Amazing Spider-Man has reached the milestone issue #850 this week, and it comes complete with 89 pages, three chunky chapters, and three backup stories too. The events in Amazing Spider-Man #48 and Amazing Spider-Man: The Sins of Norman Osborn lead directly into this issue, which features Spider-Man teaming up with Green Goblin. Wait, what!? In a story nobody saw coming, Nick Spencer has revealed Sin-Eater wants to cleanse Norman Osborn of his sin, but Spider-Man won’t let him. This is a massive book, and comes with an equally large price tag at $9.99, but is it good?
More or less, it is good! The main meat of the book takes place over three chapters, all written by Spencer with art by Ryan Ottley, Humberto Ramos, and Mark Bagley, in that order. These chunks of the story all take place in Ravencroft with Sin-Eater’s zombie-like goons attempting to hold Green Goblin down long enough so that he may shoot him with his magical gun. The separation of artists makes logical sense from a storytelling standpoint, and by the end of the arc, there’s a resolution for some and dire new directions for others. This story also manages to integrate all the Spider-characters. From a milestone standpoint, it offers many moments for fans of these characters to enjoy.
That starts with Gobby and Spider-Man. The narrative is a clever one — I don’t think we’ve ever seen Green Goblin and Spidey teaming up like this before, though it does seem to run its course midway through. Their interactions are fun and help convey the complex relationship they have. There’s a key moment where Spencer calls back to a moment in the original run that actually makes logical sense to the scene. It also helps add a bit of weight to the narrative and emotional purpose to the relationship. Although, this is a theme in Spencer’s run that can feel overdone and shoehorns iconic history into the current run.
There are also important moments for Ghost-Spider fans won’t want to miss. She is, of course, Gwen Stacy, who has a particularly shady relationship with Norman in the 616 universes. Spencer plays with that concept more than once here, which is an interesting choice.
All three artists surprise no one by delivering exceptional art. One can argue Bagley and Ramos are some of the most important Spider-Man artists of all time, with Ottley quickly making his mark on the franchise as well. More importantly, the various emotions Norman goes through are strong, and seeing as he’s psychotic, those emotions can run the gamut. They are backed up by Nathan Fairbairn, Edgar Delgado, and David Curiel on colors. This is a bright book and the colorists manage to keep a level of realistic yet pop-fun vibe that’s unmistakable.
The characterization of Green Goblin seems unbalanced through much of the work, which could be explained away by his psychotic nature, but it can make the reading feel a bit schizophrenic at times. One minute he seems level headed as he makes a bargain with Spidey, whereas in another he’s practically sniffing a character’s hair and muttering he can’t wait to murder them. Is he a homicidal killer, or a master tactician with secret passageways at the ready? His nature is confusing and can make the character’s personality feel all over the place.
There are three stories that wrap this book up, and each of them is fun and different. The first is “All You Need is…” by Kurt Busiek and Chris Bachalo, featuring a museum scene that delivers a story with Spidey’s back against the wall. There are some cool visuals using mixed media and layering that add to the chaotic nature of the monster fight. Following this is “Four Shoes” by Tradd Moore that is super zany and fun. Ever wanted to see Spider-Man go to another fantasy-inspired dimension? It gets weird and it looks great. Wrapping the book up is “A Family Affair” by Saladin Ahmed and Aaron Kuder. This is a short story focused on the semi-new character Starling. If you’re a Starling fan you’ll love it as it reads like a segue to more stories for the character.
Amazing Spider-Man #49 is a good book overall, but it doesn’t cross the threshold into greatness. The backups are like icing on the cake, but the cake is a bit dry. The main story is one long escape scene, with an unbalanced Green Goblin, and some interesting choices that read like teases rather than big beat moments worth holding onto. The art is stupendous though, and there certainly is a lot here to chew on. At the end of the day, most will put this book down and think it was fine, enjoyable enough, but likely unmemorable as time goes on.