In many ways, the “Parker Industries” storyline arc has been writer Dan Slott’s most controversial one yet — which is pretty shocking when you consider this is the same writer who scripted a story about Peter Parker having his brain and body swapped by one of his mortal enemies. For many fans, Peter Parker, billionaire CEO, was a bridge too far for the character (not to mention, was too similar to Tony Stark/Iron Man) and even inspired a depressingly negative online back-and-forth between Slott and one-time comic great (as long as you ignore most of his late-90/early 00s Spider-Man work) John Byrne which, at the very least, served as yet another reminder as to why one should never read the comments section on any blog or message board.
But as reader of this site and listeners to the Amazing Spider-Talk podcast should note, after some fits and starts, Slott and Marvel were able to mostly make the premise work, if for no other reason that after a dozen or so issues, Peter’s business acumen took a semi-backseat for more Spider-Man-y business involving clones and Osborns and the like. Beyond that, over the course of those stories, Peter had demonstrated a somewhat cavalier attitude about the importance of Parker Industries many times over, which made the company’s inevitable disintegration one of Slott’s worst kept secrets the past year (and that’s not even taking into account all of the future comic book solicitations and creator interviews that have blatantly telegraphed the arc’s certain conclusion).
Enter Amazing Spider-Man #31 by Slott and artist Stuart Immonen, which not only rings the bell of finality for this nearly two year-old storyline, but also wraps up the shorter, “Secret Empire” arc within an arc on a modestly satisfying note. Secret Empire has clearly been an albatross for Marvel in ways that transcend your standard “unpopular” comic book storyline, but in terms of how it’s impacted the ASM universe, the last three issues have been strongest when the focus is trained on the Spider-Man/Superior Octavius confrontation and less so when it has diverted its resources to the mechanics of the Secret Empire storyline proper. Fortunately, ASM #31’s is a case of the former, and even when it does tie-in to Secret Empire, it does so in a fashion that does some interesting character building for one Otto Gunther Octavius.
Looking at the comic through the silo of how does this issue resolve the three-part Secret Empire tie-in involving Spider-Man, it was a well-executed story demonstrating how Spider-Man will always be at his best when the odds are stacked way against him but he finds a way to succeed through sheer force of will and improvisation. Additionally, after struggling to hit on a worthwhile post-Superior Spider-Man stride for Doc Ock, Slott seems to stick the landing with the character here, depicting an unquestionably loathsome character getting his comeuppance in a way that’s fitting, yet not so over-the-top that it makes the reader question how Otto had earned so much cache in recent years in the first place. Add in yet another beautifully rendered comic courtesy of Immonen (is there anything more majestic than Immonen’s interpretation of Otto’s soaring mechanical arms of mayhem?), and it’s hard to not declare ASM #31 an unmitigated success.
And yet ….
Here’s the thing: while there was undoubtedly some poetic symmetry to the fact that the ultimate end of Parker Industries — which was really the brainchild of Spider-Man’s enemy, Doc Ock — should occur during a battle between Otto and Spidey, that final nail in the coffin for the Peter Parker CEO premise still felt a little too rushed and sudden to truly be earned.
To be fair, it’s a little more complicated than that, so apologies to the circuitous nature of this argument. Two storylines before this one, Spider-Man sabotages his webware technology in a valiant effort to stop a virus from ending all of humanity, while in the storyline following that one, Peter’s determination to stop Norman Osborn led to him using the mantel of his company to invade a sovereign nation, thereby earning PI major demerits from the international community, and more importantly (for comic book purposes) S.H.I.E.L.D. In both instances, Peter’s self-sabotage came about for the greater good, yet in both cases, while there were some consequences conveyed via bits and pieces of storyline narrative, Parker Industries, for the most part, remained intact, which makes its corporate ruin in ASM #31 feel a bit too much like the comic book creator who cried wolf. Yes, I have no doubt, that “dead is dead” here when it comes to PI because it’s something that’s been telegraphed for months now, but in a vacuum, the build up to what should be a definitive moment just isn’t there.
The comic does attempt to somewhat show the consequences of Peter’s actions, specifically how they affect other people who do not or can not benefit from his self-satisfaction of doing the “right thing.” However, in the case of this one comic book, the lesson seems to be a short-lived one and arguably should have been mined for more content down the road. There is certain to be some “fallout” from the events of this issue that will be dealt with one way or another, but similar to how the last major controversial Slott story ended (Superior), there may also be some dissonance between what the writer believes addresses these lingering issues and how the final pages actually pays off these ideas. Still, there’s time for plenty of unforeseen consequences to rear their heads in later issues, I hope.
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