The thee issues a month schedule for Amazing Spider-Man came to an end with issue #647 -- making for grand total of 101 issues since Brand New Day started with issue #546. It was a stellar run, and an amazing accomplishment when you consider the utter quality they where regularly injecting into all of those issues.
It was decided, though, that the series might benefit from a single voice, instead of having several writers taking turns. Dan Slott took over the series as the sole writer, with only two issues published each month.
I think the tagline of "Big Time" was referencing both Spider-Man and Mr. Slott. Slott himself - as he is finally getting to lead the book, and Spider-Man as a character, more directly. Humberto Ramos came on board as one of the series lead artists. Ramos' art is usually an acquired taste - but he seems to work quickly enough and always injects enthusiasm and energy into his art. I think drawing Spider-Man this time (he's done it before, in Spectacular Spider-Man) - he's managing to create the best art of his life.
Dan Slott shot right out of the gate with a bold new status quo for Spider-Man. The first three issues where particularly important, as it introduced Peter to an amazing new job, a new villain, and shades of the impending doom to come later. Doctor Octopus had gigantic octopus robots rampaging through New York.
Spider-Man, as an Avenger, is being more directly addressed - as he and his fellow members fight to stop these rampaging robots.
What was the reason for this carnage? It was all a distraction, to allow Electro and the Sinister Six to break into a facility to steal vital equipment Octavius needed. Doctor Octopus is still dying - and his grand plan is beginning to take shape. He's gathered together a new Sinister Six - featuring the Rhino, Sandman, Electro, Chameleon, and Mysterio.
To put a pin on this new era, the newspaper Frontline (which has been standing in for the demolished and shutdown DB) changes its name to the Daily Bugle, as J Jonah Jameson gives Robbie Robertson the rights to the name, which he had reacquired.
A new Hobgoblin is introduced - killing off the old one (and no less doing so after telling us how cool and professional the old one was). This new Hobgoblin is Phil Urich, the nephew of Daily Bugle journalist Ben Urich. Phil was notable for obtaining Goblin powers, in addition to a sonic laugh that can debilitate foes. Phil attempted to go the hero route, though distressingly under the name as the new Green Goblin. Not a good name to associate yourself with - and it proves prophetic, as Urich is beginning to loose his grip on sanity. (Possibly from the Goblin powers he already has) So he's intent on being a villain now -- and just happens to stumble upon a weapons cache owned by Roderick Kingsley, the original Hobgoblin.
Kingsley has recently been hired by the Kingpin (again in power, with an army of ninjas at his command no less!) Urich runs into Kingsley, and manages to decapitate the old Hobgoblin. Equipping himself with the latest tech Kingsley had, including a flaming sword, the new Hobgoblin returns to the Kingpin in Kingsley's place. The Kingpin decides to give this new villain a chance, especially since he just lost his previous operative.
When facing Spider-Man - Urich is able to surprise him, by using his sonic scream to weaken Spider-Man in battle. Spider-Man needs a new trick to protect himself from this particular type of attack - and his new job ends up serving that need.
When Marla Jameson, J Jonah Jameson's estranged wife, visits with Aunt May and her husband Jameson Sr - she's surprised to see in photo albums that Peter Parker was inventing things in high school. Aunt May tells of how smart Peter is -- which leads Marla to help Peter get a new job. Marla was also a scientist, and is able to introduce Peter to Max Modell, owner of Horizon Labs; a genius Think Tank on the cutting edge of advanced scientific research. Modell is a giant in the scientific community - and Peter is amazed that he's being offered a job here. It's pretty much the most perfect job Peter has ever had! He can make his own hours, has a sealed off private lab to work in -- and is able to put his intellect into making amazing new inventions. The fact Peter can re-appropriate some of his ideas into Spider-Man's work only makes things better.
With a private lab, and a wonderland of cutting edge technology at his finger tips - Peter Parker is able to create new suits and gadgets for use as Spider-Man. His first invention is a new suit, able to cancel out all sonic sound. That's when it's glowing orange. In green mode, the suit makes Spider-Man invisible - he's only able to be seen with special goggles.
Spider-Man, along with Black Cat, are able to defeat the Hobgoblin - with his sonic laugh no longer being an impediment.
Other suits Spider-Man creates include an updated version of his armored suit; able to deflect bullets and all manner of firepower.
