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Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #1.6 – REVIEW

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The final chapter of the six-part, and yet seemingly infinite, “Amazing Grace” story that has graced the pages of Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #1.1-1.6 goes back to the Spider-Man storytelling playbook to wrap things up in a safe and ultimately pedestrian way. Yes, it does close a variety of the plots presented throughout this series, while leaving several others emotionally unresolved, but the way in which it does it is classic Spidey 101, just with an added element of bizarre supernaturalism/religion.

ASMPO2015006-int2-2-47e84The previous issue of this series saw Spider-Man finally convincing the Santerians to take action regarding their resurrected friend Julio. Yet, when they arrived to “talk” with Julio they were met by not just the man himself, but by a group of monsters that he corralled to fight them. You see, Julio’s body has been possessed by some otherworldly figure that disguised itself as God/Jesus so that he could use Julio as a vessel to cross dimensions… or something like that.

Even after the events of this issue are through, including a flashback to the moment that Julio surrendered his body to this spirit in the sky, readers aren’t provided much clarity on the who, what, and whys of the whole thing. Julio seems to have some control over his body but he’s also fighting our heroes and opening a portal to who-knows-where. For a series that spanned half a dozen issues to conclude with a standard fist-fight, the reappearance of the most tired Spider-Man trope of whether or not Spider-Man should kill, a moral pep-talk from Uncle Ben (?), and no real answers as to what exactly happened to instigate this story is incredibly frustrating and actually quite boring.

Yes, writer Jose Molina writes a touching note in the letters page about how editor Nick Lowe put his perhaps misguided faith in him as a first-time comic writer, but one has to question what kind of support was provided to Molina after being given the go-ahead. Open any average Spider-Man tale and you’ll find a similarly plotted ending as the one presented here. However, not only did this series present a fundamental misunderstanding of how Uncle Ben’s death played out, but also it leaves fundamental questions dangling at the story’s conclusion.

ASMPO2015006-int2-4-68ac3Julio’s family, who played a huge part in the early parts of this story, are quickly written out of this story under the guise of “it’d hurt them to know this is happening,” leaving a large emotional beat on the table that would have been far more satisfying than a few additional pages of Spider-Man beating up on animated gargoyle statues. Additionally, during the final stages of the battle, Spider-Man is revisited by his Uncle Ben, who may or may not be his actual uncle and may or may not have any solid advice for Peter. Yes, this is a callback to the second issue of the series, but the explanation for this moment never comes, leaving readers completely in the dark.

Just as in the previous issues, the art duties on this book are split between Simone Bianchi and Andrea Broccardo, with the latter picking up after the resolution of the fight with Julio. Both artists present consistent styles that fit will with Spider-Man’s world and the world of this story. However, the transition from one to the other isn’t quite as smooth as it was in previous issues and made me wonder why this whole story couldn’t have been told by one artist over a reduce number of issues.

Bianchi’s watercolor, ink-wash style provides a warm and yet classical look to the characters and their surroundings, reminding me of stained-glass windows and the light that pours through them. He references fundamental works of art in his portrayal of this tale, utilizing Michelangelo’s Pieta in a key moment to sell the sadness of the scene. For the most part it is successful, although not reinforced by a script to make us care for the characters. Where the work is less successful is during key moments of the final brawl where the transitions from panel to panel leave a lot for the audience to put together and end up presenting a confusing geography and choreography.

Listen to our discussion of “Amazing Grace” on our podcast, Amazing Spider-Talk!

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