Amazing Spider-Man may be all about “Last Remains” right now, but before “Last Remains” was “Sins Rising”, a story arc that built up a long-dead villain known as Sin-Eater and his return to making Spider-Man’s life hell. Out this week in comic book shops, “Sins Rising” collects The Amazing Spider-Man #44-47 and Amazing Spider-Man: Sins Rising Prelude.
Having read and reviewed nearly every issue in this run, it’s safe to say this story arc has a good core idea but takes turns in the story that are off-putting or strange. When reading this in one sitting it’s less obvious how specific issues hindered the arc in real time, but it still remains a rather odd arc due to its focus on such an obscure villain in Sin-Eater. The book opens with the prelude and there are interesting themes here (some familiar if you’ve been paying attention to pop culture) but ultimately this is a tale about a man whose mind is twisted up and he does terrible things. There’s some semblance of a good person inside Sin-Eater, but it’s likely long gone or it will be very hard for him to find redemption. This is where I had a problem with this book. Enter Kindred, a villain Nick Spencer introduced years ago now and is finally getting his due in the mainline books in the latest issues.
This is a look at how far you could take Sin-Eater — a rather basic character who carries a shotgun — and makes him supernatural. This arc touches on his desire to remove sin from bad people, but ultimately he’s the fulcrum of what Kindred wants to do to Spider-Man. The latter element is what keeps this book moving ever forward to the big Kindred showdown, but it limits what this book can do too. For that reason, a lot of the good in this book ends up being set aside so as to move things along.
By the end there’s a message in the narrative about cults, following the wrong kind of leaders, and how some people just can’t be saved. This all builds towards the triumphant Amazing Spider-Man #850, where Spidey refuses to let Sin-Eater cleanse Green Goblin of his sin, but taken in via this trade paperback it reads more like directions for the reader.
The depiction of Sin-Eater is a problem with the book, too. At the start, he’s a victim turned puppet for Kindred, but soon he’s like a bogeyman, showing up out of nowhere to wreak havoc, and then slinking away. The book walks a line between Sin-Eater being a supernatural entity and a callback to a real person Spider-Man tussled with before. For that reason, he’s never quite human, understandable, or all that interesting. He’s a vessel for the plot to move forward.
The art is solid throughout, though. It starts with art by Guillermo Sanna with colors by Jordie Bellaire, and it’s good at capturing the darkness and shadows that permeate Sin-Eater’s life and back story. Sin-Eater has walked a nightmare kind of life and you can gather that darkness via the visuals. The grungy look and feel are also quite reminiscent of 100 Bullets with a striking use of color where needed.
Kim Jacinto and Bruno Oliveira take on the first issue of the arc in a weird dream-issue that suits the cartoony art. Next up is Mark Bagley for a one-off issue and his work continues to be nostalgic and strong. Marcelo Ferreira wraps up the book with the final two issues, drawing a darker style that suits the themes of the story — there’s a lot of violence. Sin-Eater shows up at one point to enact his justice and the book ensures the violence is as brutal as possible while not showing anything graphic. It’s in the reactions of the characters being killed or the dead eyes of Sin-Eater as he blows bad guys away that this is most felt.
Amazing Spider-Man Sins Rising has a few great moments, but it never quite feels balanced or sure of itself. The book can be frustrating, never quite knowing how to depict Sin-Eater nor how to flesh out his personality. The overarching idea of this arc — that some people want to be bad and do terrible things for what they think is a good cause — is a sound one, especially in a time where cultish behavior seems rampant.
It’s not quite gelling perfectly and seems to limp towards the milestone #850 issue rather than tell a cohesive and strong story arc on its own. That said, if you are interested in Kindred, it’s also an important chapter in how this character is building up towards his final confrontation with Peter Parker.
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