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Review: Amazing Spider-Man #684 – Saharan Sandman!

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Amazing Spider-Man #684
Writer:  Dan Slott
Art:  Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba [Inks], Edgar Delgado [Colors]

Certain that he had thought of everything possible while preparing to fight the latest incarnation of the Sinister Six (Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Electro, Mysterio, Rhino, and Chameleon), there was one thing Spider-Man didn’t account for–Doc Ock doing the same thing and making short work of the Avengers.

Despite taking out one of the Sinister Six when Thor shot Electro into orbit, the Avengers–Captain America, Iron Man, Red Hulk, Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, and the aforementioned God of Thunder–are taken down quite easily and their Quinjet, with Black Widow inside, is crashed.  Spider-Man, with his new spider armor crippled, is left at Octavius’ mercy.

Fortunately for him, Symkarian mercenary Silver Sable has been following him and the Avengers since the G8 Summit and is able to rescue Spidey and the Black Widow.

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The Sinister Six escape with the rest of the downed Avengers in tow and Ock begins negotiating with the world’s leaders.  In exchange for clean records and $2 billion for each of the other five members of the Sinister Six, Octavius will stop global warming with the “Octavian Lense” his octobots can create in Earth’s atmosphere.  Spider-Man, Silver Sable, and Black Widow are able to patch into these transmissions via help from Horizon Labs and the Symkarian prime minister, and head off to an abandoned AIM facility in the Sahara Desert that they figure out is in use by Doc Ock.

The AIM facility ends up being a trap, however, and the three are left to face Sandman, who has the entire Sahara Desert at his disposal.

Dan Slott continues to weave his epic event, keeping Ock’s true intentions in the dark, as well as what he has promised various members of the Sinister Six in exchange for their help.  Additionally, the Sandman battle in this issue is by far the most interesting in years.  Typically, Spider-Man stops Sandman by using a nearby water source to wash him away or turn him into mud, or bakes him into glass.  It’s one thing for Spider-Man to fight the Sandman on a beach or in a quarry or construction site, but another beast entirely in the middle of the world’s largest desert.  The means by which Slott has Spider-Man, Silver Sable, and the Black Widow defeat the Sandman (with help from Horizon Labs) here is fairly brilliant.

Aside from being a great premise for a fight in this story, the Sahara Desert fight also offers a huge opportunity for impressive visuals and Humberto Ramos doesn’t disappoint.  I know I’ve said this before in other reviews, but Ramos’ work grows on me every time I see it.  It’s honestly gotten even better in the last year and a half, becoming a combination of his older style (which, to me, has more of an anime feel) and traditional comic art.  Some of his faces even bring Todd McFarlane to mind.  Like Stefano Caselli on the first two issues of this arc, Ramos brings his A-game here.

In a year that has Amazing Spider-Man #700 on the way, as well as at least two more big story arcs, I’m wondering how Dan Slott and Co. can top what they’re doing right now.

STORY AND ART:  Excelsior!

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Roger Riddell
Essentially Peter Parker with all the charm of Wolverine, he's a DC-based B2B journalist who occasionally writes about music and pop culture in his free time. His love for comics, metal, and videogames has also landed him gigs writing for the A.V. Club, Comic Book Resources, and Louisville Magazine. Keep him away from the whiskey, and don't ask him how much he hates the Spider-Man movies unless you're ready to hear about his overarching plot for a six-film series that would put the Dark Knight trilogy to shame.