This series must be in trouble. Now, it’s being used to wrap up the long-winded “Ends of the Earth” storyline, featured in Amazing Spider-Man #682-687 in which...
A MAJOR CHARACTER guest star is killed. At least, I think they are killed. It's not entirely clear.
Spidey is feeling guilt over Silver Sable’s death. He chose to leave her at the mercy of the Rhino in ASM #687 in order to combat Dr. Octopus and save the world. Now he combs the remains of Ock’s underwater hideout, searching for some sign of Sable, until ordered to the surface by the Avengers. There, Cap tells him he must accompany the captured Ock to the super-villain prison, the Raft. As they travel, Cap tells Spidey that “Sable knew what she was getting into. She was a soldier, a trained mercenary.” But Spidey replies, “No, she was more than a mercenary, Cap. She was special.” And this is the seque into the actual story in this issue which, it turns out, is a flashback, which is how it can star Silver Sable even though she is (apparently) dead.
“A few years back” (but I’ll wager you won’t be able to find any reference to this story in any previous issue) Dr. Doom “announced he was going to marry a local princess and make her Queen of Latveria.” Silver Sable contacts Spidey via a Times Square jumbotron, asking him to join her where they had previously encountered Dominic Fortune. (Editor Ellie Pyle’s footnote that identifies the Dom Fortune story as occurring in Web of Spider-Man #72 is signed “Wasn’t Reading Comics Yet” Pyle, which may explain a lot.) There, he finds Silver with Dr. Strange and Princess Lenka of Symkaria. Strange explains that “the princess is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, born of noble blood. This granted Lenka’s katra an astounding mystical potential. She may become mother of the next Sorcerer Supreme, or attain the title herself.” When Lenka turned 21, her father, not believing the “mystic mumbo-jumbo” “offered her to Doom to cement political bonds between…Symkaria and Latveria.” Strange adds that “Doom understands sorcery better than most. And he plans to gain control over Lenka’s spirit potential using methods she would not survive.” To thwart Doom, Strange needs Lenka to marry someone “she genuinely loves” and Lenka admits that she’s “had a major crush on [Spidey] since I was like fifteen.” So, Strange and Sable want Spidey to marry Lenka. Spidey objects that he has a girlfriend (well, actually he was married in those days but we’re not supposed to remember that anymore). And then Doom attacks.
Silver and Spidey take Doom on but he easily rebuffs them. Strange teleports the group away but realizes that Doom can track Lenka through her aura. Lenka suddenly realizes that Spidey is no match for Doom and seems to lose her infatuation. She reveals that her true love is Marek, “a pastry boy in my royal kitchen” but that she refused to put him in danger and had him sent to New York to keep him safe from Doom. Strange tells Lenka that she must not only marry but consummate the wedding in order to ward Doom off. Sputtering that, “I wasn’t planning to bed Spider-Man,” Lenka finally agrees that only Marek will do. Spidey goes to get Marek and bring him back to the Symkarian Embassy.
With Sable’s Uncle Morty performing the wedding service, Doom attacks again. Strange, Spidey, and Silver hold Doom off until he senses that it is too late. Lenka and Marek are not only married but, ahem, joined. Doom departs. Sable tells Strange he owes her her fee plus money to cover the damage to the embassy. Strange tells her he can’t afford that much. Spidey notices Silver give “a smile for the princess and her new husband.” She then tells Strange “just this once, my services are pro bono.” Spidey tells Cap, “And that’s when I knew who Silver Sable really was. Incredibly brave. One of the most dangerous fighters I’ve ever seen. But she only pretended to be all about the money. Because sometimes she put it all on the line for love.”
Spidey, Cap, Hawkeye, and Spider-Woman drop Ock off at the Raft. But Spidey is still disturbed about Sable still down under the ocean. “I should’ve stayed,” he says, “should’ve kept looking.” Back at the scene, Black Widow and SHIELD agents find “no sign of Silver Sable or the Rhino.” They keep looking but they don’t see a stray octobot floating around. Does this mean…something??? It must because the story ends with one of those “The End”-with-a-question-mark-after-it things.
Just two issues back, I complained that I don’t like crossovers. Calling a story an “epilogue” doesn’t prevent it from being a crossover if the story to which it is an epilogue was featured in another series. The fact that the series was Amazing Spider-Man, which we probably all read anyway, is no excuse because we shouldn’t have to read any other series in order to enjoy this one. It’s now happened for two of the last three issues. We shouldn’t have to put up with that.
It doesn’t help that the “Ends of the Earth” story was too long and tedious with too many guest-stars and too much globetrotting. I’m not reviewing ASM here but let me say that any time you lose track of Spidey in his own book, things fall apart (see Sidekick’s Revenge and Maximum Carnage, for example) and any time you’re not even sure where in the world Spidey is at any given time in the story, he loses the anchor that makes his stories stand out. So, we already suffered through six long issues of a misguided Spidey story and now we have to deal with an epilogue? As I think I said in a previous review, “Are they trying to get this book cancelled?”
Well, but, what about the story itself? Forget about the “Ends of the Earth” framework. It’s just there to make this an epilogue. And if you get rid of the framework, you have a sweet little story. All of the characters work here. Spidey is awkward and overmatched but gamely willing to help. Doom is arrogant and unstoppable but knows when to quit. Sable is hard as nails but sentimental beneath the surface. Strange is well-meaning but aloof. Ultimately, though, this is a story of young love amidst a conflict of great cosmic power. For all of their abilities, the heroes can do nothing to stop Doom. But a little love, marriage, and sex conquers all. Tell me you’ve seen that story in a comic book before. And if you have, tell me you’ve seen it done this sweetly.
Matt Clark’s artwork seems to be of the Stefano Caselli & Giuseppe Camuncoli school: a little sketchy and angular, perhaps a little too stylized. I don’t much care for Spidey’s anatomy here; he looks like he’s all bone without a shred of muscle. Dr. Strange seems to have the same facial expression throughout. And since when did Dr. Doom’s mask get an actual nose? But I love all the sparkles and glimmers of the magic and the stars and the weapons (some of that has to be credited to colorist Wil Quintana) and I love all the moments of Lenka and Marek together. Their expressions and body language reflect their awkward love, uncertainty over the rushed wedding, quiet confidence after consummating the marriage and, finally, the relaxed pleasure of being together in the calm after the storm. In fact, the last panel of page 18 with the disrobed Lenka sleeping in the sheet-wearing Marek’s arms, which essentially ends the flashback, should have been the end of the issue. It’s that nice and nicely-drawn a moment. I’m interested to see more of Matt Clark’s work.
Three webs in spite of itself. If it hadn’t been saddled with this “epilogue” business, it might have been four.