What do you think of when you think of Peter Parker, aside from the proportional-strength-and-speed-of-a-spider man himself? Mary Jane Watson, perhaps? Aunt May? The Daily Bugle, with J. Jonah Jameson shouting “Parkerrrr”? Oscorp? Horizon Labs? Alchemax?
Or is it a villain, part of the greatest rogues’ galleries in comics? Green Goblin? Doctor Octopus? Venom? Lord help us all, Carnage?
Maybe it’s “with great power comes great responsibility”? Or the black suit? Parker’s refusal to let anyone die, good or bad? Loved ones being thrown from great heights? That time he was actually Doc Ock? That time he was replaced by Miles Morales?
Whatever era of Spidey you imprinted onto, you won’t be disappointed by Amazing Spider-Man #800, the big finish of Dan Slott’s 10-year tenure writing the character. It’s not quite the final issue -- there’s one more to go -- but it’s certainly the climax.
This is an incredibly maximalist issue, squeezing all of the aforementioned Spider-trademarks into its 80-something pages. Slott and a collective of all-star artists provide a constant stream of climactic blockbuster action, as the Carnage symbiote-infected Norman Osborn puts all of Peter’s loved ones in danger and Spidey embarks on a string of unexpected team-ups to save them.
The story is broken up into multiple chapters, each drawn by a different artistic collaborator from across Slott’s run. Maybe Humberto Ramos is your quintessential Spider-Man artist of the 21st Century. Or maybe it’s Stuart Immonen, who has stated he has "no immediate plans" for more comics after this issue. Or maybe you’ve made this reviewer's choice, and it’s Marcos Martín.
Again, you won’t be disappointed. They’re all here, reminding you exactly why they’re your favorite. Ramos’ cartoony expressiveness, Immonen’s ability to switch between fluid and iconic, the remarkably light touch of Martín, plus more.
None of them can quite make the design of Osborn as the Red Goblin work, though -- indicative that he’s the weak point of this issue. Norman Osborn has always been an iconic nemesis for Peter Parker, but dialing his powers -- and manic cackling -- up to eleven doesn’t actually make him more interesting.
Just about everyone else, though, is pitch perfect. They don’t all get to do much in this issue, but they’re not just there to tick off a list, like the one I started with. Ultimately, this is a story about how vital Peter’s supporting cast is. Both because of the strength they give him as a person, and because they make him more interesting as a character.
The issue’s best moments -- where it goes beyond being a well-executed action sequence -- all rest on this idea in some way. I won’t spoil them, but suffice to say they explore just about every way a Spider-Man story can give you a lump in your throat.
But if you do just want the well-executed action sequence… Well, there’s plenty of that here. There’s plenty of everything. Amazing Spider-Man #800 is an issue that attempts to be all things to all Spider-fans, and does a remarkably good job of it. Just, why’d it have to be Carnage?