Moral relativism is a problem in Marvel comic books these days. If you ever wanted to see what it can do to a good character, then look no further than The Amazing Spider-Man #26 by writer Dan Slott. The character who recently resorted to corporate espionage to gain access to another company’s intellectual property rights now has decided to risk everything to topple a sovereign nation.
Yes, that’s right, Parker Industries is supposed to be a technology empire worth billions, but its CEO is willing to risk it all — the jobs of his employees, the Uncle Ben Foundation, the livelihood of his shareholders — all for some out-of-the-blue quest to take down Norman Osborn. Peter Parker under Dan Slott has turned into a Captain Ahab-ish character who is on the hunt for an elusive green whale. And to find the mysterious Goblin Whale he will do anything — no matter what the costs or who he hurts in the process — to make it happen.
In short, when Doctor Octopus calls Spider-Man a “self-righteous twit” in an issue of ASM, the reader should never side with the villain. Sadly, that is exactly what happens in ASM #26.
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The ‘Ends of the Earth’ storyline in Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man has severely damaged the character’s credibility, due almost entirely to writer Dan Slott. I took flak from fans for mentioning that Spider-Man’s dangerously naive “no one dies” mentality is a war zone liability, and that only a fool would jeopardize a time-sensitive mission by worrying about the well-being of North Korean soldiers — when over six billion lives were on the line. Only a few weeks ago I said: “A hero is still a hero, but some of them are meant for city streets, and some of them are meant to determine the fate of the world.” And now, Dan Slott’s Spider-Man proved it through his own dialogue and actions:
“I’m not used to ‘End of the World’ stuff. Gimme a bank robbery or one of my regular bad guys. Now that I can handle,” (Dan Slott’s Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man #687).
Sadly, truer words were never spoken. Only pages later, Spider-Man is put in a situation where he must choose between saving Silver Sable’s life as she is held beneath rising water by the immovable Rhino, or stopping a satellite launch that will doom billions. Our hero feebly pulls at his enemy’s forearm like a little boy who yearns for a toy until Sable uses one of her last breaths to berate his idiocy: “If you don’t go — EVERYONE DIES! GO!”
As I said before, Dan Slott’s Spider-Man is so myopic that he only sees the lives right there in front of him. He’s like a baby, tricked by peek-a-boo because his mind isn’t fully developed; if there are lives to be saved right in front of him, there’s a good chance he can be distracted.
With the climax of ‘Ends of the Earth’ at hand, Slott delivers — in the wrong way. The blinded fan will only remember Spider-Man finding an inner reserve of strength to break free from his bonds to save billions — again, thanks to the Silver Sable’s clear thinking at death’s door. What they won’t remember is that Doctor Octopus admitted he is pure evil right before Peter decided to save his life — instead of using the opportunity to return to Silver Sable. Doctor Octopus says: “I shall live on in infamy — a mass murderer worse than Pol Pot, Hitler, and Genghis Khan combined.
Only moments later, as Peter attempts to save the genocidal maniac from the crumbling fortress, he says: “I made a promise. As long as I’m around no one — … Come on. I’m getting you out of here.”
Note the pause. Peter obviously thinks of his teammate possibly drowning a few rooms over. I say ‘possibly’ because Spider-Man doesn’t know what happened after he left the room, and neither does the reader. Perhaps Silver Sable had one last trick up her sleeve. Perhaps another hero found a way to come to her aid. In that moment, wouldn’t the true hero have ditched the man who hoped to transcend Hitler, in an effort to check on his ally? In that situation, would it not have been better to at least recover her dead body over saving the man who was willing to subject billions to a burning death just seconds earlier? Let’s not even get into the many people who have been resuscitated after having been submerged in water for lengths of time conventional wisdom says is impossible…
It’s fitting that ‘Ends of the Earth’ would feature a character who (seemingly) died from drowning, because Dan Slott’s Spider-Man walks around like there isn’t enough oxygen going to his brain. Here’s to hoping that one day Spider-Man will come to his (spider) senses.
A week ago I covered Spider-Man, and how liberal writers have turned him into a walking war zone liability. In a situation where 6 billion lives hung in the balance, the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man did the “neighborly” thing and thought to use precious seconds wondering whether a bunch of North Korean soldiers (those same guys overseeing the world’s most notorious gulags) were ushered to safety before explosives took out the weapons … they were guarding. He then saw fit to warn his soldierly teammates “no one dies,” precisely the kind of all-or-nothing delusional thinking that sets the stage for death to occur.
