Amazing Spider-Man has been great since the creative team switched to the Beyond Board creative group. That group has been trading off on two-issue arcs, with Cody Ziglar and Michael Dowling picking up a Kraven story last week. This week, they wrap that arc up while further exploring key character dynamics in the Beyond Corporation.
This issue is a good second half to Ziglar and Dowling’s two-parter starting with how it leans into a now-drugged Ben Reilly. In the opening pages, we see Spider-Man is at a disadvantage against Kraven, but also see some trippy imagery that harkens back to the first issue. Ben can see faces in the sky, one of which is caved in and quite disturbing. It’s further exploring Ben’s psychological state as a copy of Peter rather than his own man. At least that’s one take, since it’s smartly not explained and force-fed to the reader. Regardless though, it’s a reinforcement of that disturbing imagery that set up this new Spider-Man.
This issue also helps to define the complicated relationships in Beyond Corp, especially between Marcus and Maxine. Marcus made it clear in the last issue that Beyond Corp’s interests are more complicated than just saving the day, but he’s got a bit more heart and care for Peter than Maxine does. Ziglar furthers the development of both of these characters through a key conversation. Thrown into the mix is Ben’s lover Janine, who won’t stand by and let these people treat Ben like a crime-fighting robot.
Dowling does a fantastic job with the art, especially with the flaming skull Kraven design which is how Ben sees him now that he’s under some heavy tranquilizer drugs. Spider-Man also looks great and the trippy effects like his fingers becoming goopy look freaky and on point. Colors by Jesus Aburtov with Erick Arciniega are good too, particularly with lighting, be it Kraven’s flaming head or the bright and hopeful light of the day when the conflict is resolved.
Props to letterer Joe Caramagna, who adds a bit of a stretched look to the words spoken by Kraven when Spider-Man is tripping out. It’s a subtle look that conveys a slow stretch of the words as if at the corners of Ben’s vision still things are still moving. There’s a fantastic “Kroomp” and “krak” sound effect to peek in this one too.
Outside of the character work, this issue does resolve in a somewhat unsatisfying way. There aren’t enough answers about Kraven and there’s more of a question mark than a satisfying wrap-up to this villain. Spider-Man seems to beat him too easily as well, although Kraven isn’t as prepared as he was in the last issue so that makes some sense. It does seem to be holding its cards closer to the vest for future potential story threads.
This issue also has an intriguing backup story that utilizes Aunt May in a protective, motherly way. It also utilizes a key Spider-Man villain that should make for a juicy story in the future.
All in all, Cody Ziglar and Michael Dowling crush their two-part story by further developing the interesting character dynamics at work. Amazing Spider-Man #80 also offers up some trippy art and a battle that shows Ben is worthy particularly when he’s not drugged. The Beyond era of Spider-Man is grand thanks to a good mix of character drama, dynamic action, and a hero who suffers from imposter syndrome.
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