Last time Mac Gargan was featured in Spider-Man issues, he was the current host for the Venom symbiote. After Osborn's fall from power, the likes of Venom where once again placed in jail. The prison was able to remove the symbiote suit from Gargan; though having bonded to it, he might potentially die without it. (The suit is, of course, taken and used by the government: Flash Thompson becoming the new host as Agent Venom.)
An expert was brought it to help save Gargan's life. Things take a very bad turn when this person reveals himself to be Alistair Smythe - the Spider-Slayer.
Alistair is the son of Spencer Smythe - who created the first robotic Spider-Slayer, and many, many more arachnid-killing machines long after.
Alistair kidnaps Gargan; wishing to use him and his unique physiological body and enhance it. (This is sort of good, seeing as Gargan was going to die anyway without the symbiote.) Gargan is outfitted with a new and menacing robotic body and powers. Gargan and Smythe have a shared hatred of J Jonah Jameson as well. You see, in Jameson's efforts to rid the world of the wallcrawling menace, he funded certain operations. Jameson had hired Spencer Smythe to create Spider-Slayers over the years; which Alistair holds Jameson responsible for his fathers death later on. As for Gargan - he was part of an attempt to make a villain on par with Spider-Man. Enhanced with chemicals and a robotic tail - the Scorpion became a foe to both Spider-Man and Jameson himself.
Smythe wants revenge of Jameson, and along with the powered up Scorpion he commands an army of mutated insect monsters. Their main goal? To kill Mayor Jameson - but also further take revenge on his family. Marla Jameson, and John Jameson are targeted as well.
John Jameson, an astronaut, is on a space shuttle ready to launch into space. Spider-Man is able to track the Scorpion to the shuttle to stop him from sabotaging it. Spider-Man and the Scorpion engage in a vicious fight, all while the shuttle fires into the air towards the stratosphere. The most hilarious phone call ever made goes out to Avengers mansion. Spider-Man reaches Squirrel Girl, a recent hire as baby sitter for Luke Cage and Jessica Jones' baby. Spider-Man asks for someone else, but it's just Squirrel Girl and the baby. Spider-Man is screaming over the line "GAHH! I'm on a rocket! Over New Jersey! In a minute I'll be outta oxygen and die!" "That sounds terri-" Squirrel Girl interjects, but is cut off. Spider-Man continues "Shut up! And transfer me to--" Squirrel girl berates him "Easy there, mister. There's always time for manners. Now lets try that again with your indoor voi-- Spidey? Hello?" The Scorpion's tale strikes at Spider-Man, making him loose the connection. Spider-Man is so screwed!
Luckily Squirrel Girl did pull through and got the Avengers to come to the rescue. They came and helped to save Jameson and Marla - while Spider-Man had to deal with the Scorpion, while hurtling to certain death into space. It was a really awesome, intense, and even humorous moment!
Smythe and the Scorpion are eventually defeated - Spider-Man having gotten the Scorpion off of the shuttle's hull and plummeting down to Earth. Spider-Man is caught by Ms Marvel. The whole incident, though, had repercussions. Marla Jameson was tragically killed at the end. For once Jameson didn't blame Spider-Man - he knew this was all on him.
As if Spider-Man wasn't stretching himself thin already, serving on two Avenger teams and working at Horizon -- it seemed somewhat silly for Spider-Man to take on another job. Yet this is pretty much a second-dream come true - as in the wake of the death of the Human Torch (Spider-Man's longtime buddy) - Spider-Man is offered a spot on the Fantastic Four. Well, not the Fantastic Four anymore -- they are calling themselves the Future Foundation, or FF for short. (There's really no difference here.)
Spider-Man gets another new costume, and joins the FF on incredible journeys into other dimensions and universes. They even visit the far future, where the legacy of the Future Foundation has prospered.
Spider-Man fits right in on the team. His keen intellect is able to keep up with the genius of Mr. Fantastic. So while its yet another job Spider-Man is juggling in his new life - it's one he's become well suited for.
Events where all leading up to a new event - that of Spider-Island. An epidemic spreads to all citizens of New York - suddenly giving everyone Spider Powers. It's insanity - as people suddenly have the same abilities as our resident wallcrawler. What caused this Spider-Power virus to spread? An old foe of Spider-Man's -- the Jackal. The Jackal is note-worthy for being the scientist behind the Clone Saga. He's returned and is now serving a new master - a Spider-Controlling woman known as the Queen. The Queen had previously appeared in Spectacular Spider-Man -- her powers the result of a government experiment. With everyone gaining Spider Powers in New York - that gives the Queen control of everyone.
