THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR "AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" #668, IN STORES AND AVAILABLE DIGITALLY NOW
The legendary James Brown was known as the hardest working man in show business, which would probably make Marvel Comics' Spider-Man the James Brown of super heroics. These days, the web-slinger maintains his solo career as a hero along with memberships in the Future Foundation and two Avengers teams, all balanced with the responsibilities of his dream job at Horizon Labs and his obligations to his friends, family and girlfriend Carlie Cooper. Simply put, Spidey and the creators responsible for his adventures are being kept quite busy.
The adventure occupying most of their time right now is the event storyline "Spider-Island." The story, running through the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man" and several tie-ins, is about an outbreak that infects thousands of Manhattan residents, endowing them with spider powers much like Spidey's. In CBR's SPIDER-ISLAND HOPPING, we've been speaking with the busy creators about every issue of the main story. Today, Dan Slott joins us to focus on "Amazing Spider-Man" #668 by Slott and artist Humberto Ramos.
CBR News: Dan, you open "Amazing" #668 with Shang-Chi jumping into the battle with the Spider-Imposters in order to save Spider-Man who had been attacked by several Avengers who believed Spidey to be one of the fakes. This is just the latest development in the friendship between Spidey and Shang-Chi, something you've been developing since "Shadowland." What's it been like writing Shang-Chi?
Dan Slott: It's been a kick. I'm a big fan of Doug Moench. If you go back to my short lived "Thing" series, the opening arc goes to Mordillo's Island. I love all the Shang-Chi stuff. That was a fun, wonderfully trippy book in the '70s and it's a hoot writing him now.
The only thing that would make me happier would probably make the fans sadder, and that's putting him in the classic red and yellow pajamas. [Laughs] Yes, I know we need to update things and make them look cool. So he's in his "Secret Avengers" shirt, but it's like, "Aww -- c'mon."
Shang-Chi has his own "Spider-Island" tie-in with "Spider-Island: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu" by writer Antony Johnston and artist Sebastian Fiumara, but will he continue to be involved in the action in "Amazing Spider-Man" as well?
In "Amazing" you're really going to see what's going on with Spidey -- and Antony has lots of cool stuff in store for Shang over in the "Deadly Hands of Kung Fu" tie-in mini. Everything does tie in together at the end though. So you'll see Shang at a key point again in "Amazing Spider-Man."
Shang wasn't the only character to see some action in "Amazing" #668. We got glimpses into what's going on with a lot of supporting players. Daily Bugle reporter Norah Winters is present during the battle with the Spider-Imposters, but she's filming the battle herself. Where is her camera man?
Her camera man, Phil Urich, who is secretly the villainous Hobgoblin, showed up during the "Spider-Island: Deadly Foes" one-shot, which came out a couple of weeks ago. You got a sneak peek of how this battle was going to turn out if you read "Deadly Foes." (For those of you who missed it, or couldn't find a copy, look for the second printing of "Spider-Island: Deadly Foes!")
The same thing is going on in "Venom." If you're reading "Venom" right now, you know the secret identity of the Spider-King -- and you don't know that yet if you're just reading "Amazing." By the time you read issue #670 of "Amazing," you will know. It's fun -- if you're just reading "Amazing Spider-Man," you're still getting a full story full of fun reveals, but if you're reading everything else, you're getting glimpses into the future and hidden information, so you might be more in the know. It's almost like getting secret passcodes, but it's not going to hinder your reading experience if you're only reading "Amazing Spider-Man."
I think it was Hitchcock who said you can make any scene better by having a character run in, hide a bomb under a chair and then run out before anyone enters the room. So if you're reading more of the books, you're seeing a bigger picture and learning more information. That's going to color your opinion of how things are going in the main "Spider-Island" book. If you're just reading "Amazing Spider-Man," though, in the long run you're not missing out because we will catch you up.
Mary Jane Watson was also present at the battle with the Spider-Imposters. Since MJ was one of the uninfected, she had to sit on the sidelines and watch as Peter's new girlfriend Carlie Cooper used her spider powers to help the heroes out. Later in the issue, she saw Pete and Carlie web-swinging together and seemed pretty crushed by that. How does Mary Jane feel about these events? What is she thinking when she sees them using their powers together?
Awww, poor Mary Jane! It's kind of a bummer, isn't it? Back in the mid-80s, on the cover to "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #19, we saw a cover where MJ's ripping off a shirt and wearing a Spider-Man costume underneath. But it's all just a fantasy. We know she wonders what having these powers would be like.
Now, in Spider-Island, we're getting to the point where everybody in Manhattan has spider powers but her. Come on! What's up with that? It's almost like there's a reason.
Mary Jane may be jealous of Carlie's spider powers, but they weren't the only things that made her so effective in issue #668. Carlie also shows off her detective skills at the end of the issue when she deduces that the Jackal is behind the spider powers plague. She comes to this conclusion even before Peter does. So just how solid are Carlie's detective skills?
It fells like Carlie's a good detective, except there seems to be one mystery where all the clues are right under her nose and she can't seem to prove her case.
