If you didn't believe the hype about "Amazing Spider-Man" #698 and have somehow managed to avoid spoilers, then let me tell you this: it's a darn good issue and an odd "jumping on" point for new readers, considering there are only a pair (or three if you include the upcoming Morbius-centric Point One issue coming up) of issues left before Spider-Man moves to his new "Superior" Marvel NOW! title.
That said, I managed to avoid spoilers. I knew they were out there, but did my darndest to dodge and weave through and around them so I could experience this book as it was intended to be experienced. I'm glad I did. Not only did the "big moment" come as a surprise to me, but the build-up leading to that point played nicely to make it more impactful and, yes, gasp-worthy. Dan Slott sells the story nicely, writing Spider-Man as masterfully as he has done all along. Ready to celebrate a brand new day as things are coming together for him, Spider-Man swings and bounces through his life, giving the reader a guided tour of his relationships -- personal and professional -- and status through the first three-quarters of this issue. That last quarter shakes the book like an etch-a-sketch, urging the reader to re-read for clues along the way. I'm impressed that in addition to continuing to breathe new life into Peter Parker's lungs, Slott has also managed to up the ante of the webslinger's foes and even drops a nice mystery right into our laps.
The art, by Richard Elson with Antonio Fabela on colors, is pitch-perfect, keeping nicely in line with the heart of the story. Elson's figures are clean and strong, their expressions understandable and the action clear. Fabela's colors are bright and comic relevant, giving "Amazing Spider-Man" #698 a throwback look that comfortably absorbs and magnifies Slott's straightforward story. The artist brings plenty of detail work through the opening sequence to hook the reader and continues that throughout the issue, giving Fabela plenty of space to accentuate with confident colors and captivating effects. The sole weak link in the visuals is more of an adjustment than a true weakness. Chris Eliopoulos chooses to portray whispers as grayed out word balloons instead of the traditional dotted border balloons I'm accustomed to, but I'm fairly certain I can adjust if this style catches on and becomes a new standard. Not surprisingly, though, that flaw is easily overlooked and pretty quickly forgotten as the story picks up and marches boldly forward.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #698 is everything I've come to expect from Dan Slott's tenure on this title: solid story, good art, classic comic book plots and subplots, brash villains and a solid adventure. Does it live up to the hype? Yes. It does. This is a Spider-Man book that changes Spider-Man without completely discarding everything. Every Spider-fan can find something to cheer about in the story and the mystery Slott adds in is sure to put some pep in fans' steps and add a Spider-sense buzz to this title for its remaining issues.