He did it?! No way, he didn't… did he? Did he actually do it? It looks like he did it… but whoa… really?
That's the response to Amazing Spider-Man #685, the latest chapter in Dan Slott's "Ends of the Earth" saga, telling the story of the ailing Dr. Octopus and his last master plan before he meets his overdue end. Otto Octavius has managed to show the world that he is absolutely capable of bringing a permanent end to the problem of climate change, and has all the nations of the world working to help him achieve this goal. Of course, Spider-Man doesn't buy it for a moment, and he's been scrambling on the extremely wrong side of global opinion to try and put an end to the Sinister Six and all Ock's manufacturing installations before he puts enough satellites in the sky to fry the planet. The only people backing him up are the devoted Silver Sable and the talented Black Widow, now that the Sinister Six have taken out the Avengers.
The big mystery has been wondering which side of the fence Otto would fall upon in his final hours. Would he go out a savior to the entire world – he has had his sweet side in the past, as he dated Aunt May, you know – or would he go for the all-too-literal scorched earth agenda? His big project could go either way. That uncertainty reaches a fevered pitch in #685, and we see a very different kind of Spider-Man in the midst of this massive global threat.
Spidey Against The World. He's used to seeing him suffer the slings and arrows of fickle public opinion, but this is beyond the pale for him. "Every nation on Earth thinks I'm wrong on this one," he says, while nursing injuries after a fight with the Rhino. "And I gotta admit — that stings." Ock's got the world's leaders in the palm of his hand, and he's convinced even S.H.I.E.L.D. to treat the trio like terrorists.
However, it brings out a different side of the wall-crawler to be leading the charge for a commando unit like this, founded purely on his absolute conviction that Otto Octavius is a bastard. He's wearing his new-fangled Spider-armor like a military uniform, and he's gotten a well-traveled soldier for hire like Silver Sable not only backing him up every step of the way, but adamantly insisting on boosting his confidence whenever it flags with her own strongly-held belief in him. Even Black Widow, the only un-captured member of the Avengers ill-fated attempt to stop the Sinister Six, is behind him in lockstep as well, and if he was going off the rails, she'd be the first one to say so.
The Spider-Man we see here is hard-nosed, still insisting that "no one dies," but also playing hardball with interrogating their prisoner Flint Marko, the Sandman. essentially acid-boarding him to get him to talk. However, unlike the writers of Avengers vs. X-Men, who are just having people behave out of character and act like they're not, Slott makes an effort to comment on that – in Spidey's internal monologue, we see that Sable's observation that this has changed him is true, and not something he feels entirely comfortable with. Of course, Slott writes densely – it's quite amazing that a bi-monthly book like this can still feel packed to the gills with action, dialog and story. It never feels padded or stretched out – it always feels tense with a breakneck pace. Slott excels at leaving us breathless with these fast-paced adventures.
Slott also knows exactly how we as fans think, and in a global crisis like this in the shared Marvel universe, we're always thinking 'why aren't the other heroes helping?' Well, we get that answer here, when Spider-Man tries to recruit some worldwide heroes to aid in the fight once Doc Ock starts expanding his ranks after being whittled down to the Sinister Four. "The Avengers have been captured. The X-Men, Defenders and FF are off-world." That's all we need, and we don't care how contrived it might be – plus, it gives us a chance to see the international superguys we don't get much of, like Big Hero 6 in Japan, Kangaroo in Australia, Sabra in Israel and even the damn Titanium Man being the Russian patriot mistaken for a bad guy enough to be included on Ock's call-out, and who turns right around and fills Spidey in on the deal. We LOVE this kind of thing. We live for this kind of thing in the funnybook world, and we're getting our own spin-off issue, Ends of the Earth #1, later this month to give us exactly that – a bunch of cool, obscure heroes in action.
More importantly, we buy every motivation. The impetus for Spider-Man to take command like this, as well as how seeing him thrive in this element would really start to turn Sable's crank, so to speak. And even with the stunning last page of this issue, there's still some subterfuge throughout about how Doc Ock's final play will wind up taking shape… although that final image definitely has us going "no way… he didn't, did he?"
As usual, Humberto Ramos and his highly-charged kinetic style might very well be contributing to just how breathless Slott's stories become, because his work is just so damn dynamic and energetic. Hell, in this issue, he even gives Slott a cameo. The Amazing Spider-Man #685 once again proves that it's possibly the most consistently and thoroughly enjoyable read that Marvel Comics puts out, and you're missing out on plenty of exciting adventures if you don't dig in.