"Amazing Spider-Man #686" by Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli is the latest chapter of the current Spider-Man event, "Ends of the Earth." Unfortunately, this story hasn't been quite as strong as Slott's previous work, and when reading a book about Spider-Man, Black Widow and Silver Sable charging around the planet in a jet plane, it's hard not to wonder what happened to the plan to make Spider-Man relatable.
That said, Slott comes up with a twist at the end which makes it reasonably clear how this story ties into Spider-Man's core theme, which goes some way towards redeeming the concept -- but the execution remains fractious and slow-paced. For several issues now, it feels like the goal of destroying Octavius' satellites hasn't been advanced an inch.
Still, even if you aren't particularly enjoying the story, it's a testament to the well-constructed scale of "Ends of the Earth" that last issue, when we were asked to accept the near-incineration of almost half of the planet, few people guessed the twist that was coming. In retrospect it seems like an obvious explanation, but then all the best twists do.
The turn of one of the villains, however, is less easy to believe. Given that the character has always been shown as reasonably intelligent and calculating, it seems difficult to swallow that a speech would turn him. Slott seems keen on giving Spider-Man some actual relevance to the story such that he couldn't be replaced with any generic superhero, and for that he should be applauded, but doing so in this manner comes off a little forced.
Caselli's artwork is big on scale and detail, but the unfamiliar locations and scenes of devastation don't really help make this feel like a Spider-Man book. In that sense, even the character's Spider-Armor is distracting. The action scenes are well-constructed, but it says everything about this arc that the brief appearance of Mary Jane in New York is the visual high point of the issue.
Still, there isn't long to go now, and there aren't any huge technical failures -- it's simply more hit than miss for me. The ending of this issue at least promises a battle royale worth coming back for, and in the end, where Spider-Man is concerned, even a miss for Slott is better than most.