Spider-man’s Dying Wish – A worthy conclusion to The Amazing Spider-man?

Spider-man 700 cover

Back in 1963, Stan Lee co-created one of the world’s most recognisable comic book characters – Spider-man. The comic series, titled The Amazing Spider-man, has been published continuously for half a century, ending its run last month with The Amazing Spider-man, Issue #700, the conclusion of Dying Wish. As part of Marvel’s strategy to relaunch several comic books under Marvel NOW!, the company launched a new Spider-man comic book titled The Superior Spider-man earlier this month which continues on from the ending of The Amazing Spider-man.

Fans of Peter Parker’s Spider-man will already be aware of Dying Wish, the closing story arc for The Amazing Spider-man – what it entails and how it ends. For those of you who are interested and wish to read the comic, please be aware that the rest of this post contains MASSIVE SPOILERS, so stop reading now if you’d like to see how The Amazing Spider-man unfolds for yourself.*

For those who aren’t aware, Dying Wish begins with Doctor Octopus, now a crippled and dying man, waking up in his specially designed prison after weeks of inactivity. He calls out Peter Parker’s name, suggesting that he knows the secret identity of Spider-man. We later learn that Doc Ock has somehow switched their minds, resulting in Peter Parker being stuck in the prison in Doc Ock’s body while Doc Ock experiences what it’s like to be the web-slinging superhero.

Despite the limitations of his crippled body, Peter almost beats Doc Ock once again, using his appearance to trick various supervillains into helping him fight Doc Ock’s Spider-man. Unfortunately when it’s a matter of life and death, close enough is not good enough and the invariable end of The Amazing Spider-man sees an unsuccessful Peter Parker dying in Doc Ock’s body on the streets of New York while Octavius carries on the mantle of Spider-man in Peter Parker’s body. This is where it gets weird as the resulting change in “Peter” does not mean that Spider-man is now a supervillain. Rather, he reforms to become a better Spider-man than Peter Parker, calling himself The Superior Spider-man.

Here lies one of my major criticisms with Dying Wish – Dan Slott doesn’t give this important transformation enough time to fully develop. Doc Ock’s Spiderman literally goes from trying to kill Peter to becoming a superhero in a matter of minutes, bringing me back to the days of Revenge of the Sith and Anakin’s switch to the dark side. It doesn’t help that this transformation is not even hinted at throughout the story, with Doc Ock not even considering the role of the hero until the end of the arc. In that sense, it feels like the story was forced to tie in to the new series, The Superior Spider-man, at the last minute, rather than being planned from the start. I’m sure this isn’t the case, but it’s definitely how I felt after reading those last few pages.

My other major criticism of this ending is that Dan Slott has done an incredible disservice to Peter Parker. IF this is the last time we see Peter in a major role – and that’s a big “if” because despite the new status quo, The Superior Spider-man, Issue #1 already suggests that Peter will be returning to his normal duties soon enough – then not only does his 50-year run end with his death, but he gets no funeral or service to honour his contribution to peace and justice. To make things worse, he dies in the body of a criminal and none of his family and friends are aware of his death. In comparison, when Superman “died” in the early 90s, his funeral was attended by the world’s superheroes as well as the President of the United States. The world also went into mourning for him. Peter Parker gets none of this. Not even a funeral.

Despite the criticisms and whether or not I agree with the ending of Dying Wish, there’s no doubt that Dan Slott wrote an intense final chapter to Peter Parker’s Spider-man. The big reveal in Issue #698 was very well done and had the major plot points not been spoiled for me before reading the issues, I would have been incredibly shocked by the turn out of events. The underlying theme of desperation in this arc makes it all the more intense, with both Peter and Doc Ock determined not to be the one in the dying body when its time expires. This leads both characters to make some big plays in order to win, with Peter making some exceptionally difficult choices, including hurting his friends and even trying to kill Doc Ock.

After being spoiled on the plot for the ending on one of the longest running comic books of all time, I didn’t expect much from the Dying Wish arc. What I did get though, was an intense story with mostly excellent pacing. Although it doesn’t get the ending quite right and there are some minor niggles throughout the arc, Dying Wish was a surprisingly fun read. It’ll be interesting to see where Spider-man goes from here. Expect an unpredictable year ahead.

* The Dying Wish arc is covered in issues #698, #699 and #700.

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