The pressure of ending a titanic run on one of the most popular titles in superhero comics must be incredible. “Go Down Swinging” has been hyped by both its publisher and comics sites (myself included) as one of the must-read events of 2018. That’s a lot of attention to meet, and it’s what makes Amazing Spider-Man #798 such an interesting read. It functions as both a response to expectations for a Spider-Man comic and a reminder of why so many readers love this franchise in the first place. There’s a promise at its core too: Dan Slott will go down as one of the greats.
The central problem of this issue is how to introduce what every reader already expects. Even if you have managed to live in a bubble in which you only read Amazing Spider-Man and can ignore every solicit, news story, and other blurb about the Red Goblin, you still know he’s coming. Slott and Immonen have been teasing out his existence for several issues, first hiding the new combination of Norman Osborn and Carnage behind doors and then showing them only in silhouette. Their appearance must be coming though, and that’s where this issue rises above expectations. The opening salvo between Spider-Man and the Red Goblin begins as expected, and as so many others have. There’s everything from a ticking time bomb to innocent loved ones to deal with as the Green Goblin and Spider-Man exchange blows. What comes next addresses exactly what readers expect to happen by simultaneously increasing the stakes and undermining the moment. It’s a brilliant maneuver, and to say more would be to ruin an issue well worth reading.
That self-awareness is present throughout the issue. There are multiple moments that graze the greatest heights of this series long history. It’s easy in superhero comics, especially those at Marvel or DC, to play into these connections. They remind readers of things they already like, winking and nudging them to create the illusion of a bond. An allusion to “Spider-Man No More” is made available in this story, but denied. Slott and his collaborators are more determined to tell their own story. It’s impossible to not make connections to what has come before after 800 issues and seemingly endless tie-ins and spin-offs, but the choice to not embrace those connections is valuable.
That’s apparent in the pencils of Stuart Immonen and inks of Wade von Grawbadger. When drafting a splash, they make it stand on its own. Smaller moments, especially those fraught with emotion and silence, are given careful attention in order to make them resonate. It would be foolish to assert that any of these moments will stand the test of time in the same manner that work from Steve Ditko or John Romita does after 50 years, but the effort and intention are present. They are telling the best form of their story and delivering its moments based on the strengths of this team and moment. That alone is enough to make me want to rise up out of my seat and applaud.
“Go Down Swinging” isn’t over. Its first battle sets up as many questions as it answers and poses as many conflicts as it resolves. Yet the understanding of what sort of story this is has become clear. It is not homage, but something new. The familiar thematic strands are all woven into it. It is a story about people overcoming adversity and heroism from all walks of life (not just the masked members of New York City). It’s simultaneously exactly the sort of Spider-Man story you expect, but entirely fresh compared to the many, many to precede it. There’s a preeminent triumph in seeing great creators prepare to go out on their own terms, and do it with a Spider-Man story worth swinging by your local comics store to read.
Published by Marvel Comics
On April 4, 2018
Written by Dan Slott0comments
Art by Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger
Colors by Marte Gracia