"New Ways to Die" (part 6)
What a lame ending! After six issues of swings and excitement, the latest Amazing Spider-Man adventure lands stiff and awkward on uneven ground. To be precise, this last chapter isn’t lame as in weak and ineffectual, but in the way it awkwardly concludes the numerous plot threads running through it.
Each of these plots is affecting and effectual. For example, Spider-Man vs. the Green Goblin over Harry Osborn’s soul; Eddie Brock’s struggle for redemption through the curative Anti-Venom; Martin Li’s miraculous positive persona; Harry’s girlfriend Lily’s sexual attraction to Peter; and lastly, Harry’s connection to the sick Asian sweatshop workers.
They each have their merits and charms, especially the battle for Harry. It adds dimension to Spidey’s clash with his arch-nemesis as they argue who will give Harry what he needs (Peter offers freedom and love, while Norman Osborn presents him with power and notoriety). Although it seems Peter’s offer is contrary to Harry’s destiny and personality, Spidey still gives his old friend reprieve and a chance to make things right.
Slott, unfortunately, weaves these threads clumsily, leaving the reader to question the final scene’s significance. Is the Anti-Venom truly the perspective of this six-issue arc (who appeared at the end of issue #2)? Is “New Ways to Die” about redemption and breaking the confines of determinism? Or is it questioning the necessity of revenge, as seen through Spider-Man, Venom, Anti-Venom, Menace and especially Norman Osborn? The multitude of plots upon subplots does not follow a narrative strong enough to sustain a prevailing theme. A scene at the F.E.A.S.T. Center with Martin Li snapping at Aunt May undermines the theme of the previous scene, as that scene undermines the previous and -- where are these storylines going?! It is just too much flung together to maintain cogency and connection.
As for John Romita Jr.’s art, it is epic on a street level. One of the best two page spreads in years has Spidey swinging bowlegged with Anti-Venom in tow. A stormy background originates over a black silhouette skyline littered with glassy windows and wistful water towers. Spider-Man’s size on the page give him immediacy as his body language resonates with energy.
Final Word: Overall, this issue was good in its parts, but could not sustain thematic momentum to drive the last nail into "New Ways to Die."
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