I've been rather down on Dan Slott's Amazing Spider-Man since the conclusion of what I felt to be the rather exciting Spider-Island. After all the action Slott crammed into that slugfest of an event, it has seemed to me that ASM has been stuck on autopilot. going through the motions without ever really putting anything meaningful at stake. Now that Ends of the Earth has officially kicked off, I'm not quite so sure that that was the problem.
As I've said repeatedly here at The Weekly Crisis, I first experienced Dan Slott's writing when Marvel gave him the reins to Amazing Spider-Man a year and a bit ago for his The Big Time storyarc. Having never really followed a Spider-Man ongoing before, things were pretty darned exciting, with Pete and company getting into all kinds of challenges and hijinx. At this point, that fresh feeling isn't coming as easily to me anymore. Looking back at things now, it seems pretty obvious, but contrary to my earlier guesses, the issue hasn't been that Slott's writing has changed; the issue of late is that his writing style hasn't changed enough. To put it more simply, I've grown accustomed to Slott's style and mannerisms for our friendly neighbourhood web slinger, and the same old thing isn't really cutting it for me anymore.
This issue is a pretty good example of the phenomenon. There are some pretty major problems facing both Pete and the world at large, including the more local obstacle of J. Jonah Jameson getting it in his mind to try and shut down Horizon Labs, and the rather more global issue of Doctor Octopus finally unveiling the beginnings of his master plan. Both of these events are interesting on an intellectual level, but emotionally there is nothing pushing me to pick up the next issues to see how things play out.
On the plus side, it's nice to have Stefano Caselli back on the title for a bit. While his lines are sometimes a little too realistic, on the whole, I'm a big fan of his style. He excels at most anything he puts to paper, whether it's the opening action scene, quieter moments of conversation, or that two-page spread of Otto Octavius' dastardly machine at work. My only real criticism of the book's art would be on the new Spider-armour that they bust out on the last page. I don't know how much of it was Caselli's doing, but the nicest thing I can say about the suit is that I'm glad it will only be temporary. It's simply too much for something that I'd be happy to see Peter wearing on a regular basis.
While I know that the Spider-burnout that I describe above doesn't exactly provide for the most fair analysis of a single issue, I just can't shake it. And if, like me, you've been following Amazing Spider-Man for a good while, I imagine that you might be going through a similar thing. Objectively, this is a pretty decent issue of Spider-Man-y goodness, but that doesn't change the fact that I've seen all this before in earlier issues of the same run.
Verdict - Check It. If you haven't been reading ASM lately, there's a lot of good things happening here. On the other hand, if you've been faithfully following Spider-Man's exploits under Dan Slott's stewardship, it might be time for a break, because ASM #682 isn't reinventing the wheel and the ride is getting a little old.
I've been quite positive for every single issue of Heart, a miniseries focused on one man's entry into the world of mixed martial arts fighting, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I found the concluding issue to be just as good.
From the start, Oren Redmond's story has been quite different from most other comic books coming out right now. There weren't worlds at stake, our hero didn't have amazing powers, and the story didn't fit into a wider continuity, but none of that mattered. Instead, Blair Butler and Kevin Mellon decided to simply go out and tell a quality story. And that's pretty much exactly what they did and continued to do here in the series' final issue.
Last time around, we saw that after his early success in the octagon, Oren was starting to have some difficulties in the ring. He dropped weight to try things out in a lower weight class, but things just weren't going his way. That trend continues in this issue, as Oren finds himself without that killer edge that he once had. Where before he was raring to get it on, he's far more hesitant during fights, and the results are not good. Running up a series of harsh losses, it's clear that Oren is done for good.
Unlike what you might expect, Oren's losing streak isn't a bad thing - it's a wakeup call. While he certainly doesn't enjoy repeatedly getting his face beaten in, he realizes that he's moved on from MMA fighting. In effect, Butler uses these setbacks as a springboard for Oren's own development. Those loses were tough, but he learns from them and ends up as a better person for having lived through them. Ultimately, the book moves away from the MMA aspect, emphasizing that the story has been a character piece about Oren and that the fighting was simply part of his life at the point we're following it. In the end, he moves onto a different life. It's not necessarily a better one, but it's a better one for him.
Even though I came into this series without much in the way of expectations, this wasn't at all what I was expecting, but it felt true and honest. Oren gets a happy ending. It's not the one he had been looking forward to, but it's good nonetheless.
Kevin Mellon has been brilliant on this book, and that holds true for this issue as well. Frankly, I feel like he's been getting better with each and every issue. There are definitely some great fights here, with Mellon showing us many different ways for Oren to lose, but there are a lot more simple, everyday life moments. No matter what it is Mellon is drawing, it all looks good. His loose style has been perfectly suited to the frenetic pace of MMA fighting, but it works just as well on the quiet moments, too. I must admit to being pretty excited to see more of his work in the future. Here's hoping it's soon.
Verdict - Buy It. I don't know how many people were following this series, but it wasn't nearly enough. Blair Butler and Kevin Mellon set out to tell a story about a young man's short time with MMA fighting, and that's exactly what they did. There's a lot to be said for a book that knows what it wants to do and goes out and does it really well. I wish there were more books like Heart coming out right now.
Art by Wes Craig & Mike Choi