Amazing Spider-Man has been a dark story for some time, especially with the great focus on new villain Kindred. It’s time to revisit a notable moment in the Nick Spencer Spider-Man era as his Kindred story comes to a noticeable chapter close with Amazing Spider-Man #50-55 collected for the first time this week.
Titled “Last Remains,” this story arc opens with Spider-Man in a very bad way and Green Goblin looking down the barrel of Sin-Eater’s magical sin-cleansing gun. Although you’ll need to pick up next week’s Last Remains Companion to get the full story, this book has the main course of how Spider-Man escapes Kindred and then finally defeats him. Well, in a manner of speaking. The years-long run of Kindred menacing Spider-Man comes to a resounding climax in this book, and depending on your level of anticipation of the long-teased encounter, your mileage may vary.
It has been teased before this volume so it’s not much of a spoiler, but J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada’s One More Day is heavily referenced here. That adds quite a bit of weight to what we’re reading, though how that classic game-changing story affects Spider-Man going forward past this collection remains to be seen. It is the past life of the story, so to speak, that brings everything into its purpose.
It’s apparent from the very start that this is a dark book. Amazing Spider-Man #50 is the issue that reveals the identity of Kindred and sets up the story arc with a beaten Peter Parker who can barely move from a dumpster. That’s right, Spider-Man fans: Spidey is down for the count and needs to find another gear to rise up.
Patrick Geason draws this opener with some beautifully big-eyed Spider-Man moments, alongside expressive colors by Edgar Delgado. The opening with Kindred is creepy, as if he is the Crypt Keeper himself, and the use of underground shots and purple make for a supernatural and super-weird experience. There’s a lot of twisted imagery in this issue, like Goblin stretching out his mask or a vile thing that comes out of Sin-Eater you gotta see to believe. Things brighten up when Spider-Man is on the page, but for the most part, this is a dark and shadowy experience. Gleason is a great follow-up artist to Ryan Ottley’s long run on the series and it shows here.
A big issue I had with the way this book reads is how it’s organized — it can be confusing due to the narrative flashing forward and back. It opens on yet another scene with Kindred doing evil things all by himself, cuts to Spider-Man swinging in the city, and takes quite a while to get to how we got here. To further complicate things, the story picks up where Norman left off under Ravencroft. You might be left wondering if you missed an issue. Eventually, the narrative catches up with itself as it reveals in a dream at Dr. Strange’s house how Spider-Man was split up from his Spider-friends, who are now going by “The Order of the Web.”
Adding frustration to the plotting is the constant tease of Spider-Man’s secret, which is something Kindred has hinted at for some time. We still don’t know what it is, but it’s the main crux of Spider-Man’s hardships. We know Peter knows what it could be, or at least he thinks he knows, and it can be frustrating as the reader to not know since it’s hard to gather what the deal is with Peter’s self-doubt and frustrations. One might guess what it is from the underpinnings of One More Day in this story, but it’s never explicitly said.
Mark Bagley draws two of the issues here, which heavily reference One More Day. It’s a smart choice since Bagley’s style reminds us of the older era and visually separates itself from Gleason’s modern style. The clash between Kindred and Spider-Man takes place under Bagley’s pen and he does this battle justice.
“Last Remains” is an interesting story because it’s so different from the norm. It’s dark, manifesting Spider-Man’s self-doubt and frustrations into a hellish nightmare. While it can be frustrating to try to piece together what is going on, it’s hard to deny the general mood and atmosphere of this story feels entirely different. Given its confusing plotting and long-winded, drawn-out mysteries, your mileage as far as how intriguing this is will vary. This is the kind of book you have to admire for how different it is, but it doesn’t come together in a way that will be marked as an all-time great story.
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