Editor's Note: Amazing Spider-Man #616 arrives in stores tomorrow, December 23.
The second and final part of "Keemia's Castle" sees Spider-Man do battle with the Sandman in order to rescue the young girl that he has adopted as his own daughter. The trouble is, Keemia doesn't want to be rescued.
This is another strong issue for Amazing Spider-Man, and one that maintains the high level of quality that we saw in issue #615 to bring this short Sandman tale to a satisfying conclusion. As with the previous issue, the real star of the show is artist Javier Pulido, whose illustrations bring writer Fred Van Lente's ideas to life in a visually interesting and dynamic manner.
Whilst I enjoyed the finer details of Pulido's artwork (with little touches like the stitching pattern on Keemia's woolly hat or the sense of texture to the Sandman's sandy body bringing a sense of realism to an otherwise outlandish story), it's with the issue's action scenes that the artist really impresses. The sequences in which Spidey is pursued by multiple copies of the Sandman are the highlight of the book: Pulido creates a slightly different design for each copy, and shows all of them morphing their bodies in unique and creepy ways in order to apprehend the wall-crawler. There's a real Where's Wally quality to some of the scenes, with a detailed rendering of many small characters that all have their own sense of personality and individuality, and I can only imagine how long it must have taken Pulido to draw.
There's only one point at which the artwork isn't completely clear, and unfortunately it's the point at which Spider-Man delivers his final blow to his enemy. However, this moment is followed by an impressive full-page splash that makes the manner of Flint Marko's defeat absolutely clear, so it doesn't harm the story too much.
It's not just the artwork that makes this book enjoyable, however. Fred Van Lente's script is imaginative (I assume that as many of the Sandman's shape-shifting ideas came from him as from Pulido), with an interesting twist involving the nature of Flint's multiple copies of himself that recalls Peter David's work with Jamie Madrox in that character's miniseries from a few years back. There's also a bittersweet quality to the issue's ending that feels perfectly suited to the character of Spider-Man, with the rescued Keemia turning out to be a lot less content than he had hoped. Little touches like these bring a sense of reality to Spider-Man stories, and that's especially important in an otherwise fantastical story like this one.
As with the previous issue, I'd definitely recommend picking this book up, even if the title's rotating creative teams make it impossible to guess whether the next issue will be of a similar quality. Let's hope that the creators who are working on the further reinventions of Spider-Man's rogues' gallery that are coming up in future issues take inspiration from this story, and come up with something equally enjoyable and well crafted for some of Spidey's other classic villains.
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