Issue #686 of Amazing Spider-Man takes place right after our heroes believe half the world has been destroyed. With carnage surrounding them, Black Widow tells Spider-Man they must leave immediately, as time is not on their side if they want to save the roughly 3 billion people remaining on earth. Spider-Man’s response? He’s not budging because he has people to save right there. Dan Slott’s Spider-Man is so myopic that he only sees the lives right there in front of him. He’s like a baby, tricked by peek-a-boo because his mind isn’t fully developed; if there are lives to be saved right in front of him, there’s a good chance he can be distracted. The Black Widow knows it and, sadly, his deadliest foes take advantage of it.
In the end, Dan Slott gives Spider-Man a reprieve, and the hero is given a chance to save the day by taking advantage of the vanity, greed and hubris of his enemies. The “end of the world” was an illusion meant to distract the heroes and buy time for the machinations of evil men to materialize. It would have worked, but the enemies who literally have the world in their hands want more, overreach and lose it all. Spider-Man takes advantage of his second chance, but it feels like a Deus ex Machina of sorts, freeing the character of the consequences of his short-sighted actions. In the real world we often don’t get second chances.
Even Black Widow can’t resist rubbing Peter Parker’s nose in the evidence of his ignorance — in his own book, no less:
At $4.00 a pop, The Amazing Spider-Man hurts the wallet over the course of a year. These days, it also hurts just to read the title, period. Here’s to hoping Peter learns something from the experience. If not, look for books featuring Black Widow. She deserves it.
Marvel has officially killed Spider-Man. They did it before with his deal, for all intents and purposes, with the devil. And now they’ve done it again by turning him into such a pacifist clown that his lack of moral clarity actually makes him an accomplice to evil. Correction: Writer Dan Slott’s pacifist-clown take on Spider-Man has made him an accomplice to evil.
Case-in-point would be Marvel’s current storyline, ‘Ends of the Earth.” In it, Doctor Octopus has come up with a plan that could seal the ozone layer and save humanity, but the technology — that only he possesses — could also be used to bring about world-wide genocide. Isn’t the ozone layer so … 1989? Regardless, Spider-Man is convinced his enemy is going to trick the international community into agreeing with him and kill billions with the push of a button.
That is precisely what seems to happen, which makes the “amazing” Spider-Man’s actions leading up to the event so maddening (and that’s not even counting the “one man’s hero is another man’s terrorist” moral relativism that’s dished up by a supporting character).
It all starts with a race to stop a number of satellites from being made, some of which are being put together in North Korea — home of the world’s very notorious, very real gulags. A member of Spidey’s team sets explosives at the factory, taking out all the tech and presumably the North Korean soldiers guarding it. Peter Parker then channels Jimmy Carter, berating the hero: “No one dies! Understood?” Sadly, it turns out the North Koreans — those giving direct aid in an effort to cause a mass-extinction event — were led to safety!
The story then moves on to an interrogation scene, where Peter must extract information from Flint Marko (aka, Sandman) as to the location of another weapons factory.With Flint not wanting to talk, a team member begins the equivalent (arguably) of waterboarding to get the intelligence she needs. Spider-Man acknowledges that he would have caved in to appeals for the “pretty please” approach if the terrorist foot soldier had pleaded with him for just a bit longer. Once again, a braver hero must pick up the slack for Spider-Man’s ineptitude. There is never really any acknowledgement by the characters that Spider-Man is out of his league, or that his “peace at any cost” mentality will actually bring out his worst fears: word-wide death and destruction.
There is really no way to spin this (no pun intended) into the character’s favor. If good and evil exists — if it is real — then there should be no hesitation by the true hero to do what is right when the moment calls. Not using deadly force for a purse snatcher? Sure. I get it. Freaking out over the death of soldier-scum enablers of one of the most vile, despicable regimes in the world? No excuse. In this day and age, Spider-Man will make a deal with the devil but he won’t kill a few North Korean soldiers when the fate of the world hangs in the balance and the situation demanded it? Thanks a lot, Marvel: You’ve turned my childhood hero into a morally bankrupt loser, sailing through life without a rudder.
Update: Looks like Dan Slott didn’t bone up on the North Korean regime. See how Spider-Man has become a war zone liability.
Editor’s Note: It’s always fun to see Dan Slott’s CBR drones read my stuff and then distort my words over in their little forums. I suspect the reason why you haven’t tried that in the comments section is because I’d call you out on it immediately.