Amazing Reviews: “Died In Your Arms Tonight” (Amazing Spider-Man 600-601)
To start off, I have no idea why this volume has the same title as a line from a 1986 rock song. If there’s a connection, I am unaware of it. I don’t know who named these volumes; whoever has that job probably has a good idea.
So we’ve hit a milestone, my friends: Amazing Spider-Man’s 600th issue. That’s a pretty impressive feat in a business where so many other books have fallen by the wayside because of cancellation. Spidey’s been around for fifty years, and it looks like there’s no stopping him. That also means we still have a hundred issues to review in this collection, so let’s get cracking.
Before we get to the main story in ASM #600, allow me to share some of the small stories included in the volume. They aren’t really important at all, save one, but they’re a lot of fun. A collection of writers put pen to paper to give us these tiny tales in preparation for the milestone 600th issue.
Tales as Old as Time
First up is a tale by Stan Lee himself, illustrated by Marcos Martin, in which a psychiatrist is visited by Spider-Man and goes crazy trying to diagnose the hero. It’s a fun overview of the last several decades of Spider-Man stories. Spidey talks about people dying and coming back to life and the various forms he’s taken on (Spider-Hulk, six-armed Spider-Man, the black suit). It features plenty of classically cheesy Stan Lee dialogue.
Mark Waid adds his own story after that with artist Colleen Doran about a conversation between Peter and Uncle Ben and how Peter wants Ben to say that he’s proud of the boy instead of always telling him “Your father would be proud of you.” It really continues to establish Uncle Ben as Peter’s surrogate father and all he means to him, even in death. Marc Guggenheim does the same with Aunt May in the next story, emphasizing the care she has for Peter. Finally, Roger Stern and Van Semeiks tell a story of how Ben and May came together, a touching story in preparation for the upcoming nuptials with Jay.
Speaking of preparations, before the wedding day, we get Amazing Spider-Man Annual #36 by Marc Guggenheim and Spider-Girl artist Pat Olliffe. This tale is a bit more important, so I’ll take some extra time to unpack it here.
Instead of New York, we’re in Boston, where Jay gives May an excellent wedding present: he brings in her side of the family, the Reillys, a name which Spider-Man fans should be familiar with, since that’s the last name Ben Reilly (Peter’s clone from the 90s) took on. But the name Reilly also brings negative connotations, as Peter is attacked by a new supervillain named Raptor—as in “Velociraptor,” the dinosaur with really sharp teeth and claws—who believes that Peter is actually Ben.
Spider-Man happens to show up (amazing how that happens all the time, isn’t it?) and fights Raptor, discovering the Reilly connection and that this man’s real name is Damon Ryder. Damon Ryder’s wife and children are dead, and Peter is left wondering what hand Ben had to play in their deaths. It's a nice story to have in an annual. While this plot will be featured in a few further ASM issues, it's not one that needed to be fleshed out in the main series, so it's good to have it featured here so as not to distract from other stories, such as the upcoming wedding.
I Now Pronounce Thee Octopus and Wife
But that story can be put on hold for now because we’ve got to don our Sunday's best and head over to the wedding of the decade . . . or not? Dan Slott and John Romita Jr. take the reins on the big 600th issue, introducing a nefarious plot. Doctor Octopus has just been told he’s dying, a response to all the superhuman beat downs he’s received over the years, so he begins planning his final, ultimate schemes.
He offers New York a gift, an automated city run by his brainwaves. Unfortunately, most of his brainwaves are evil, so things start going haywire. At the same, strange coincidences keep happening to the wedding . . . bad coincidences, like the catering being shut down and the groom being kidnapped. Okay, that’s more than “bad” here, and it turns out Ock only plays a part in one of the incidents. Guess which one?
Slott comes up with fantastic conflict, as we have already seen. While a guy like Marc Waid is awesome because of the creative style in which he writes, or a guy like Joe Kelly is really good at delivering consistently funny material, Slott understands conflict. With both his Brand New Day material and his solo run, he's constantly crafting engaging conflicts with cool ideas. Ock trying to run a city with his mind is one of those.
Let's take a small break, put on our backpacks, and indulge in a quick history lesson: years and years ago, there was a story in ASM where Doc Ock “fell in love” with Aunt May and almost got married to her. Yes, we’re treated to an image of Doctor Octopus, dressed in a nice tux and with his four metal tentacles hovering behind him, standing before a minister next to his blushing bride-to-be doled out in a bride’s gown. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds; it’s one of those stories that make you wonder “How did this ever get published?” Spidey discovers that Doc Ock really only wants to marry her because she's recently inherited an island in Canada with an incredibly rich supply of uranium and an already existing nuclear facility.
