It's hard to remember a time now when Dan Slott wasn't writing Amazing Spider-Man. But we've finally come to the climax of a decade-long run, as Spidey fights a desperate battle against a villain comprised of two of his deadliest and most deranged foes. The execution is flawed as "Go Down Swinging" reaches its conclusion, but some terrific character moments make up for those flaws.
In terms of overall page count, "Go Down Swinging" is basically your standard-length, six-issue story arc. But structurally, this story has been all over the map. Issue #799 didn't set the stage as neatly or as dramatically as it could. It probably would have helped to devote more time to gradual build-up and less to the final battle between Spidey and Red Goblin. This issue has a whopping 80 pages to work with, but it doesn't always use that extra space well. The relentless, unending game of cat-and-mouse starts to drag, with so much of this issue devoted to Spidey chasing after Osborn and fighting to protect his loved ones from becoming collateral damage.
There are few major characters from Slott's run that don't appear inside these pages. That large ensemble only adds to the sweeping scope of the story. On the other hand, certain late additions feel almost shoehorned into the story, while others are shuffled off without much fanfare. Again, it's not a space issue so much as a problem with utilizing that space properly. "Go Down Swinging" may have been better served as a traditional six-issue story rather than culminating in this giant finale issue.
But again, for all that the wonky pacing has been a drag on these past couple issues, #800 features some truly terrific moments, some of which rival the best in Slott's long tenure on the title. Some of these are predictable enough, with Peter fighting to prove to Osborn that his personal attachments are a source of strength, not weakness. Others are totally unexpected and serve as a reminder of how great Slott is at thinking outside the box and remixing old tropes. There's enough excitement and emotional weight in this issue to offset any other storytelling problems.
That's to say nothing of the truly terrific lineup of artists. Issue #800 is a mash-up of numerous artists who have collaborated with Slott in the past, including Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Marcos Martin, Mike Hawthorne and Stuart Immonen, along with former Spidey artist Nick Bradshaw for good measure. The issue is broken up into discrete chapters, ensuring that the book flows fairly naturally from one artist to the next.
Some of these segments are more visually impressive than others. Bradshaw's chapter is held back by a few weird quirks, including Spidey's oddly birdlike mask design and a garish color palette. Camuncoli's work is solid, but not quite as refined as what we were seeing from the artist during the Parker Industries days. But Martin, who hasn't been seen on this series in years, kills it in his moody, contemplative epilogue sequence. I'm eagerly looking forward to his follow-up in ASM #801 next month.
In the end, though, Immonen blows everyone else out of the water. He brings a truly epic touch to his climactic chapter, as the rivalry between Spidey and Red Goblin comes to a head. There's a mind-boggling amount of detail in these pages, and plenty of energy to match. Inker Wade von Grawbadger brings out the best in Immonen's sleek, confident lines, whole colorist Marte Gracia highlights the devastation and raw emotion of this battle. If the news about Immonen retiring from comics is true, at least this past year's worth of ASM is a worthy swan song.