Editor's Note: Amazing Spider-Man #617 arrives in stores tomorrow, January 13.
These days, another new Amazing Spider-Man story means another reinvention of a classic Spidey villain. Here, it's the turn of the Rhino, an old-school villain who is given a fresh lick of paint courtesy of Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara's satisfyingly self-contained story.
The main plot of the book is pretty simple: there's a new Rhino in town, and he's despatched to cause chaos at the same glitzy social event that Peter Parker is attending in a professional capacity. Pete is called upon to not only cope with the attack of this new villain, but also to deal with the surprise appearance of the old Rhino in a new role, whilst simultaneously trying to keep his secret identity under wraps. It's a pretty generic setup for a Spider-Man story, but it's told well, with some pleasingly original details (the crazy way in which the new Rhino uses horses to fight feels like something that Matt Fraction would have come up with) and the same solid grasp of the book's key players that Kelly has demonstrated in his previous stories.
As with the best of the recent Amazing Spider-Man story arcs, however, Kelly's tale also advances many of the book's ongoing subplots. We see an interesting new/old career path open back up for Peter, and we see the "Gauntlet" conspiracy (involving the daughter of Kraven the Hunter) continue to deepen. Pete's relationships with some of his potential love interests are also given a little added spice, with Kelly managing to place his hero in consistently awkward situations that feel like classic Spider-Man--and which, significantly, take advantage of the freedom that's offered by the dissolution of the Spider-marriage in a way that so many writers have failed to do.
The book's artwork is pretty good, too. Fiumara clearly has a solid grasp of the book's characters, is able to draw dynamic, over-the-top action scenes and quieter character scenes equally well, and also has a great take on the in-costume Spider-Man. Some standout panels (such as the title splash page) provide a great showcase for Fiumara's talents, and make me keen to see more of his work in the pages of this book.
Eagle-eyed readers will notice that this issue is priced at $3.99, but for that extra dollar we're treated to a backup story by Kelly that features artwork from Javier Pulido. It's a real pleasure to see Pulido provide more art for the book after turning in such strong visuals on the recent Sandman two-parter, and he provides equally charming work here. Kelly's short story may seem a little inconsequential to some, but I enjoyed it as an exploration of the character of the old Rhino, and one that adds some depth to his characterisation and his relationship with his love interest in the main story.
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