Julia Carpenter, as the new Madame Web, has been preparing Spider-Man for this event for a long while. The Spider-Powers epidemic, while fun at first, becomes a disaster -- as there is a secondary stage of the disease -- the villain the Shocker being one of the first to grow six arms and monstrous Spider features. The third stage transformed a person entirely into a gigantic spider!
Mr. Fantastic, along with Horizon Labs, form a treatment center to try and find a cure to the disease. An unlikely savior appears -- that of Eddie Brock, aka Anti-Venom. When the infection began to spread, Brock used his poison-cleansing powers to cure people. He's brought into Horizon Labs - where the Anti-Venom Symbiote is used as a cure. Brock is more than willing to give up the suit -- seeing this as God's plan, for him to save so many.
Spider-Man is confronted by another returning character - Kaine. The Jackal, who had originally cloned and created Kaine, had dug up his diseased body and resurrected him; making him into a Spider-King. With the Anti-Venom cure Kaine is completely cured; actually better than cured - he's utterly healed. He's no longer a degrading and dying clone -- now he looks just like Peter Parker!
Kaine dons one of Spider-Man's spare suits to help and battle the Queen. He ends up killing her.
Now all that's left is to cure the epidemic. The cure from Anti-Venom's symbiote works - but they don't have a delivery system to distribute it. Spider-Man gets a brilliant idea. He and Mary Jane (who still has Spider-Powers, but hasn't reached stage 2 yet) go to the very top of the Empire State building with a special device. This broadcasting helmet allows Spider-Man to command a left-over piece of technology from Doctor Octopus' original return and attack on New York: OctoBots! Spider-Man is able to control the tiny OctoBots from their vantage point, mentally directing them to find and inject every single person in New York with the cure. Spider-Man achieved a very rare thing for himself -- he was actually able to save EVERYONE. Not a single person was left out -- everyone in New York was cured!
After Spider-Island, under Madame Web's suggestion - Kaine find a new purpose in his now non-terminal life. He spins off into a new series as the new Scarlet Spider.
Spider-Island seemed like the big event Dan Slott had been aiming for all this time. It was a fun, if convoluted adventure -- but it had some wonderful moments and returning characters.
Things are far from over, though. Someone commented that Dan Slott has stated that he's going to be on Amazing Spider-Man for the long haul. Taking into account his work since Brand New Day -- I think he's already achieved that. But it would be great if he continued to be around to write such wonderful stories. Spider-Man, under his lead, and before with his help during Brand New Day -- Spider-Man comics have been better than ever! Seriously - this is right up alongside, if not surpassing, the John Romita Sr era! The soap-opera style of storytelling has never been stronger - and the scale of Spider-Man's universe has never been more diverse. It's really been a great time to be a Spider-Man fan!
The next big arch coming down the pike? The even bigger-than-Spider-Island event called "Ends of the Earth". This is going to be Doctor Octopus' big master plan, and potential swan-song. His grouping of the Sinister Six has never been stronger - and I'm very, VERY excited for this upcoming story arch.
It doesn't hurt that Marvel has released some gorgeous promo-pieces, by Gabriele Dell'otto - all showing the six members of the Sinister Six taking down Spider-Man. Doctor Octopus is shown above, and here below are the other five images. (Warning: The images for Doc Ock, Electro, and Mysterio are really large.)
Hopefully this won't be the end for Dan Slott's tenure on the title. I do know that sales of Amazing Spider-Man have fallen in recent months. The change to three, and then two issues a month did decease readership - but collectively and creatively where selling well enough. The current economy, though, is an obvious factor in a drop in sales; though I think the upcoming Spider-Man movie, and Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon should pump-up the wallcrawlers sales just a bit.
I really can't emphasize how pleased I've been with the series so far. Seriously - coming back into comics in the late 90s, Spider-Man was pretty much floundering under Howard Mackie (who was writing two titles.) JMS came onboard and returned the title to prominence. Dan Slott and company took things even further after that - creating the best Spider-Man stories of this generation. I really enjoyed looking back at all my favorite moments from the run -- I hope you enjoyed it too! Thanks for reading!