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The current happenings with our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man have been, for once, pretty positive. Peter Parker has his own multi-national corporation, a lucrative contract making gadgets for S.H.I.E.L.D., and a rotating support team of his usual amazing friends. With all of that going so well, leave it to arch-nemesis Norman Osborn to bring some chaos.
Norman first rears his ugly haircut in the early issues of the current Amazing Spider-Man run, selling Goblin weapons on the black market to antagonize Parker Industries. His machinations all come to a head in this final part of “The Osborn Identity” story-line with an attempted coup of Symkaria, fictional homeland of Silver Sable.
Longtime Spider-Man scribe Dan Slott writes, with pencils by Stuart Immonen, inks by Wade von Grawbadger, and colors from Marte Garcia and Andres Mossa. Despite a fully loaded art team, the images of this issue pull off a far more cohesive vision that that of the writing. Let’s sift through the rubble and find what works in this climactic battle.
Author Dan Slott is no stranger to Spider-Man, having writing credit on issues dating back to 2010 (if not before). With so many great stories behind him, I don’t envy the task of moving forward and keeping the book fresh. In many ways, Slott succeeds. Spider-Man learns from his past battles with Doctor Octopus, the Jackal and more to become an international hero.
As always, our favorite web-slinger is quick with jokes. When Silver Sable (who is apparently not dead from “Ends of the Earth”, I missed that), pulls a sword from the mantle in a standoff with the villainous Countess Krakov, Spidey has a great “huh, so those aren’t just wall decorations” aside.
And while Spider-Man, Sable, and regular supporting character Mockingbird are well written, there’s still a major flaw in a chief character: Norman Osborn. The former Green Goblin declared long ago that he’d be better off without his Goblin powers and their accompanying madness. That his cold, calculating ruthlessness would be Spider-Man’s ultimate undoing.
Which makes sense from a character perspective, but in execution he falls pretty flat. The showdown is a great concept – both men devoid of their powers in a brutal fist fight with Symarkia in the sights of a goblin-gas carrying missile. But Osborn has no menace to him. I don’t necessarily need cackling madman – the Dark Reign arc uses a subdued Osborn to great effect – but the condescending businessman in these pages hardly meets the villainous standards Norman once met.
What the writing for Osborn lacks in menace, the art team makes up for in chilling detail. The line work, inking, and colors of his disfigured visage elicit the hate he carries and the lengths he’ll go to see its fruition. Furthermore, in Silver Sable’s sword fight with Symkaria’s evil oligarch her noble swagger dominates each panel, doing great service to a beloved character.
Speaking of each panel; layouts are important in a big battle with multiple fronts. Mockingbird works to disarm the missile, Sable takes out the country’s faux-leader, and Spider-Man takes on Norman. The whole team, Slott included, deserve credit for making the pacing work, but it’s the art team who creates the stunning layouts.
In the past I’ve found full-page spreads to be a little distracting, unable to tell how I’m supposed to follow the action. That’s never a problem in this book. From Sable’s Star Wars-esque battle (yes, Spidey makes a “use the force” quip) to the snow covered mountainside fight with Norman, picturesque backgrounds frame the characters’ kinetic action sequences.
At issue’s end, Norman, of course, gets away. We will no doubt see him again, but not before some distracting crossover tie-ins with Secret Empire! For this and other great Spider-Man adventures, swing in to Downtown Comics and pick up the newest issue.