Nick Spencer’s run on Amazing Spider-Man comes to a close today, and most of the cards are on the table revealing how the Kindred storyline comes to an end. That includes Mephisto, Doctor Strange, Harry and Norman Osborn, and even the children of Norman and Gwen Stacy. It’s an extra-sized issue ahead of the new creative team taking over with Amazing Spider-Man #75 and it’s a celebration, of a kind.
One might call this a celebration of Mephisto’s meddling in Spider-Man’s life. The issue even opens with Mephisto, which you can see in the preview. As we learned in the last issue, Mephisto made a deal with Norman Osborn and the deal cost him his son Harry’s soul. Also in play is a clone of Harry running around, Mary Jane being very close to danger, and Spider-Man fighting Kindred, but Mephisto is the thread that ties it all together.
Mephisto plays two other parts with one being a scene with Dr. Strange and the other being a narrator with the audience. Since he’s looking right at the reader and even narrating a scene with Spider-Man in rubble, one can assume this story is largely about him. In fact, the newest bud of information given is about his future.
Outside of Mephisto’s role, this issue is also about Norman owning up to the sins he now must live with as an honest and good soul. His sin was taken away by Sin-Eater and since then he’s become a bit of a milquetoast sad sack. In this issue, he gets to own up to past transgressions while being a kinder father to Harry than Harry always deserved.
All of that is layered into Spider-Man trading blows with Kindred. If this and Sinister War has taught us anything, it’s that Spider-Man can get beaten over and over with not a single bone getting broken. At one point there is blood on Kindred’s fist, but Spider-Man maintains very little damage. Frankly, the fighting gets boring since nobody seems to tire or appear all that hurt.
Spencer is joined by Christos Gage on the main story with pencils by an army of artists including Marcelo Ferreira, Mark Bagley, Ze Carlos, Dio Neves, Carlos Gomez, and Ivan Fiorelli; Humberto Ramos joins in for the final few pages as well. The art is strong throughout with plenty of cool shots of Spidey, some interesting layout choices to mix up the chaotic fighting, and scary moments of Kindred. Nearly the entire issue takes place in a single room, making the characters and their fighting the central focus.
This brings us to the major problem: this book didn’t need to be so long. It reads like a stage play in some sense, with characters getting speeches in between fighting, or revelations being made at key moments, or redemption coming at a high price. It feels strung out, especially since we’ve learned so many of the twists and secrets leading to this. As a climactic ending it certainly serves up a big finish, but it also goes on and on without end.
Closing out the book is three backup stories. The first is by Christos Gage and Todd Nauck, a heartfelt reminder of how many folks Uncle Ben helped out and still helps out long after he’s dead. There’s an intriguing perspective on the mantra “with great power comes great responsibility” that actually makes some sense. Nauck does well with the montaged scenes (there are multiple) as well as his rendition of Peter Parker.
Next is a double page of Spider-Man’s entire history by Sean Ryan and Gustavo Duarte that plays up the fact that recapping Spidey’s history in two pages is impossible. Spidey gets it done though, even with a song thrown in. Gustavo’s art maximizes the comedic elements in the smaller renderings of Spidey that are practically like doodles.
Wrapping up the book is a story by Zeb Wells and Ivan Fiorelli that ties directly into the Ben Reilly-led Amazing Spider-Man. This story serves as a refresher of a key figure in Ben Reilly’s life and it’s cool to see a supporting character getting so much focus.
Amazing Spider-Man #74 is a microcosm of one of this series’ biggest problems: how long and drawn out it has all felt. Spencer’s final issue does use that length to make the story feel big, and while it may not satisfy many, you can’t say it ever shied away from what it wants to be. If you view this as an overly dramatic stage play it can be fun on some level, but for many, the best part about this issue is that the groan-inducing Kindred story is finally put to rest.
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