Stillanerd Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #11

The final showdown between Spider-Man and the Zodiac is all about time: the race against it, the struggle for it, and a complete waste of it.

So after seven months and eleven issues, Dan Slott at long last resolves the ongoing machinations of Scorpio and the Zodiac which started at the beginning of the current volume of The Amazing Spider-Man. Sort of. Oh yes, everything involving these astrology obsessed terrorists does come together in the finale of “Scorpio Rising,” and yes, it isn’t much of a spoiler to say Spider-Man and his allies do find a way to save the day despite the overwhelming odds against them. But as far as ending go, Peter Parker might as well amend his mantra of “with great power comes greater responsibility” by adding “I’ll deal with him next year.” And if you read the issue, you know this is not a figure of speech. The circumstances in Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #11 actually lead to this very thing to happen, though I suppose, for the sake of being charitable, this is Slott’s meta-commentary on the “revolving door” device in comic books.

As it just so happens, the endgame of Scorpio’s master plan also involves a door—a door which opens one year into the future. Yep, seven months and eleven issues of over-complicated schemes, betrayals, thefts, murder, destroying the Rosetta Stone, hacking satellite networks, building underwater bases, building phony bases to act as global positioning markers, secret lairs in Parisian townhouse basements, insider trading, industrial espionage, blackmailing Peter’s new girlfriend whose name is either “Lian” or “Lien” depending on whose editing the comic, brainwashing civilians via making them wear silly masks, hijacking satellites, cellphone networks and high-speed rails, and it all comes down to another “doorway to tomorrow.” Except unlike the one from Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #678, this one is more mystical in origin and is opened by the Cosmic Key, so Slott isn’t completely recycling old ideas and concepts…much.

Come to think of it, Slott also used that same “doorway to tomorrow” to catapult SpOck into the future of 2099 during Superior Spider-Man #19. Then he had another, albeit different, time doorway in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #15 for the “Spider-Verse” epilogue, too. And wasn’t there something involving time travel way back during the events of Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #658 – #660 when Spidey team-up with the Future Foundation to find the cause of some rifts in the space-time continuum? Might as well have Parker Industries build themselves a time machine out of a British police box circa 1963 if Slott keeps this up.

Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #11
The last seven months and eleven issues of Amazing Spider-Man have really been nothing but an extended advertisement for more of Slott’s upcoming stories.

Also, despite Scorpio’s declarations over how this door to future is his destiny, legacy, birthright and so forth, his glimpse into the coming year only shows him what’s going to happen to Spider-Man. Things like the Regent, Civil War II, Norman Osborn, and the return of Doctor Octopus—all of which Marvel’s merry marketing department via promotional teasers, and various interludes in the Amazing Spider-Man comics themselves, have already told its readers about well in advance. That’s right, boys and girls. The last seven months and eleven issues of Amazing Spider-Man—220 pages in length and $46 worth—have really been nothing but an extended advertisement for more of Slott’s upcoming stories. Moreover, we don’t even get to see any images from those upcoming stories as Scorpio just describes what he sees (and of course, to keep up the convenience of the plot, Spider-Man can’t hear what he says) so it was really just a very long teaser trailer. Slott might as well have just said, “I know you don’t care about any of this Zodiac stuff, kids, and I’m sorry for wasting all your time and money. But don’t worry, these next couple of stories will be awesome!” I’m just surprised the various Zodiac symbols over the door to the future wasn’t also some coded message spelling out, “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”

And remember how part one of “Scorpio Rising” made such a big deal about how “the 13th sign of the Zodiac is the Spider” as also mentioned in the solicit for this issue, where we got that cool looking splash page of Spider-Man beginning his free fall to Earth with “new constellation” overhead? Hope you liked that image because there’s no follow-up on this “13th sign” plot point in this issue. Do you remember the cliffhanger from part two where Scorpio threatened to destroy Parker Industries and “everything [Peter] Parker built” should Spider-Man try to foil his plans? That’s never brought up again either. And you notice how all throughout “Scorpio Rising” there was big deal being made about how communications were down all over the world because Spider-Man and Nick Fury Jr. had to take disable the satellites Scorpio hijacked, which gets more dire as, apparently, Scorpio also shut down Parker Industries’ Webware network when he snapped his fingers during Spider-Man holographic conference call last issue? That all happened just so Fury could somehow reposition the International Space Station directly over London to send a message in Morse code to Spider-Man using a giant laser pointer (which the space station just so happens to have installed for some reason), which also allows Spidey to a play on words over how Mockingbird’s real name is Bobbi Morse. Oh yes, Mockingbird just so happens to now be with Spidey, Anna Maria, and the Living Brain/Doc Ock in this issue, even though she wasn’t with them during the last two issues. That, apparently, is just so Slott can hint that she may have the hots for Peter all-of-the-sudden, which of course Spidey is clueless about until Anna Maria points it out for him. That’s what passes for sophistication, wit, and meticulous planning for this comic, folks, and it’s nowhere near the level of quality Slott is capable of and has demonstrated in the past.

Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #11
None of this would be so bad if the Zodiac were more compelling or worthwhile adversaries for Spider-Man, which they are most definitely not.

None of this wouldn’t be so bad if the Zodiac were more compelling or worthwhile adversaries for Spider-Man, which they are most definitely not. It sure doesn’t help that they’re also, quite literally, a group of interchangeable, disposable, and anonymous brainwashed stooges in goofy masks and headdresses, who contribute nothing to the story except having their asses handed to them. Well, maybe not so much Gemini as he creates a doppelgänger from the future to know will happen a day in advance; he gets defeated thanks to having a conveniently timed “reset” whenever it’s midnight, Greenwich Mean Time. As for Scorpio, let’s not mince words: he’s a poser. Are we, as readers, supposed to react in awe and astonishment when he reveals his full name is Vernon Jacob Fury, a moment which has all the surprise (i.e. none at all) of “John Harrison” revealing to Kirk and Spock his real name is Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)? Scorpio’s true identity doesn’t matter when he’s such a generic, supervillain stereotype that even Spider-Man makes fun of him by making references to The Incredibles (2004). Eleven issues and seven months of trying to build up Scorpio as an intimidating, near-unstoppable foe, and Slott undermines it all by borrowing gags from a far more clever Pixar movie from twelve years ago. Mustn’t let anyone forget how Marvel is owned by Disney, after all.

Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #11

The only saving grace this comic has is Giuseppe Camuncoli’s penciling. Thanks to assistance from Cam Smith and Marte Gracia’s inking and coloring, the comic does offer a decent enough “light show” during the scenes of the Zodiac’s ceremony to find the doorway, and Camuncoli does make the most of what is otherwise Spider-Man and Scorpio playing a game of keep-away with the Zodiac Key. He’s also still does an excellent job in depicting facial expressions, able to locate that fine line between realism and exaggeration to really convey a character’s proper emotional reactions. This is especially the case when it comes to Scorpio, as you can visibly see just how exuberant and unhinged the Zodiac’s leader has become when on the verge of getting what he and his family have craved for centuries. Even so, his panel arrangements, even with having three double-page spreads to work with, are rather basic in their layouts. Whenever there isn’t action being depicted on panel, Camuncoli’s images also look rather stilted and plain in comparison, mostly limited to standard medium-wide angles or close-ups.  It’s decent art, but also, at times, rather ordinary art.

While there’s nothing offensive about Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #11, it does make one wonder why Slott even bothered with all this Zodiac nonsense in the first place. Plus the issue ending on the idea that Scorpio will reappear sometime next year (albeit in accordance with Marvel’s sliding timescale) doesn’t generate a whole of enthusiasm for his return. If he even returns in Amazing Spider-Man, that is. Because after seven months and eleven issues, I’m crossing my fingers that this will be the last time he and Zodiac, or rather Slott’s version of them, will plague this title. We’ve had enough time wasted in reading about these overrated Cobra knockoffs, thank you very much.

Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (spoilers ahead)

  • Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #11

    …even if he doesn’t quite now how…” Don’t you mean “know how,” Mr. Recap Writer? Granted, my own proofreading skills aren’t always the best, but I don’t have the luxury of having two different editors to look things over like you do. Then again, I’m starting to wonder if Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis do any actual editing on this comic.

