings in New York City. Overpowered Carnage symbiote or not, Slott allows Norman to be revealed at his most powerless and hollow, exactly at the moment that his actual legacy catches up with him.
It’s both a shame and a joy that there isn’t more finality to this issue. The nature of Marvel’s superhero comics, especially one like Amazing Spider-Man, is that it can and will continue onward, well past its eight-hundredth issue. Yet, with so many characters redeemed and so much finalized, it is only the moments that tease the future that undercut the fabulous work done with this seemingly conclusive story. Yet, Spider-Man has been here before and one story’s end is another’s beginning. Isn’t that how life works?
Just as in Peter Parker’s life, perfection was never the goal of any Spider-Man comic and Amazing Spider-Man #800 likely won’t make that claim either. However, it is a stunning creative achievement that pulls together everything we’ve loved about Dan Slott’s run on the title, including many of his best collaborators. Stuart Immonen takes the head of the pack, tackling a climactic finale that will leave readers gobsmacked. End of the day, both Spider-Man and this enormous creative team are sure to deliver where it counts with his landmark issue: right in the heart.