Two points about Amazing Spider-Man #698

There are two interesting things about the plotting for Amazing Spider-Man #698. I’m trying to keep it spoiler-free, although any analysis of the craft is bound to suggest details about the narrative.

The entire issue builds to a twist which causes the reader to consider the first 17 pages, as well as the cover, from a different context. If you’re aware of how the issue is going to end, you’re not going to be able to appreciate it from that perspective. You won’t have that gut punch, and the experience of your first read will be with the same insight as someone else’s second read.

So it really only works on that level if you can avoid spoilers. It’s fair to ask if it’s even worth making the effort to tell a story that way in the modern industry, where it’s so easy to spoil an issue online. Although I don’t know if there was any better way of setting up this particular story. It’s astoundingly successful in terms of craft.

Some writers have gotten around this by offering additional twists for stories in which something that can easily be spoiled happens. When Ed Brubaker “killed” Captain America, the cliffhanger revelation wasn’t the apparent death of Steve Rogers, which got attention from the news media, but a revelation about the shooter. That’s probably the gold standard in how to handle this type of material. Slott does something similar to this story, as it doesn’t quite end with the twist. There’s a bit more to it.

In the days when fans didn’t have access to advance solicitations, it was a lot easier to surprise the readers, since they weren’t entirely sure what was coming up next. When the first chapter of Kraven’s Last Hunt ended with the villain shooting and burying Spider-Man, readers didn’t have the comfort of knowing what Spidey would be up to in four months. The flip side of it is that solicitations can also provide reasons to fear for the well-being of your favorite characters.

The reception to the current issue is altered by the knowledge that Amazing Spider-Man is coming to an end in two issues, and that someone else will be taking over as the series becomes The Superior Spider-Man. So Slott used the reader’s media-savvy as a way to build suspense. The response would be not be the same if this had just been promoted as a standard Spider-Man three-parter, and the reader was fairly confident that the same Spidey would be fighting the Vulture three issues later.

That could have worked in Slott’s favor a bit, as there wouldn’t have been as much interest in spoiling the story if the importance hadn’t been established beforehand. However, the issue would then have sold out faster, and you’d have some readers and comic store owners wondering why they hadn’t been warned to order as many copies as possible.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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