Oh . . . it just got worse.
The story ends with Hammerhead (remember him from a few posts ago?) duking it out with Ock and causing the entire thing to explode. Somehow, they both survive this. There is a point to this tangent, though: Doc Ock still possesses incredible respect for Aunt May, and perhaps a bit of love, and so it’s seemingly this part of him that kidnaps Jay Jameson as well as Carlie Cooper and Norah Winters, who go to find Jay and do some investigative reporting.
Looks Like We Have Our Arms Full
Spidey’s got some real problems on his hands with New York City going crazy, but he manages to get through all that and team-up with Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, to track him down. It’s kind of a nice touch by Slott. Way back when Spidey first faced the good doctor, Johnny unknowingly gave him some advice in the form of a lecture at Peter’s high school. It’s fun to have them take on Ock together, specifically since they discover the villain at the very first nuclear facility Spidey and Ock battled at (what is it with Otto Octavius and nuclear facilities? What is he, some kinda scienti . . . oh).
Together, the heroes combat not one Doc Ock, but three! Well, not Doc Ocks exactly, just tentacled drones attached to Jay, Carlie, and Norah, as well as all these tiny octobots the Doc’s been using lately. While Johnny saves the groom and the ladies, Spidey goes after Ock and finds a bald, dying man with eight arms instead of four (finally! That part always bugged me).
Spidey manages to trap Ock and use his own equipment against him, disabling the octobots plaguing the city by using his own brainwaves. Ock escapes, but the heroes have saved the hostages, and Ock now knows the full nature of who Spider-Man is. He’s not just some costumed child; he’s a brilliant guy, he's a threat, and he's not to be taken lightly.
Now it’s time for the ceremony. With everything back in place (all the problems are a result of Jonah’s meddling, actually) and with J. Jonah Jameson presiding, Aunt May and Jay finally tie the knot.
It's a fun idea that writers, mainly Waid and Slott, get to explore—this idea of Aunt May finding love. These guys had to do something different with her than have her just suffer medical issue after medical issue. It's also rather humorous, in the sense that this really old lady is able to find a stable relationship while her young, eligible bachelor nephew can't, having to ask his roommate Michelle to be his plus-one to the wedding. Also, it now means Peter and JJJ are related, which is awesome (for readers, anyway; not so much for the characters).
The issue ends with a shocker, and no, I don’t mean the supervillain. Though Peter brings his new roommate Michelle as his plus-one, he’s startled by the sudden arrival of one infamous redhead.
Mary Jane Watson is back.
There's Something About Mary Jane
Mark Waid takes the reins here with help from Mario Albereti, giving Peter a bit of an issue the following morning. He can’t remember speaking to MJ the night before. He knows he did, but he’s pretty sure he got so drunk he can’t recall anymore. So he tries to retrace his steps, visiting old haunts to see if anything sparks a memory about what happened the night before. In doing so, he discovers his cousins the Reillys have moved into his Aunt May’s home, which will be empty while she and Jay are honeymooning across the world, and stops a fire.
By time he remembers where they were supposed to meet, Grand Central Station, there is no MJ. He’s disappointed, thinking he missed her, but the exact opposite is true. We find that Mary Jane, after some hard partying at the wedding, has slept in, missing their meeting completely. She flicks on the TV, sees Spidey stopping the fire, and says . . .
It’s a small moment, but it’s huge. This issue is just okay on its own—yet another filler issue—but this revelation is big. MJ still knows that Peter is Spider-Man. Everyone else forgot, but she didn’t. That question will get answered down the road, but it’s an interesting tidbit here. While it may remind sore readers of One More Day, it also brings MJ back into Spidey’s world. The dynamic between them is different now, but it’s still there, waiting to be explored.
With only two ASM issues in this volume, it still manages to cover a lot of ground. Aunt May gets hitched, Mary Jane returns, and Doc Ock is spending his final days scheming against the world and Spider-Man. The 600th issue is a lot of fun, and the story and Romita Jr.’s art make it a tale worth reading through a couple of times.
Like I said, it represents a milestone for Spidey, not just in terms of publication, but story-wise as well. Changes are happening, the groundwork has been laid, and big shifts are occuring. With the advent of such a milestone, things can start going bonkers now. And boy, do they.
Died In Your Arms Tonight
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© 2017 Nathan Kiehn