So here we are, a mere three months after "Spider-Island" has ended and already there is another big event on the horizon to be shown in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. At least there won't be as many tie-ins this time (so far). This particular event I'm refeering to is of course "Ends of the Earth," the much teased at upcoming showdown between Spider-Man and the new Sinister Six. As regular readers of the comic know, writer Dan Slott has been building up to this ever since Amazing Spider-Man #600 releaved that long time Spidey villain, Doctor Octopus, was dying after years of physical and cerebral trauma, and being the megalomanical mad scientist that he is, he's decided he needs to go out with a bang instead of a whimper, even if it means the entire world has to suffer for it.
Yes, Doc Ock has indeed died before back during the much maligned Clone Saga (as if you needed any more reason to lambast it), so you can imagine there are a few skeptical comic book veterans who doubt this could be Doc Ock's final bow. Then again, it sure does seem that this is the first major story for Spider-Man's 50th Anniversary year, Marvel may decide not to pull it's punches. Whatever the case, it means that, yes, it's ripe for another round of my elaborate, off-the-wall theories and predictions about where I think this story could be going, how it could affect future stories, and whether or not I am worthy of the self-complaimed and overly-lofty title of "The Nostradomus of Comics." So, might as well etch what I think could happen in writing to make it all the better for folks to laugh at me later.
One of the big questions running through Amazing Spider-Man has been what exactly is Doc Ock planning? All we knew was that it was going to be something "great and terrible," that it would be on a global scale, and would be something that could potentially elevate him to Doctor Doom levels of villianry. Well, based on a few teaser images, we may have an answer: Doc Ock is going to accelerate global warming.
I suspect that he will be capable of doing so because of some device he took from Baxter Building and the Fantastic Four/Future Foundation back during Amazing Spider-Man #660 and has found a way to amplify its effects, either by interfering with the ionosphere or reducing the ozone layer. Whatever the case, he will, in true super-villain fashion, demand from the nations of the world the sum total of their treasuries or face an ecological and environmental holocaust on a grand scale.
How can the Earth’s temperature be stabilized? Well, perhaps the answer lies in the space station launched by Horizon Labs, and that its primary goal was to maintain Earth’s climate with atmospheric regulators. Unfortunately, we know that Doc Ock sent Octo-bots up back in Amazing Spider-Man #653 to infiltrate that station and, by the time the two-part story from Amazing Spider-Man #680 and #681 is finished, I suspect that space station will be knocked out of orbit, with its remnants scattered all over the Earth. However, Spidey realizes that the atmospheric regulators are still intact, thus not only providing the reason for Spidey to have a globe-trotting trotting adventure, but also be a race against time as other members of the Sinister Six attempt to retrieve the regulators from their crash sites. And while Spidey, along with the Avengers and other allies go around the world, the Horizon Labs cast will attempt to solve the crisis at home, coordinating with the wall-crawler to recover the regulators before it‘s too late.
However, I can see two major complications for Peter to deal with as he‘s trying to save the Earth. As is often the case with Peter, he’ll be so busy going around the world as Spider-Man that he won’t be there for his friends and family when they need him the most. And as is often the case under such scenarios, the person who winds up suffering the most is Aunt May. It wouldn’t surprise me if she ends up suffering from heat stroke and that, because potentially hundreds of thousands worldwide would also be succumbing to rising temperatures, medical resources are stretched thin to properly treat her. And the second problem would be that, even though Doc Ock is demanding a large ransom for holding the world hostage, he may have no intention of stopping the rise in Earth’s temperature; he’s a dying man, so what does he care if the Earth dies with him? Both of these complications would, of course, motivate Spidey all the more to stop Doc Ock and the Sinister Six, particularly in regards to his “no one dies on my watch” pledge.
Other promotional materical for “Ends of the Earth” shows that Peter makes himself yet another in his ever growing closet of new costumes, one which not only will likely end up being a future action figure but also designed “specifically to go to war with the Sinister Six.” Judging by the look of it (aside from the fact it looks like a cross between DC Comics' Red Hood and Samus from the Metroid games), I’d say it was insulated to protect himself from Electro’s electricity, armored to absorb kinetic energy from powerhouses like the Rhino, Sandman, and Doc Ock) and probably has thermal imaging capabilities in order to see through Mysterio’s illusions and the Chameleon’s disguises. It’s also possible that the suit allows Peter to regulate his body temperature in order to counter-act against the artificial warming the planet.
