In the immediate aftermath of the so-called “Spider-Island” event, the heroes that made it out the other side run clean-up on New York, while Peter tries to deal with the shockwaves the event has sent through his personal life. And make no mistake, there are shockwaves to deal with.
It’s safe to say that “Spider-Island” has been a huge success in terms of both event storytelling and character-based drama. We’ve seen villains die, we’ve seen heroes born and lost, and we’ve seen Peter, once again, lose out personally because he chose to do the right thing as a hero. Perhaps it’s because Slott has a single, titular hero to focus on, but his approach to event storytelling is markedly different from the likes of “Secret Invasion” and “Fear Itself,” keeping a tight rein on a set of core ideas and delivering a consistent pace.
Even this epilogue issue, which could easily have been written as a bookend to tie up any dangling threads and restore the status quo, instead takes the time to spin out several new plots, some immediate, some not so. For most fans, it’s the change in Peter Parker’s romantic life that’s going to get them buzzing in anticipation. Not only has (the much-maligned) Carlie Cooper decided to break up with Peter after figuring out his secret, but Mary Jane appears to be back on the scene in a big way.
Indeed, Slott’s scenes between Peter and MJ make up the best of this issue, where the two have a warm, easy-going familiarity. Slott’s MJ is fun-loving and adventurous, while his Peter is conscientious and honest. It makes you want to read more of them together, although whether things would run as smooth if they were back in a relationship together is debatable. Still, it might be fun to find out.
The dissolution of the spell Doctor Strange cast to protect Peter’s identity is a long overdue move, since it has played only small parts in the series since its inception, and serves only to remove dramatic tension and complicate the character’s central conceit. Now that his identity is up for grabs again, we can feel concern about it. Indeed, this issue illustrates precisely why it might be a problem for Peter.
The art, from Stefano Caselli, is tough to fault, and provides important visual continuity with both Ramos’ style and the “Spider-Island” prologue from a few months back which was also illustrated by Caselli. However, it’s the synthesis of Slott’s writing, Caselli’s pencils, and Frank Martin’s coloring that makes the final page work so well, providing an iconic Spider-Man image that feels, in its own way, like as big a deal as any of the plot developments in the issue. The visual is an instant classic. In its own way, it’s a reward for the fans as well as the character, and most of all, a perfect final image to close out the storyline with, as Manhattan becomes “Spider Island” one last time.