Immediately following up last week’s “Last Remains” finale comes the “Postmortem” aftermath in Amazing Spider-Man #56. The previous issue delivered startling revelations and left lives in the balance, which set up the immediate followup to deal with the fallout. While this latest entry does reframe the recent events across the Amazing Spider-Man title, it comes at the expense of moving the overarching narrative forward.
It becomes difficult to outline the plot outside of the basic setup due to the extremely revelatory nature of the issue. While largely taking place in flashbacks, the story is set 24 hours after the climactic battle of the last issue. This is very much a story centered around Norman and his role across recent events, as opposed to a typical Spidey-centric issue. The titular protagonist takes the backseat here in favor of letting Norman’s storyline develop from the .LR issues to the mainline book.
Thanks to the bridging .LR issues throughout this arc, Spider-Man’s ancillary characters have been much more integral to the battle with Kindred. These have been especially formative in developing Norman Osborn’s recently changed status-quo and what it means for the universe at large. While this issue retains its place within the mainline ASM numbering, its narrative does beg the question of whether it would have been better served as #55.LR.
The writing itself unfortunately seems more concerned with explaining past issues than moving the plot forward. It’s an issue light on action and heavy on dialogue, which tends to become overly expository. That’s the main problem with this issue — it comes off as an unloading of information that inadvertently cheapens the experience of the preceding issues. This becomes exceedingly prevalent with Spencer’s use of flashbacks.
Throughout this story, flashbacks have been a key narrative device Spencer has used to create suspense and mystery around events. This style can be most effective when it places our heroes in bizarre and dire circumstances yet to be explained; on the other hand, this style easily become a contrived way of writing oneself out of a corner. Sadly, this issue falls into the latter category with the twists and reveals come off as unfulfilling. Instead of organically weaving the complex web of story threads together, this issue pulls the rug out from under the preceding narratives.
Despite the glaring narrative issues, the artistic talent continues to shine. Issue #56 continues this arc’s trend of alternating artists by bringing Mark Bagley back on pencils. Once again, he brings his signature look and texture to the book that continues to lend itself the story. Specifically, within this issue, his facial renderings take center stage and capture the emotional resonance the dialogue can muddle.
The best example comes on a full 6-panel page of Norman’s entire demeanor shifting. While the typical comic would probably just utilize the shift of the first panel and the last to show the transition, Bagley takes his time to let this moment breathe. One can notice minute details shift between the first few panels before giving way to the complete change and raw emotion of the last few panels. When it comes to a conniving character such as Norman, his emotional asides can leave both the characters and readers unsure of his motivations; here, Bagley proves himself a master of his craft by taking the time to hone in on this moment and give it both weight and credence.
The colors by Rachelle Rosenberg and Edgar Delgado also play a key role in helping these emotional moments hit. The use of lighting specifically with regards to the faces carves the emotions onto them and carries a sense of depth. The color palette also matches the narrative thrust by generally keeping the tones muted and reserved, except in key moments of emotional weight. As a whole, the coloring team comes together to embellish the already standout artwork.
Regrettably, this follow-up to “Last Remains”’ exciting setup comes off as flawed more than anything else. It undermines the buildup of the preceding issues in favor of narrative contrivance. While the artistic talent behind the book continues to shine, particularly when it comes to emotionality, it cannot totally make up for the narrative choices. Overall, an unfortunately disappointing addendum that that hopefully is not indicative of future issues’ quality.
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