By: Dan Slott (writer), Humberto Ramos (art), Victor Olazaba (inks), Edgar Delgado (colors), Joe Caramagna (letters), Ellie Pyle (assistant editor) & Stephen Wacker (editor)

The Story: The classic “middle issue” where the action transitions from the set-up (i.e. is Doc Ock possibly trying to stop global warming) to the big finale.

Recap/Review (with mild SPOILERS): This was an amusing issue that was held back a little bit by it’s transitional nature.  It was important for the Ends of the Earth story to move from the set-up (“Dying Doc Ock might really be trying to save the world!”) to the finale (“Doc Ock reveals his true colors and must be stopped”), but it’s hard to make such an issue super-enjoyable when it has actual WORK to accomplish.

Seeing Spidey, Silver Sable and Black Widow repeatedly smashing Ock’s installations around the world would have gotten boring, so it’s good that Slott didn’t subject us to a story where we have to watch all of the bases get taken out in sequential order.  Snippets of action are fine!  The clever thing during this sequence is how the trio are getting their intel.  After stealing THE grain of sand that is the key to Sandman (in the last issue), it was super cool and clever to see how Spidey would give him just enough sand to manifest a face and then torture the info out of him.  Ha!  Loved it.  Has this angle ever happened before with Sandman?

The teams for the final battle(s) are also established as both sides call in a bunch of B-listers.  There’s a good bit of humor and self-awareness as Doc Ock screws up and calls a bunch of minor villains, including Titanium Man…..who, of course, is NOT a bad guy even he goes back and forth on the good/bad spectrum over the years.  Spidey responds by calling a bunch of lesser heroes himself.  This part fell a little flat.  While it is dramatic that Spidey says the Avengers “have been captured” and the X-Men, Defenders and FF are “off-world”, this would be more impactful if this was actually a true statement.  SOME Avengers are captured, but what about Luke Cage and Daredevil and War Machine and Ant Man and Captain Britain and Iron Fist and…well…you get my drift.  There are a LOT of Avengers who are not currently accounted for.  Plus, we all know that the X-Men and FF are not off planet….The X-Men are fighting with the Avengers right now and the FF are just kinda loitering after finishing a mega-epic storyline.  I hate to sound nit-picky, but when a comic book actively forces us to think about the nonsensical continuity of the Marvel universe, it’s fair to throw a few rocks their way.  And why call these B-Listers instead of the Avengers Academy kids or the other heros from the Initiative?  I mean, that’s who they called during Fear Itself, right?  Lesson: don’t make the reader think about the other comics.  Once we pull on that string, your universe disintegrates.

We also get a bit of romance back into Spidey’s life as he turns down an proposition from Silver Sable because he’s pining for MJ.  Ugh–spare me.  It’s an unpopular viewpoint because past comment threads have indicated that most folks want to see Spidey and MJ together, but I recoil from that because THAT story has been done.  We’ve seen just about everything that the Peter-MJ relationship can do.  And, unlike the old days when back issues were hard to find and expensive, all of those stories are readily accessible in back issues (that are easy to buy now), collected editions and digital formats.  Unlike the 80’s when kids rotated out of comics after 3-4 years and you needed to show each kid the complete Peter/MJ cycle or breaking up and getting together, we’ve all seen this before.  Those old stories are there if you want to read about Spidey not pursing a new love interest because he longs for MG.  Go read those issues again and let’s do something novel with Peter’s love like: Like a Peter, Silver Sable, Black Widow love triangle.

The final story element of this issue is the revelation that Doc Ock really is a bad guy.  While it would have been a very interesting choice to have Ock really be trying to help and make Spidey the true “villain” for once, it wasn’t surprising to see that Ock really wants to kill everyone.  And, the explanation fits with what we’ve seen of Ock’s character in the pages of ASM and other Marvel comics over the last few years.  He just can’t STAND anyone getting to have something that is denied to him.  It makes sense and I like it.

Once again, the art is very nice.  I’m not sure that Ramos and Olazaba are as on top of their game (as they were last issue). There are a number of shaky panels, but even slightly flawed Ramos is still pretty hot.  He just gives his characters such abundant energy, even scenes where characters could be standing around are energy-filled as Ramos always makes them DO SOMETHING.  The other guy who is impressive on this issue is Edgar Delgado.  He’s another one of those guys that makes me wish I understood coloring better because his stuff just POPS more than other colorists even though he’s working in a highlighted style that I generally don’t like.  I dunno.  Maybe Delgado is the only one who does it properly?

Conclusion: Not an awesome issue, but still pretty strong,  The path forward for Spidey and friends is very clear for the rest of this story arc.

Grade: B-

– Dean Stell