THE SINISTER SIX
Dan Slott has been quoted as saying “The Sinister Six [we] start out with…will not be the Sinister Six [we] end up with,” but that there will not be other villains during this arc. Which implies that the various members will be captured, killed…or switch sides. And the most likely member to switch sides is the guy who switched sides before: The Sandman. In Amazing Spider-Man #676, we’re told that the reason Flint Marko with the Sinister Six is because Doc Ock promised him that he’ll help to get his daughter back. I imagine that when Spidey, along with Black Widow and Silver Sable face off against him in part 3 of “Ends of the Earth” (Amazing Spider-Man #684) that Sandman will be made to realize that he’s been duped, and that Doc Ock not only has no intention of helping his daughter but that he will learn--along with the readers--that Doc Ock is setting out to destroy the earth. Thus, I think it’s possible that Sandman will become a good guy again, or at least work under his former boss, Silver Sable, as a means of avoiding imprisonment.
Amazing Spider-Man #676 also hinted that the Rhino, due to the loss of his wife, has developed suicidal tendencies, believing he now has nothing to lose. Doc Ock, by contrast, is a man living on borrowed time, with weeks, maybe even days, left to live. So in a sense, each has what the other wants: the Rhino wants death, while Doc Ock wants life. If only there was some way they could trade? That’s where the proceeding story in Amazing Spider-Man #680 and #681 may provide us with a clue.
Notice how Amazing Spider-Man #681's solicit makes mention of an infestation of “Octo-Zombies?” My guess is those are human beings who are being mentally controlled by Doc Ock via his miniature Octo-bots attaching themselves to the subject’s brain stem. After all, Doc Ock was able to use them to control virtually all electrical devices in New York back in issue #600, and the brain uses its own kind of electricity, after all. And if Doc Ock can mentally control a machine or a person with his mind, isn’t it possible to “download” his own mind into a machine or body as a last ditch effort? And what better vessel for his mind than that of the super-strong and near-invulnerable Rhino? If such a thing were to happen, then the Rhino, by sacrificing his mind for Doc Ock to take over, gets the death he wants, and Doc Ock gets a new lease on life and doesn’t have to risk suffering the crippling injuries that deteriorated his health to begin with, and, with the Rhino’s strength and trademark tentacles, would be even more of a physical challenge than ever before.
However, here’s another possible scenario: Doc Ock actually does die. Not from his massive physical trauma, mind you, but from a change in conscience. During the climactic battle with Spidey in the Sinister Six’s underwater base, Spidey could remind Doc Ock that even if he doesn’t care about whether he lives or dies anymore, there is one person he still loves: Aunt May. This appeal towards his conscience will make Doc Ock have a change of heart and proceed to shut down his warming device--only for the Rhino, feeling betrayed by Doc Ock going back on his word, to try and stop him. This leads to a fight-to-the-death between Doc Ock and the Rhino in which Spidey is powerless to stop, especially if he is forced to save whoever is in the underwater base before it’s destroyed around them as a result of Doc Ock and Rhino’s battle.
As for the remaining members of the Sinister Six, they will likely be cannon fodder. Although, I suspect that for in a later story, the new Sinister Six will be composed of Electro, Mysterio, the Chameleon, The Vulture, the Hobgoblin, and the Scorpion, all of whom will be financed by the Kingpin as part of a grand revenge scheme against Spidey. Remember, Kingpin, thanks to the Horizon Labs mole, Tiberius Stone, has the plans to create spider-sense jammers to potentially contain Spider-Man, which could very well be the kind of story to be told in either the 50th Anniversary issue or the 700th issue.