  • Hold on? If all communications across the globe are down, how did Mockingbird know to pick up Spider-Man, Anna Maria, and the Superior Living Brain from Scorpio’s Parisian townhouse and fly them over to London? Scorpio interrupted and shutdown Peter’s Webware conference call, remember? Did Mockingbird just assume Spidey and pals needed a ride?
  • Also, does everyone in the Marvel Universe now use Parker Industries Webware as their only mean of communication on the planet? Surely, there are other mobile and cellular phone networks–some of which don’t depend upon satellites to function–still in operation? What about DSL or Cable Modems, especially if fiber-optic cable hasn’t been shut down? How about short-wave radio? Did none of the collective geniuses at Parker Industries figure out they could still communicate with each other sending signals back-and-forth to receiver antennas using a simple transmitter?
  • “What is this place?” And thus someone from the United Kingdom has no idea what the Greenwich Royal Observatory is, even though it’s in London, the capital city of the United Kingdom. Guess those Zodiac masks really do make people into mindless slaves.
  • This…is the heart of the Prime Meridian, the place where all the Earth has decided that time itself begins…” Actually, Scorpio, aren’t you confusing the Greenwich Prime Meridian with the International Date Lane? Because as I’m sure as you well know, since there are almost 24 hours in a day and not twelve, and the Earth rotates at 360 degrees and not 180, you need another place on the globe to determine where and when the next day begins and ends. Hence, when the International Meridian Conference convened in 1884 in Washington, D.C., and established the Greenwich line as the 0º longitude, they also selected the opposite 180º line as the IDL, which is the actual place on the Earth where the date changes. And that’s not even getting into the fact that Coordinated Universal Time replaced Greenwich Mean Time as the international time standard in 1972. Or that, thanks to GPS systems, you’re about over 300 feet off from where the real 0º longitude line is. But at least you’re acknowledging that “where time itself begins” is an arbitrary place and not some ancient site of mystical power…even while acting like it’s also an ancient site of mystical power?
  • So despite Scorpio and his pals being at the Greenwich Royal Observatory in London, and Peter and his pals being on top of the Parker Industries building in London, none of them noticed the huge glow of green supernatural light emanating from the location of the Royal Observatory? Only Nick Fury Jr. and his giant laser pointer could tell him where the lights were coming from?
  • Speaking of which, the International Space Station is in geosynchronous orbit. Meaning it moves, specifically at 27,600 km/h or 17,000 mph. Nor does it always fly directly over London. In fact, one cannot manually control or maneuver the orbital path the space station takes into a different path. Nor, as far as I know, can anyone inside the station manipulate any of the lights on the space station to send signals in Morse code down to Earth, much there being a giant laser pointer installed on its underbelly for that very purpose. Gotta say, that’s quite a feat Nick Fury Jr. pulled off at the last moment.
  • So the same inter-dimensional beings who forged the Cosmic Key and the Orrery just so happened to build the tomb housing the door to the future on the same grounds as the Greenwich Royal Observatory, which just so happens to be in the same city as the British Museum, which just so happens to have the Rosetta Stone, which just so happened to contain the Orrery? Wouldn’t it have made more sense if these inter-dimensional beings built the tomb in Egypt since that’s where the Rosetta Stone came from? Especially since the Cosmic Key is in the shape of an ankh, which is an Egyptian symbol?
  • Even with my armor, it’s burning through my hand!” You mean the same type of armor which allowed you to withstand temperatures above 3,000º F during your free fall to Paris, Spider-Man? But I guess “magic heat” is hotter than atmospheric heat.
  • The key has a bond with my family and the original Scorpio, my grandfather.” Looks like you’re not up on your family history, because as revealed in Secret Warriors #26, the original Scorpio was a Life-Model Decoy of your grandfather, not your real grandfather. Which kind of means the Cosmic Key shouldn’t really be bonded to you, but oh well, why complicate matters?
  • “I’ve beaten the Scorpion a hundred times. And he’s like you, but with an ‘N.’” You know, your joke would’ve been funnier, Spider-Man, if you also pointed out how Scorpion has a mechanical tail while Scorpio doesn’t. But oh well, at least you get points for trying.
  • Let me get this straight, Doc Ock…you’ve been scheming and bidding your time over the last eight months, and it’s only when you see Anna Maria hanging on Peter’s arm do you now decide to “accelerate your plans,” even though you know you know full well she’s not romantically interested in Peter, much less dating him? You do hear her saying she’s holding Peter’s arm just to make Mockingbird jealous, right?