It's been no secret that Amazing Spider-Man has been one of my favorite books going. Dan Slott constantly brings a grand palate of comedy, pathos, badassery and tension to not just Peter Parker, but his entire supporting cast. For years now, he's been building to an epic story about the last grand master plan from Dr. Otto Octavius, one that will secure his legacy as one of the foremost masterminds of all time, before his time runs out and he passes on from this life. "Ends of the Earth" is now in full swing, and in Amazing Spider-Man #683, we get to see the full-on Sinister Six kick the asses of the Avengers.
It's long been said that Spider-Man and Batman have the best rogues galleries in comics. Batman's villains may be more iconic movie stars, but Spider-Man's have the advantage in that they occasionally work as a cohesive team, and now they've become so much more than the sum of their parts. Ock's plan is in motion, as he's put an elaborate satellite system he calls an "octahedral" in place, and last issue, he proved to the world's leaders at the G8 summit that he could fry the planet at will, but he's instead insisted that he's trying to save the world from climate change before he dies. In this issue, he proves he can do it, and despite the fact that Spider-Man and the Avengers interrupt the meaning to remind everybody that Doc Ock is a career supervillain – and despite the fact that, thanks to Spidey's new anti-Six armor, he could clock Al Gore with complete confidence that he was actually the Chameleon – they're still considering taking Octavius at his word.
Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson has directed his misguided Spidey hate towards Peter's place of employment, Horizon Labs, as he's convinced they're a threat to the city rather than just a laid-back home for egghead creativity. It's nice to see JJJ expanding his hate horizons beyond the wall-crawling menace, now that he's had far too much evidence to the contrary to hold on to that classic pet peeve. This way, he can still play the same antagonistic role in Peter's life, but from a different angle. The flat-top reigns supreme.
Then, the Avengers trace Chameleon back to his bosses, thanks to a spider-tracer, for which the master of disguise is berated by his teammates for falling for such a bush league maneuver. "That was a rookie move. This is The Sinister Six. You're in the majors now. Act like it," Mysterio says, and in that one line, we see the wonderful amount of respect Slott shows to these guys. Just like how, a few issues ago, he pitted the Six against the Intelligencia and came away with a Six victory without treating the Intelligencia like chumps (as Bendis is wont to do), he's building the Six into more than a collection of street-level villains, but a big-time super powered threat, as they should be.
That point is proven when Spidey, made cocky by how well-prepared he feels in the anti-Six armor (and it's never a good thing when Spider-Man gets overconfident), leads the Avengers on what he plans as "Earth's Mightiest Smackdown," once they track down the Six. As Avengers pour out of a Quinjet, there's a great moment where the Six watch them approach, and you can feel their tension between Ock's confidence in his planning and their long history of getting punked by Spider-Man alone. It's a great couple of panels that really makes us root for the bad guys.
And guess what? The Six wins. Careful planning, skillfully looted artifacts and judicious execution find them winning the day, even though Spidey's armor works really well and comes off as smart design justifying that confidence he was sporting. There are a lot of great moments in this fight – even one that references Sandman's history as an Avenger – and as much as we love our heroes, seeing the most fun villains in the Marvel universe step up their game is really damn satisfying right now. Will they lose round two? Probably, but they're a force to be reckoned with by the premiere superteam of the world now.
Stefano Caselli's art is also very nicely done. Ock, in his diseased, life-supported state and his huge cybernetic body, doesn't look anything like the portly guy in the green jammies and the bowl-cut we all used to know – he looks gruesome and uncomfortable and bloody on the close-ups. The renditions of real-world leaders at the G8 are pretty good, too – including that German chancellor to whom G.W. Bush gave the creepy backrub. The Spider-Armor looks neat, and all his faces are different, expressive and wonderful.
"This is our day, gentlemen. The day the Sinister Six reigns supreme." Something about that declaration is inspiring. Dr. Octavius referring to his compatriots – including a guy made out of sand, a guy wearing a fishbowl on his head and a guy in a rhinocerous outfit – as 'gentlemen' lends a quiet dignity to their collective madness, and the only way Amazing Spider-Man #683 could make me happier would be letting Mysterio kick a little more ass.