Amazing Spider-Man #600 might just be one of the best value books Marvel has released in a decade. In a time when everyone connected to the industry is justifiably wringing its hands at the prospect of individual issues costing $3.99 a pop, 104 pages of entirely new content for $5 makes this issue worth buying just because it’s such amazing value. With a lead story as long as some arcs, and backup strips by an array of talent, it’s definitely an anniversary package that Marvel can be proud of.
Whether it works as a story in its own right, however, is something I’m still not sure about.
Cramming something like 4 issue’s worth of story into one book makes it a long read – but it’s not a story that makes particular use of that space. The lead story feels rather plodding at times, and although peripheral characters make the odd appearance, so much of the pagecount is given to conventional superheroics that their presence seems almost token. Even Romita’s artwork feels a bit rushed. And, let’s be honest, this isn’t the first time most of us have read about a dying villain enacting his final, greatest scheme, and it’s not even the first time we’ve read such a story about Doc Ock. And, call me a curmudgeon if you will, but if we’re going to do a Doc Ock story at all, why take the character so far from his roots such that he’s basically someone else entirely?
There are a few moments of brilliance – the opening sequence featuring Octavius speaking to a physician highlights an oft-ignored but intriguing part of the character – namely, that he’s not really a superhuman – and the final page can’t fail to elicit a smile – but on the whole, it’s not very eventful, which is a problem for what is ostensibly an event book.
The backup stories are a great idea, but in practise most of them feel a bit flat – with the notable exception of Marcos Martin and Stan Lee’s, featuring fantastic art and some classic “his mind is no longer in mint condition” moments from Lee. The bonus “Spider-Man Covers You’ll Never See” pin-ups are mostly poor, again, with the notable exception of the last one, which is a joke so laugh-out-loud funny that I won’t spoil it.
Overall, it’s hard to know what to make of Amazing #600. I want to like it. At times, I actually do. But more often than not, I feel like the reality has fallen short of the promise. Perhaps that’s a failure of my expectation more than the book itself, but as a regular reader of the series, I was hoping for something a bit more exciting than usual – and this, if anything, went in the other direction.