When I first heard about Amazing Spider-Man ending and being replaced by a new Superior Spider-Man series starring someone other than Peter Parker, my first thought was: maybe they’re finally retiring Peter for good. Peter is at a pretty good point in his personal life: he has a good, fulfilling job at Horizon Labs so he doesn’t have to miss the bills, Aunt May is well taken care of by Jameson Sr. so he doesn’t have to worry about her all the time, and there were even some signs of how he and Mary Jane still cared so deeply for each other. After everything Peter had given to the world as Spider-Man, it wouldn’t be too much to ask for him to pass the baton to someone else and ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after (maybe after foiling one last big supervillain plot of course). Peter could still make occasional appearances as a mentor or tech supplier for whoever would be the new Spider-Man. It would be a well-deserved rest and retirement for someone who has had to bear so much responsibility for the past 50 years of Amazing Spider-Man, an ideal fantasy ending.
Alas, when I read ASM #698, the opening shot of the Dying Wish story arc that would end the book, I knew that it would remain just that: a fantasy. The powers-that-be (meaning Spider-man scribe Dan Slott and the Marvel editorial team) had prescribed a darker ending for the dearly beloved Spider-Man hero.
You’ve probably read all about it on the internet by now. The ending of Amazing Spider-Man has been one of the most (if not the most) controversial and divisive story lines not only for the year but maybe for the entirety of the Amazing Spider-Man run, with the only other possible contender being the deal with the devil in the much-criticized One More Day story arc back in 2007. The difference between 2007 and 2012 is of course the internet is more widely spread and the creators are more accessible, specifically current series writer Dan Slott who is very open and active on Twitter. Many fans have not reacted well to the controversial ending of Dying Wish and the identity of the new Superior Spider-Man, with many lashing out in forums and reddit and social media, some directly threatening Dan Slott via his twitter account. I doubt One More Day writer JMS ever had this amount of vitriol thrown at him over the internet at that time.
The fan reaction is understandable (though the threats aren’t) - Peter Parker was a well-loved character and to give him an ending like this can feel like a betrayal to fans who have been rooting for him all these years. But not all stories have a happy ending. Sometimes the hero doesn’t make it against the overwhelming odds. Sometimes he doesn’t get the ending he deserves. Sometimes the villain doesn’t get his comeuppance. And maybe, just maybe, sometimes the villain gets the chance to play the hero.
And understandably after reading Amazing Spider-Man #700 a lot of people are not planning to pick up the upcoming Superior Spider-Man series, the same way a number of people stopped reading ASM after One More Day. And that’s fine; not all stories are for everybody, and for some readers all they want is to read more Peter Parker as Spider-Man; they don’t want to read about some villain pretending to be Spider-Man. As comic book fans, we all know that eventually Peter Parker will find his way back to us somehow (if only because he has a movie coming out in 2014!), but for now it’s the end of Peter’s story and someone else takes over. If one doesn’t want to read stories about that, then it’s fine and that frees your comics dollars to maybe pick up something new and just come back when Peter eventually does.
But for the rest of us, the ones who want to keep reading, Avenging Spiderman #15.1 picks up where ASM 700 left off and gives us a glimpse of the new Spider-Man’s persona, leading into Superior Spider-Man #1 on the second week of January. There are many more stories to be told and to be read and to be enjoyed. And if we don’t enjoy them? Then Peter would be coming back sooner than we’d expect.
I’m curious as to where Slott will take our new hero. Will his be a tale of redemption, of making up for past wrongs? Will he strive to be the hero Peter was and even surpass him, in order to justify his “Superior” title? How much influence will Peter have over the new pilot? (We’ve already seen Peter’s instincts and muscle memory reflect in the new protagonist) Will Carlie and/or heaven forbid the Trapster eventually figure things out? Will icky things happen to MJ? Slott says they still have a few tricks up their sleeves and that fans should stay tuned to Superior Spider-Man. But the new book and the new protagonist have a high standard to live up to and surpass if they are to be worthy of being called “Superior”. Let’s see where this ride takes us.