Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Mark Bagley, Humberto Ramos, and Ryan Ottley
Colors: Edgar Delgado, Nathan Fairbairn, and David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Release date October 7 2020
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
…wait? 850? Weren’t we just on issue 48? Oh, “legacy numbering” shenanigans.
Oh, Marvel. Don’t ever change.
Well, the Sins Rising story arc has been one of Nick Spencer’s best stories since he’s started his run on this book, and I promise you, this one doesn’t drop the ball. I guess the question is if this is the best of the chapters. I mean, its a huge milestone issue that continues…ummm…yep, continues the Sin-Eater story. I was very surprised to get to the end of this story and find that it will continue into the next issue. As I’m going into this review with no intentions of spoiling anything about the main story, I’ll leave it to your imaginations how Spider-Man wraps things up with Stan Carter.
With an oversized issue like this, I expected multiple artists to tackle this book. What I wasn’t expecting was that the main story alone featured three different storied pencillers. The comic still features additional stories, each with their own respective talents, but that’s as far as I figured the multiple art would go. The primary tale accounts the latest chapter with the stylings of Ryan Ottley, Mark Bagley, and Humberto Ramos. Multiple writers sharing art duties on the same one comic (specifically the same story in said comic) isn’t usually a pro for me, but I think I can get behind this when the art is divided by each act.
The focal story, titled “The Return of the Green Goblin”, is broken up into three acts. For deluxe sized issues like this, I’ve always been a fan of this gimmick, breaking up the issue into acts. We’ve seen it done in Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man #800 and Donny Cates’ first issue of Absolute Carnage. What makes this instance different is that each act is given to a different artist. Ottley, who of the three artists is the the closest Spencer’s run has the main regular artist, is given honors of opening the beginning act.
Act two gives us the Humberto Ramos approach. Ramos has not been a consistent taste for me. His style has been hit and miss with me. I have to admit, there was even a time during his days on Spidey books years ago where I flat-out disliked his style. Maybe I’ve chilled a little over the years, or his art has gotten better. Lets say both is true. What I remember from his earlier days on comics was me especially having a problem with his characters faces and expressions. Admittedly, his act in this story doesn’t give him a lot of chances to draw many faces, what with everybody involved (save for Madame Web) wearing masks, but everything here looks much tighter. We do get to see his Norman Osborn, and honestly, old cornrows Osborn looks fantastic…this is the same artist I once had problems with? Seriously, I’d like to see this Ramos come back to this book once in a while.
That leaves me with one of my regular favorites. Mr. Bagley, what can I say that hasn’t been expressed already? Of the three artists, Mark Bagley seems to have packed the most art in his panels. All of the panels throughout this main story’s entirety have plenty going on in each scene, so this isn’t a rag against the prior acts, but when I had to read this book (an exhausting) three or so times for this write-up, I kept feeling like Bagley’s pages had so much kinetic action going on in them. Even the pages where there wasn’t much action happening still felt claustrophobic (might have something to do with his act involving the most characters co-existing in the most cramped of spaces, lets be honest).
Really, critiquing the details of Spencer’s writing without slipping in any spoiler, even minor, is no easy feat for me. So we know Spencer has a talent for writing the lesser characters and minor league Spidey rogues, but now we have him juggling the extended Spider-family and A-lister Norman Osborn. The dialogue all through the comic is very in character for everyone involved. I did find Spider-Gwen (as I’ll continue to call her) to come off a little preachy and “over-expositiony”; whether you’ll agree with me or not, I trust you’ll know exactly where and what I mean after reading the issue. There’s a great instance where Norman has Spider-Man alone and gives him some spiel that I really liked enough to argue it was my favorite moment in the whole book, even when I knew on my first reading what Norman would do next. Predictable moment, I’ll say, but writing for Norman right there was very, very good. And yet…the Juggernaut, who was revealed prior to this issue to be Norman’s big, secret weapon, was painfully wasted in this story. I felt like I missed an important issue or scene before this issue, with how unessential he felt in this story and how quickly his appearance runs its course.
We are this far into the review, and I’ve yet to talk about the three additional stories that follow the main story. The first of the bonus tales features a cursed red gem. With the appearance of Juggernaut in the previous half of this comic, I figured it was somehow the Cytorrak Gem. This story features jolly old Jameson. And by old, I mean classic “I hate Spider-Man! Parker! Get me photos! RAAH!” Jameson. Written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Chris Bachalo, its not especially engaging, and yet I found it to be the best of the three extra stories. The highlight of this entry is the use of color: the entire tale is absent in color, the exception being the red generated from the cursed crimson gem and the colors brought by Spider-Man’s costume.
Following that, we have a surreal Spidey story, one I just didn’t enjoy. Tradd Moore (both the writer and artist here) is known for his hyper-exaggerated style, one that I’ve found enjoyment of from some of his other work, especially his overly violent Luther Strode trilogy. This version of Spider-Man really did not work for me aesthetically. There were a few pages where I really had a hard time just getting through the panels. When rereading this book, this was a story I skipped at least once during my multiple reads.
The final story is Saladin Ahmed and Aaron Kuder’s inclusion, featuring Spider-Man inadvertently “interrupting” a outdoor birthday meetup with Tiana Toomes and her grandfather Adrian Tomes…the Vulture. The “situation” upsets Adrian enough for Tiana to suit up and pursue Spider-Man as Starling. It should be noted that the Spider-Man here is the Peter variation, not the Miles Morales one. Starling has been a character who first appeared in the current Miles Morales book, so its not surprising to seeing Ahmed (writer of Miles’ book) use her here. If Busiek’s story was my favorite of these three and Tradd Moore’s my least favorite, this one sits right in the middle. Honestly, I’d prefer it when these type of oversized comics include additional stories after the feature story that they were addenums to the main book’s plot or at least set up teases for future stories (more the former, please). While this one does tease Starling may have to come to terms with who her grandfather really is, the kind of man he is, that hardly felt like a big cliffhanger…
Jeebus, this was a gauntlet of a book to read (multiple times at that) and to review. But I guess that is to be expected when Marvel reaches a milestone number like 850…and then I see the next issue returns to its current numbering; a milestone issue 50.
Oh, Marvel. Don’t ever change.
A giant package of a comic, it’s the main story that carries this whole issue, as it should. The additional content is purely filler, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re wondering if that $10 USD price tag is worth it…(yeah, comics can be pricey…)…I’ll say the ongoing Sins Rising arc has yet to disappoint.