Spider-Man reached his 850th issue back in October, and that story is getting collected for the first time in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 10: Green Goblin Returns this week. You’d think the title says it all, but in hindsight, this is a collection more about Kindred messing with Peter Parker’s life which includes Sin-Eater mucking things up. Collecting Amazing Spider-Man #48-49, the Spider-Man: The Sins of Norman Osborn one-shot, and Free Comic Book Day 2020 (Spider-Man/Venom) #1, this collection comes in at a slightly heftier 160 pages. Given the milestone within, it holds up more or less, with some reservations.
This book opens with Amazing Spider-Man #48 and then dives into “The Sins of Norman Osborn” which leads into the milestone issue of Amazing Spider-Man #49 (legacy numbering has it at #850). The general flow of the story works for the most part, as Sin-Eater is attempting to cleanse Green Goblin of his sins with his magic shotgun and make him into a good person. Spider-Man is against this idea since he knows Norman Osborn will eventually turn and kill someone even if he’s cleansed. Spider-Man is forced to rush into Ravencroft where Norman works before Sin-Eater can shoot him and soon Spidey and Green Goblin are teaming up.
This collection excels in its first chapter with issue #48 but after that is inhibited by overly long action sequences and a story that lacks purpose. Issue #48 features great Spider-Man internal monologuing via captions strewn across the book. Here we get to see his doubts, his flip-flopping on the issue of “fixing” Norman Osborn, and begin to understand why this is troubling Spider-Man so much. As he’s thinking throughout the issue, he’s fighting alongside teammates like Ghost-Spider and Miles Morales, keeping the action high and entertaining. There’s a good explanation for these team-ups too, further making the story logical and sound.
The art by Bagley, with inks by Roberto Poggi and colors by David Curiel, is quite good. This is classic Bagley with the detailed nature, the quality of each panel, and good attention to framing. There are key flashbacks to Spider-Man’s interactions with Norman that are economically done yet still very impactful. There’s a lot of captioning and dialogue in Amazing Spider-Man #48, but it flows about as well as you’d expect. This collection opens with a breakdown of what makes Spider-Man tick, and perhaps one of the finest and most introspective looks at the Green Goblin and Spider-Man dynamic ever made.
From there, things get a little stretched out and lose their purpose. “The Sins of Norman Osborn” serves as a good build-up to the milestone issue, but retreads quite a bit for new readers. It sets things up, allows new readers to pick the story up here, and establishes plenty of surprises to follow. That doesn’t quite work in a collection like this since we’re up and up on what is going on.
Then comes Amazing Spider-Man #49, which focuses mostly on Green Goblin and Spider-Man teaming up to fight off the Sin-Eater drones in Ravencroft. At this point, Spider-Man’s mind is made up to protect Norman and this book serves as an artist’s dream come true to draw lots of fighting and little else. There are surprises to be sure, but the characterization of Green Goblin seems unbalanced making this read 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.
The art is spectacular, though, with Mark Bagley, Humberto Ramos, and Ryan Ottley each given a third of the story to draw. 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.
Closing out this collection are short stories unrelated to Nick Spencer’s run by Kurt Busiek and Chris Bachalo, Tradd Moore, and Saladin Ahmed and Aaron Kuder. Each story is fun and different, playing up Spider-Man’s personality, crazy luck to get into mind-bending hijinks, and seeding future stories. 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 who has ties to Vulture. If you’re a Starling fan you’ll love it as it reads like a segue to more stories for the character. Wrapping up the book is the Free Comic Book Day book which is quite short and also features Vulture.
Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 10: Green Goblin Returns has a strong start and a strong finish, but along the way falls prey to the story stretching itself too thin. It’s quite clear it’s heavily written for the monthly format and doesn’t gel together as well as one might want. Still, if this is about as good as Spider-Man comics can get since so many resources were focused on the #850 milestone, it’s enjoyable enough.
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