“Sins Past: Part 3”
Writer: J. Michael Stracyznski
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr. (p), Joe Pimentel (i)
Here is a storyline which continues to split fans straight down the middle. In one camp are the people who are still relishing Straczynski’s tenure on Amazing Spidey and are happy to see him continue to explore some new ideas – however off-the-wall they may originally seem (Ezekiel and The Spider-Totem? Spider-Man teaming up with Loki?) in search of some fairly original Spider-Man material. In the other are those who resolutely do not want to see JMS digging up old Spidey characters and storylines in search of easy emotional touchstones for the character, only to shoe-horn the (apparently) ill-fittingly retconned offspring of Gwen Stacy into the mix. Well, both sides make a fair point, but I’m still well on the side of those who are happy to embrace the ideas of the “Sins Past” arc so far in the hope of a great resolution to what has so far been an above-par mystery.
In this issue Pete decides to find out for himself the exact origins of Gabriel and Sarah, the mysterious pair who apparently sprung from the loins of Gwen Stacy some time ago. Petey goes about this in a pretty definitive way – people who had reservations about exhuming Gwen Stacy yet again were almost literally correct – and his behaviour is both extreme and morbid enough to hammer home just how much the appearance of these two assassins has shaken him. Whilst the maternal DNA test results seem pretty conclusive, JMS has still left himself a lot of leeway to deal with the mystery parentage of the two – indeed, I was surprised it didn’t enter into Spidey’s head to take readings concerning the father, regardless of his protestations of extra-marital abstinence later in the issue. What seems sure, and is reinforced both by Spidey’s opening monologue and the abilities of the two children, is that these are no ordinary kids. It’s an area which is still open for exploration in the rest of this arc, and the age mismatch of Gabriel and Sarah to their parents is still certainly one of the questions that will be most outstanding in the minds of fans everywhere.
It’s nice to see artist Deodato Jr. continue to outdo himself, with this issue more impressive than the last in many ways. His faces and static scenes feel more at home in a comic than ever, with a softer, more cartoony style getting away from the facial renderings that seemed just a little too photo-referenced a couple of issues ago. If John Romita Jr. was the perfect match for the airily light, colourful side of Spider-Man, Deodato is certainly the balancing melodrama that is such an important part of the character. With much in the way of character scenes (MJ’s play; Pete’s tearful return home in the first few pages; MJ’s subsequent detective work) it seems as though JMS is playing to this artist’s strengths. However, Deodato is no slouch on the action scenes either, with a laboratory confrontation between Spidey and Sarah providing much in the way of tense, exciting Hollywood-style cinematics and pacing, and Pete’s graveyard activities carrying a real weighty violence that manages to shock even longtime Spider-fans into a realisation that this storyline is going to be a pretty significant one.
All in all, the creative team is continuing to tell a great comic-book mystery in classic style here, with twists-a-plenty at each issue’s end and a sturdy balance of action and character which satisfies most of the facets of Peter Parker’s world. To the naysayers, I’d advocate this approach: regardless of how you felt about JMS’ mystical storyline of issues past, let’s see the “Sins Past” arc as a fresh start: Give him the benefit of the doubt, and let’s follow this one through to its conclusion - because in amongst the action and intrigue, a lot of hints have been dropped which suggest that Straczynski has plotted this one pretty tightly and is still a few steps ahead of us readers. I’m expecting to be pleasantly surprised by what is turning into JMS’ true return to form on the title.
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