Trade waiters should note Amazing Spider-Man: Beyond returns this week with volume 4. The epic Ben Reilly takeover continues in this chapter, which prominently features Queen Goblin and the conclusion to the Beyond era. Collected here is Amazing Spider-Man #89-93 and the #92 BEY issue, but is it good?
This collection starts at a good point in the months-long 19-issue event building towards new directions for characters. One development is Black Cat and her relationship with Peter as she tries to bring him back to full strength. Another is Beyond Corp employee Maxine Danger’s mad idea to create and use a supervillain for Beyond Corp’s means. More and more it has become clear the Beyond Corp is evil and you’ll get that vibe in a strong way when Maxine says “my queen” as Queen Goblin shuttles off to do her bidding.
Possibly the coolest moment in the opening issue is when a web shoots through a teardrop. It’s an interesting concept in general and it’s pulled off well here. There are a few other visual ideas that feel unique to the series drawn by Mark Bagley and written by Patrick Gleason.
The general psychological element feels a bit lacking with this issue, however. Ben Reilly is absent so we’re on hold as far as his mental state goes, but the range of emotions characters go through feels simple and less complex. Black Cat goes through a lot, but aside from her tears, there isn’t enough here to really go on how this might affect her. This series has been quite good at tapping into the emotional and human element so comparatively this issue has a bit of an uphill battle it can’t quite win.
Gleason and Bagley write the following issue with #90 and it’s great. It features some glorious double and full-page splashes by Bagley that’ll bring you back to your childhood, but it also features a triumphant moment for Peter to bounce back from. I won’t spoil it here, but Gleason has come up with a moment that is up there with some of the greatest moments of self-determination by Spider-Man ever. We’re talking “If This Be My Destiny…!” Steve Ditko level triumphant turn for the web-head.
The story meanders a bit after Queen Goblin is vanquished as Ben and Peter head to a facility filled with monsters and freak experiments that have gone wrong. The last issue of Amazing Spider-Man #93–a 40-page finale by Zeb Wells and Patrick Gleason–features a few endings and wraps up the Beyond Corp, for now. What sets this issue apart is how it pushes Ben’s illness to a new and physical place. Instead of running from his fears and threats, he’s running right at them with a little push from Maxine Danger.
Maxine comes out of the Beyond era as a major player and manufacturer of chaos and pain for our heroes. She expertly manipulates Ben and ends up stronger even with Beyond crumbling around her. Janine is also a strong figure that shows she’s capable of being a hero in her own right.
Spider-Man fans will be excited to know Ben and Peter come to blows. What elevates this story beyond a fight, however, is the great pain Gleason infuses into Ben. He’s erratic, angry, and not himself. Instead of being depicted as evil, he clearly isn’t himself and needs help.
Wrapping up the book are three endings. The first is titled “Days” by Wells and Sara Pichelli and the second is “Weeks” by Wells, Mark Bagley, and Tim Townsend. The first story enhances the tragic direction they’re going with Ben while setting up Peter’s blessed life. Peter certainly deserves it, but the second story shows Parker has the worst luck while also setting up a mystery for the next story arc.
The third ending is titled “Months” and appears to be drawn by Gleason. It’s a huge twist that was hinted at in the “Days” backup. There are going to be some mixed feelings over this cliffhanger, especially since it involves a new costume design that’s pretty neat and supernatural.
Amazing Spider-Man: Beyond Vol. 4 ends the five-month-long Beyond era with a few conclusions and more new threads to develop. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make this more of a transition since new stories continue on from here. There are a lot of good pieces that came out of this story and Ben Reilly ends up being a far more tragic character than even Peter Parker. For that reason, these issues and their ending are about as close to what Spider-Man comics are about as you can get, right down to an accidental transformation.
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