So, before I go any further, let me put the obligatory SPOILER ALERT. If you haven't read The Amazing Spider-Man #700, and you plan on doing so, then come back and read this after you have done so.
Still with me? Good. In a nutshell, what has happened is that Spider-Man's arch-nemesis, Doctor Octopus, has managed to swap brains with Peter Parker. Of course, that involves a lot of wacky comic book logic, but the writer Dan Slott has actually done a pretty good job of setting up this superhero freaky Friday. The real catch is though that Doctor Octopus has done this at a time when his body was giving out, and he had only moments left to live. In this final issue of Amazing, Peter gives it one last shot to save himself and regain control over his own body, but he fails. Otto Octavius is the new Spider-Man.
And that's where it gets interesting. Why is he Spider-Man? Why not just continue to be Doc Ock with even more power? Because he not only swapped minds, but he got all of Peter's memories. In other words, he takes Atticus Finch's advice a step further and crawls into another man's skin to see his point of view. By the end, Otto decides that he must live up to Spider-Man's legacy. Of course, he's still the same ego maniac though, so he's going to be a better, superior Spider-Man, which sets things up for the new series.
Most of these ideas are old. Shoot, one of the first comic books I ever got involved a villain trying to swap his mind into Batman's youthful body before the villain's elderly body gave up on him. Also, there's the classic Kraven's Last Hunt which saw Kraven the Hunter try to be a better Spider-Man than Spider-Man. However, in the case of Kraven, he completely missed the point and thought it was more about kicking more ass than Spidey. With Dr. Octopus, he's learned what it means to be a hero...or at least he has some sense of it now.
Of course, the question isn't whether Peter will eventually come back because anybody who's read comics as long as I have know that it's a foregone conclusion that it will happen. The big question is how long will this last, and what twists and turns are going to be thrown at us along the way? After all, look how long Bucky replaced Captain America. Comics are still comics, but Marvel's been thinking long-term with some of their properties, and it just might be a while until we see the status quo return. And even when Peter does come back, will things be the same? Will he still have that good job? Will The Avengers still want him on the team? (Or will they think that the Otto Spidey did a better job and they're wondering why the hell he's slacking?) And what about Mary Jane? I think that marriage is out of the question, but this will definitely put a wrinkle or two in the relationship.
I realize that some fans are upset about all this. For Pete(r Parker)'s sake, Dan Slott has received death threats. I have to wonder if they really think that this is going to be permanent? If I read online reviews, it feels like I'm the only one who enjoys Spider-Man comics sometimes. Shoot, I liked the much-hated One More Day. Why? Because I felt emotionally involved in the story, and I was sad to see Peter's marriage to Mary Jane end. In other words, it made me care.
With this issue, Slott did a great job of showing that Spidey's a true hero who never gives up, even when it's clear that he's defeated. And even in defeat, he manages to pull out a victory. It's not often that a comic has me turning the pages with as much anticipation as this issue did. That, to me, is how I measure a good comic (or any kind of story). If I care how it all turns out, then it's good.