THE SUPPORTING CAST
I imagine that with Spidey globe-trotting and fighting the Sinister Six during this story, and teaming up with various Avengers besides, it's very likely that there will not be as much focus on the supporting cast this time around as compared to "Spider-Island." That isn't to say there won't be, but rather I have a feeling it will primarily focus on the more intimate members of Peter's circle instead of a broad sweep. One of these supporting characters we are told will have “interesting developments” in “Ends of the Earth” is Mary Jane, and one can't help but be reminded of the role she played in "Spider-Island." Given her whispered profession of love for Peter and support during "Spider-Island," as well as her telling Peter she has complete faith in him during the more recent Amazing Spider-Man #679, it is my belief that Slott is setting the stage for Peter and MJ to become a romantic couple again in Amazing Spider-Man #700.
However, in order for this to happen, MJ first has to reconcile her friendship with Aunt May. After all, it’s been hinted in past issues that, due to MJ leaving Peter, Aunt May’s opinion of her has soured, not to mention it may also be revealed in this story that she didn’t approve of Peter and MJ living together instead of getting married like they were supposed to. If Aunt May happens to be in New York while “Ends of the Earth” transpires, and gets heat stroke while there, then this provides an opportunity for MJ to step up and nurse her and volunteer other heat stroke patients, thereby reminding Aunt May why she saw MJ as a good match for her nephew to begin with.
There’s another possible development for MJ that would have a profound effect on her character: MJ has help in her Aunt Anna in volunteering to look after heat stroke patients, but a combination of rising temperatures and work-related exhaustion results in Aunt Anna’s own death. This could potentially happen for the following reasons: like Marla Jameson, Aunt Anna is a long-time supporting character but one who is not a major one well known by those outside of the Spider-Man comics, yet who’s passing and seeming expendability would have a profound effect on many members of the cast. Not only would MJ be effected by the loss of the person who was essentially her second mother, but Aunt May would also lose her best friend. Such a death would be the catalyst for Aunt May and MJ to reconcile, perhaps even having Aunt May suggest MJ spend some time in Boston with her. Or MJ would decide to spend some time in Philadelphia with her sister, Gayle, and her family. Either way, the result would be MJ decides to take a leave of absence from her TV hosting duties and also leave New York, unsure as to whether she will come back this time.
And of course, this would be a tremendous blow to Peter, and would, of course, involve the “loss” Julia Carpenter/Madame Web predicted in the “Spider-Island” epilogue (Amazing Spider-Man #673). Not only will he have failed to prevent another death, but that he believes he’s failed and betrayed MJ, the person who not only is his best friend but also, he comes to realize, the woman he still loves and who matters the most to him. And in true soap opera style, MJ, in her grief, may berate Peter for not being there for Aunt Anna only to soon regret what she said and realizes she needs him more than ever, only as she’s already left New York, it will seemingly be too late. Then again, should Peter and MJ get back together again in issue #700, such an obstacle would be ideal.
This would also make Peter decide to redouble his efforts as Spider-Man, becoming even more entrenched with the idea of not wanting any one to die under his watch. This doubling down could result in Peter running himself ragged and becoming more careless, both as Spidey and with regards to his job at Horizon Labs. Which would be particularly bad timing considering that, given the ecological disaster that Doc Ock’s plan has wrought, Horizon Labs could be under pressure to step up on environmental solutions from all their employees, which Peter may not have the time for. This, along with a hint Slott made earlier during “Spider-Island” that Peter’s roof access violates Horizon security and possibly learning Morbius in “number 6” in the upcoming Lizard story, may lead to Peter no longer working for Horizon before the end of this year.
Now, after reading these predictions, what with long-time characters dying and Peter failing to keep his vow of "no one dies on my watch," and yet confused by also saying Peter will get some kind of happy ending in Amazing Spider-Man #700, well that's easy to explain. I suspect that, given all the good fortune Peter has been experiencing since "Big Time" started, "Ends of the Earth" could very well be the first story in which everything, once again, begins to crumble around him. The solicit for Amazing Spider-Man #676, which was advertised as a kind of prelude for Ends of the Earth, also stated that 2012 would promise "the end of Spider-Man." Even Marvel's current Editor-In-Chief, Axel Alonso hinted as much in a Comic Book Resources interview from a few weeks back. Does that mean Peter Parker, at the end of this year, will quit as Spider-Man? Be killed off and replaced by a new Spider-Man? Something else? I have my own ideas about what this really means.
But that's another speculation for another time. Until then.