Across more than a decade of writing on Amazing Spider-Man, Dan Slott has collaborated with some of the most talented artists work in comics today. The climactic showdown between Spider-Man and Red Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #800 highlighted many of the most talented and prolific artists to work with Slott across the years. Each section placed the work in its best light, whether that included a brutal fight in the streets of Manhattan, a colossal team up between Spidey’s allies, or a noble sacrifice honored during the final pages. Reflecting on that issue and the years of great stories that came before, it’s difficult to focus on a favorite creative team during Slott’s immense run.
Difficult, but not impossible. While he may not have been Slott’s most consistent collaborator, the artist who always brought out the best in Amazing Spider-Man during this time must have been Marcos Martín. Every time a cover included the names Slott and Martín, fans instantly knew they were in for something special. The pair brought out the absolute best in one another and there’s not a single misfire among the Spider-Man stories they crafted together. Given their accomplishments, it’s no surprise that Slott requested Martín return for his final issue on the series this week: Amazing Spider-Man #801.
If you’re unfamiliar with the entire decade of work or Martín’s specific accomplishments, they can be summarized in three short stories that cannot be recommended highly enough. Together, this trio makes it clear why Slott and Martín are two of the best creators in superhero comics today, and what makes them great together.
Inventing The New
The duo first collaborated on Amazing Spider-Man during the “Brand New Day” era which featured an almost weekly publication schedule and rotating team of both writers and artists. They connected on the issues of Amazing Spider-Man #559-561 for the story “Paparazzi.” While there is plenty else occurring in Peter Parker’s soap opera of a life, the focus lay on a new villain: Paper Doll. She was a stalker who attacked and killed people related to her subject after gaining new paper-like abilities.
While Paper Doll has not become a key member of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, this story stands out as one of the creepiest Spider-Man stories ever told and Paper Doll is an absolute highlight from this era of the series. Her ability to fold and flatten her form, in addition to camouflage and absorption tricks, made her an incredibly dangerous foe. More importantly, she was a visually fascinating new character. Martín toyed with the dimension of her body and the page itself in order to hide the villain out of sight until she struck. Few artists could achieve the same effects so effectively, rendering a short “villain of the month” tale into something truly memorable.
Revamping The Classic
Martín wasn’t just great at finding the visual cues and hooks behind new characters though. He was an artist capable of tapping into the very essence of villains first brought to the page by Steve Ditko, a master of superhero comics if there ever was one. During the extended storyline of “The Gauntlet,” where Spider-Man confronted a series of his classic foes with almost no time to rest in between, Martín and Slott paired for their second collaboration on Amazing Spider-Man #618-620. This time Spider-Man had to confront Mysterio as he wreaked havoc with New York City’s crime syndicates in the aptly named “Mysterioso.”
It’s no coincidence that this is the villain Slott and Martín re-teamed for. Mysterio has been one of the most visually engaging supervillains in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery since his very first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #13. His illusions create endless possibilities to play with what is inside of panels, as well as the panels themselves. Martín made great use of the familiar swirling clouds of gas that surround many of Mysterio’s greatest moment, making them part of page layouts, setting, and the action itself. As a mastermind the villain would rest seemingly on thin air with his cameras and other instruments also floating about him. Long, thin lines accentuated these moments, providing a dreamlike quality to the proceedings. Those cameras and gases would also create panels within panels, emphasizing Mysterio’s power over the moment and disorienting readers. In spite of a half century of stories battling Spider-Man when “Mysterioso” was published, Martín and Slott proved together this classic villain still possessed plenty of potential for new adventures.
Creating The Iconic
The power of pure adventures in “Paparazzi” and “Mysterioso” still can’t rival Slott and Martín’s greatest work on Amazing Spider-Man, whether you consider them together or apart, “No One Dies.” Following the death of Marla Jameson, this story focused on the grief and reactions of her husband J. Jonah Jameson and friend Peter Parker. It begins with Marla’s funeral and ends with Spider-Man saving everyone in a seemingly impossible hostage scenario, including the villain Massacre, before swearing to himself that no one will die on his watch. Although the story, contained in Amazing Spider-Man #655-656, is less than a decade old, it already stands out as an all-time classic for the character.
After having worked together on such effective prior Spider-Man stories, Slott left the majority of Amazing Spider-Man #655 entirely silent. Not a single word is spoken as Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson prepare for the funeral in parallel sequences, then experience the immensity of the day side-by-side. It is all the more powerful for relying entirely on images. Martín makes each emotion clear and renders the universal experience of grieving brilliantly, capturing the shellshock, loneliness, and oddity that consumes these dark days.0comments
The intensity of this sequence is balanced by the superhero element of the story wherein Spider-Man takes a police bullet, ordered by the distraught Mayor Jameson, to save the villain. His dedication to do the impossible and use his powers to save all of the living make a potent statement about the character. Even in the face of terrible costs, Spider-Man refuses to surrender his principles, choosing to double down on them instead. The result is a simply stunning story for Spider-Man, the superhero genre, and comics altogether.
It was the capstone of Slott and Martín’s collaboration until this week and their final work together on the series. If “No One Dies” offers any hint, then readers ought to expect that this finale will provide a stirring thesis as to why Spider-Man is one of the most inspiring superheroes ever created. There’s no doubt that Martín and Slott can accomplish that much, even in a single issue.