Dan Slott: Under Spider-Man’s Mask
Dan Slott has been the writer with the longest run on The Amazing Spider-Man, leaving the book after a decade of work. Not all Spidey fans have enjoyed all the choices Slott has made in taking the character in different directions, but there is a reason that he continued writing Spider-Man over the course of ten years. His final issue, 801, showcases his extensive knowledge and understanding of the Wall Crawler’s characterization.
The issue opens on a one-page retelling of Spider-Man’s origin but swiftly moves into following a day in the life of Kenneth Kincaid Jr. This is the character’s first appearance in the Marvel Universe and his life is rather ordinary. He ends up in the wrong convenience store at the wrong time and gets held hostage at gunpoint when Spidey bursts in and saves the day. We fast forward through the next few years of Kenneth’s life, with his wife narrating about the importance of him being present. She says, “That’s all that matters. That you’re there. When everything goes right...and when it doesn’t. All the moments...They add up. They all count,”. These are some very obvious parallels to Peter Parker/Spider-Man. A lot of what makes him such a great and relatable hero is that he doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s always there to try and save the day. Things don’t always go according to plan, but Spider-Man knows that with great power there must also come great responsibility and so it is better to try and fail than to never try at all.
The next scene is Spider-Man thwarting a crime in Chinatown where one thug is about to escape with a stolen formula. Kenneth is there on the street watching, and he trips the thug so that Spidey can apprehend him. He thanks Kenneth for his help, after which a little girl with Kenneth calls Spider-Man lame, asking, “Like, why couldn’t it have been Thor, Captain Marvel, or Black Panther?” She tells Kenneth that they usually save the world, and he tells her that Spider-Man saves one world every day. He tells her that he saves someone every day who means the world to someone else out there and essentially, without the Wall Crawler, their world would crumble. After this, the girl has a newfound appreciation for Spidey and says, “C’mon, Uncle Ken,” as they begin walking down the street. She asks if he’s coming and he replies, “Yeah, I’m here...I’ll always be here for you.”
The Uncle Ken nod to Uncle Ben is a bit heavy handed, but it tremendously aids this issue in exemplifying the essence of Spider-Man. If he hadn’t been there to stop the convenience store robbery, then Ken might not have gotten to have this conversation with his niece. Ken repaying Spidey by tripping the thug displays the foundation that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko set for the character back in 1962. Anybody can be like Spider-Man, because there is no deed too small that can make someone a hero. Peter Parker was a nobody who had great power bestowed upon him, and when he puts on his mask he could be anybody. Spider-Man teaches us that there are no cut and dry qualifications for being a hero. Dan Slott left us with his final issue, giving us a single comic book that is Spider-Man from cover to cover.