Does Peter truly understand and appreciate how perceptive Carlie is? Or is he in danger of underestimating her?
I think Pete is wary of Carlie's abilities as a detective. I think he respects them the way he would respect any kind of threat.
Speaking of threats, the man in charge of dealing with New York's response to the spider powers plague is Mayor J. Jonah Jameson. In issue #668, JJJ makes a big move towards dealing with the problem when he deputizes the heroes and spider-powered citizens who took on the Jackal's army of Spider-Imposters. Jameson seems pretty confident, but deep down, how does he feel about the threat the city is facing? Is this his worst nightmare come true? Or does he see this as a chance to achieve his finest hour?
This is the guy who sunk a huge percentage of the city's budget into his anti-spider patrol. This is when everyone realizes that they elected the right person into office. If it wasn't for Jameson, we wouldn't be prepared at all. It's like living in Vampire City and this is the guy who just stalked up on garlic and stakes. Right now, the average New Yorker is saying, "We are so glad we voted for you! Way to go! We thought you were a nut!"
Jameson may be looking sane, but the Jackal is looking crazier than ever! In one scene in issue #668, he talks about how he never tires of seeing Peter Parker's face, no matter how many times he masks it, unmasks it, liquefies it or wears it as a hat. That's a very telling statement; the Jackal talking about masking and unmasking Pete suggests that he knows that Pete is Spider-Man. Did Doctor Strange's spell that protects Pete's identity not work on the Jackal?
If you go back and look at the story I wrote with the Fantastic Four (that's collected in the "24/7" trade of "Amazing Spider-Man"), Peter lays out the rules of Doctor Strange's mind-wipe spell. He tells Reed Richards that it created a psychic blind spot, that even if there's a stack of evidence pointing to the fact that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, that person's mind won't let them connect the dots. Or their mind will come up with a solution that they can accept. It just won't be the right one.
Pete goes on to explain that the only way his identity can be compromised is if someone unmasks him or if he unmasks himself. In that case, that person's memories of Peter Parker being Spider-Man will all come rushing back.
So if you're the Jackal, and you're growing something that you know to be a clone of Spider-Man, and you put it in a mask and then you unmask it, you'd then know Spider-Man's secret identity. It's all there in that line -- the Jackal says, "Parker. I'll never get tired of that face, no matter how many times I've masked it, unmasked it, liquefied it or worn it like a little hat." He's fulfilled the conditions of Doctor Strange's spell.
Shortly after he talks about Peter's face, the Jackal tells his mysterious employer a little bit about the nature of the spider powers virus and how it will continue to spread. What exactly is he saying here?
He's saying, the more people use their powers, the more active the virus becomes. He's saying it will mutate. In the end, that'll mean one word: "airborne!"
Yikes. Hope isn't entirely lost, though. Anti-Venom makes an appearance and shoots one of the infected with some darts made from his symbiote. That seems to rob that person of their spider powers -- Anti-Venom's healing powers can destroy the virus?
It seems so. It looks like he can cure one person at a time.
These healing powers of Anti-Venom's partly arose from his exposure to Mister Negative's healing touch. Both Negative and Dagger, of Cloak and Dagger, got their powers from the same batch of experimental drugs. So would Negative and Dagger be able to cure people of the spider powers virus? Or do Anti-Venom's powers work differently?
Anti-Venom's powers do work differently.
So far we've talked about villains, anti-heroes and several members of Spider-Man's supporting cast, but we haven't talked about Spidey himself, so let's do that. Spider-Man undertook several important actions in issue #668, but it seems like the most important was changing into Peter Parker and issuing a call to arms to New Yorkers with spider powers to join him in taking down the Jackal's army of Spider-Imposters. As a New Yorker yourself, what was it like writing that scene?
As someone who lives here, it's always fun to see New Yorkers wandering around the fringes of the Marvel Universe. So much of Marvel is set in Manhattan, it's nice to know that we're all the "extras." Over the years, more than any other book, you see that in "Amazing Spider-Man." And in #668, you have this moment where these guys step up and get to be heroes.
Any final thoughts you'd like to share about "Amazing Spider-Man" #668 before we jump to the next issue?
Yet again, another blockbuster job by Humberto Ramos. Every page is bursting with energy. If you thought issues #667 and #668 were great, wait until you see the next two issues! "Amazing Spider-Man" #670 features some of the most gorgeous Humberto Ramos work yet! I can't wait for people to see that one.
And, wow -- we're a third of the way through "Spider-Island," now! That's not easy. Hats off to the "Amazing" editorial team of Steve Wacker, Ellie Pyle and everyone who is helping out with the event. It takes a lot of coordination, effort and work to make sure that these things come out on time and in the right order.
Also issue #669 is the halfway point of "Spider-Island." And like all halfway points, there will be a game changer when you reach the end of the issue!
That's it for today's SPIDER-ISLAND HOPPING! Check back with CBR tomorrow when Dan is joined by assistant editor Ellie Pyle to discuss "Amazing Spider-Man" #669!