Amazing Spider-Man #700 hit stands and after weeks of Dan Slott telling us to wait to put it into context; it’s still a hard pill to swallow. I will be talking about the events of Amazing Spider-Man #700 in full detail so if you haven’t read the issue and somehow managed to not have it spoiled for you weeks ago, then consider this your warning. ASM #700 concludes the storyline in which Doctor Octopus switches brains with Peter Parker after basically re-writing the code of each of their brains. This leaves Peter Parker in his dying body while he’s able to run amok in his healthy, strong body. Peter doesn’t quit though and manages to launch a final assault on Octo-Spidey with a code re-write of his own. The problem is that in the few short hours as Spider-Man, Doc Ock has upgraded the fabric of his suit so that the octoball cannot penetrate the fabric, it does however give him all of Peter’s memories all at once and in some magical way force him to experience them in his own mind. As Peter dies, Doc Ock or Octo-Spidey promises to be a better Spider-Man/Peter Parker.
A better Peter Parker? What I find funny about this is Slott himself said that Peter Parker is like us, he doesn’t always win; he sometimes fails and that’s what makes him unlike any other superhero. It’s true, Peter is… was unlike any superhero. He was the most relatable hero and is countless comic fans favorite hero. After the success of the first trilogy of movies he ranked in the top three most recognized superheroes on the planet next to Batman and Superman. Yet Marvel has found yet another new way to push fans away from this beloved character. A simple search of the internet will show you that many people love the character, but don't read the comic.
There is no such thing as a better Peter Parker or Spider-Man for that matter. Sure, Octo-Spidey can build a better suit and think of better ways to use the webbing and maybe even different ways to make his relationships work, but none of that should ever have been outside of Peter’s wheelhouse and if it was then we needed better writers. Ones that didn't limit the character and themselves.
There’s an obvious level of interest in this new direction for Spider-Man, much like there was after “One More Day”, and I’m sure that some people will be on board for the changes and reading the awkwardness of Octo-Spidey as he learns to be Peter until the reprogramming wears off. But for me, watching a villain learn why his counterpart was so amazing isn’t interesting at all; in fact it’s the laziest form of storytelling I can think of. Sure there will be comedy as Octo-Spidey must learn to adapt to the many roles of Spidey’s life, but that’s shortsighted and not exactly though provoking. There is no real character development there that cannot be found in any version of Freaky Friday. It’s lazy because it shows that Marvel and its stable of writers have no idea what to do with Peter Parker other than simply kill him.
After all it worked for Ultimate Spider-Man right? Granted that turned out to be something refreshing and interesting, but was set in a very different universe with a different history of events. The fact remains that Marvel just doesn’t know what to do with the guy from Queens that everyone relates to. I remember when they announced that they were cancelling all of the Spider-Man titles other than Amazing and shipping the book more often to make up the lack in sales. I wondered then and I wonder today why they cannot manage to sell Spider-Man comics the way they do Avengers or X-Men? He’s the third most popular superhero on the planet and while his counterparts manage to have a top ten or fifteen title each month year after year, while ASM comes in the twenties if he's lucky. It basically doesn’t crack the top ten unless it has a huge storyline happening and while the top twenty is very good for most books… this is Spider-Man we’re talking about.
What Marvel and Dan Slott obviously don’t get is that unlike other superheroes, Spider-Man is just the costume. I know in recent years he’s referred to himself as Spidey when thinking during a battle, but he shouldn’t because he’s Peter Parker. He’s always Peter Parker. Sure he’s tried to hang up the Spider-Man tights numerous times over the years, but he can’t. Not because he can’t stop being Spider-Man which is the lie he always tells himself, but rather because he can’t change who he is at his core. Take away the powers and his life still comes with a great amount of responsibility and that’s something you can’t just teach someone else through a sixty-second flashback of your life.
Superior Spider-Man is an interesting experiment; one that could have been conducted in a mini-series away from the continuum that everybody reads. Marvel is so quick to change their characters to diversify them for the sake of diversity without any thought of how fans actually see the character. I remember an issue that Paul Jenkins wrote of Spider-Man that was about an African-American boy who was sick and wanted to see Spider-Man and when Spidey pulled back his mask, he was African-American too. That’s how I see Peter Parker and Spider-Man, he’s not a specific national origin, he’s not one specific genre of people, he’s not limited to one area of the country. He’s the most relatable comic book character ever because he’s me… he’s you… he’s everyone that picks up the comic and that seems to be something Marvel has long forgotten.