There is so much to unpack throughout the 80 pages of Amazing Spider-Man #800. Guest stars, tragic twists, epic battles, and a greatest hits collection of artists fill these pages. Yet there is an essential question that runs through it all, and helps to clarify every chapter of this enormous comic book: What makes Spider-Man a hero? That may seem obvious; Spider-Man helps people and fights bad guys. The answer Dan Slott and his collaborators offer, based on hundreds of issues of consideration, is much more nuanced and, at the end of the issue, frankly inspiring.
Amazing Spider-Man #800 takes the soap opera elements of the Spider-Man saga and transforms them into a thematic element. The sprawling cast of characters, tangled web of connections between heroes and villains, and five decades of history are all put to work throughout the issue. Every new chapter pulls from the past while adding at least one exciting new element to Spider-Man’s saga. What elevates these elements is that they are all tied into Spider-Man’s impact on the world around him. His family, friends, and frenemies reflect what makes Spider-Man one of the greatest superheroes ever created.
The people in Peter Parker’s life ultimately shape the narrative as much as Peter himself. Unlike Amazing Spider-Man #120, they aren’t defined as being victims either. Every person, no matter how seemingly normal, contributes to the battle against the Red Goblin and reveals their own form of heroism. Aunt May, Mary Jane, Flash Thompson, and so many others display a fundamental goodness within humanity. That Spider-Man connects and inspires them all is a far greater power than anything obtained from a radioactive spider. The issue offers space for every notable member of this cast to support their hero too.
The space also serves as the issue's greatest weakness. It allows time and space for a sequence to linger slightly too long or for one too many monologues to be added. While the quality of each individual element is consistent throughout the issue, the story begins to feel slightly overstuffed, especially in the middle chapters. There’s an element of nostalgia that lingers across the issue. While it’s enjoyable for fans looking to say goodbye to an era, the preciousness in leaving no stone unturned also causes the story to plateau before the final moments when it rapidly accelerates once again.
This format also makes it difficult to make precise comments about the artwork without resorting to a list. Six distinct artistic teams tell the story and any reader paying attention to Spider-Man comics from the past decade will recognize them all on sight. Dividing the comic into chapters highlights each team instead of leaving them in a scramble, and the result feels as much like a collection as a single issue. Each new set of moments is well chosen for the artist. Martin in particular is given a chapter that reflect both his and Slott’s absolute best moment on the series. There’s a metatextual layer of enjoyment to seeing these artists featured, as well, recognizing that Slott is also saying farewell to the collaborators that transformed his scripts into some spectacular Spider-Man comics.
It’s a very fine goodbye, even with one more issue remaining in Slott’s run. Everything a reader might need to know about his take on Spider-Man is contained in these pages. In the face of impossible challenges and terrible tragedy, Spider-Man is the person who keeps working to do the right thing. It is that resolve which in turn inspires everyone around him to do the same. The world is better not just because it has Spider-Man to protect it, but to inspire it as well. The ultimate lesson of Slott’s run and Amazing Spider-Man #800 is that Peter Parker is not unique. He is a human being who makes mistakes and fails, but he’s also someone who learns and keeps striving to do better. That is a narrative shared by others like J. Jonah Jameson and Flash Thompson through this issue. Together they remind us that heroism is not rare; it’s a choice that we are all capable of every day. That is an amazing idea.
Published by Marvel Comics
On May 30, 2018
Written by Dan Slott
Colors by Edgar Delgado, Java Tartaglia, Marte Gracia, and Muntsa Vicente
Lettering by Joe Caramagna