Editor's Note: Amazing Spider-Man #625 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 17.
After a couple of slightly disappointing issues, Amazing Spider-Man returns to stronger form this issue, providing a sequel of sorts to Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara's Rhino-based story from issue #617.
Kelly and Fiumara reunite to continue the saga of the two Rhinos, and whilst nothing absolutely Earth-shattering occurs as a result of their conflict, Kelly's writing is strong enough that we're invested in the various twists and turns that the story takes. The old Rhino is humanised by his newfound love and his staunch rejection of his old life, which makes the drama that plays out over the course of this issue feel surprisingly affecting.
It would have been easy to contrive a slugfest between the two Rhinos as a result of their first clash in this issue, but Kelly is smarter than that, having the old Rhino actively resist returning to his old identity so as to give his eventual showdown with the young pretender even more dramatic weight.
There are a couple of enjoyable smaller touches, too, as the writer checks in on Peter Parker's uneasy relationship with MJ, and later writes some fun banter between Pete and Norah. And, once the action begins, Kelly slips in a couple of very amusing one-liners from the in-costume Spider-Man that helps the book to feel lively and light even when dealing with some fairly brutal action sequences.
Max Fiumara's artwork is one of the main reasons to recommend the issue, as he employs an impressively detailed yet also rather distinctively stylised, angular approach that's a little reminiscent of the work currently being done by Sean Murphy in Vertigo's Joe The Barbarian. The action scenes are particularly well handled, with a fantastic double-page panel that shows the two Rhinos charging at each other, and several moments that are very effective in conveying the raw power of the characters and the damage that they cause. Fiumara's version of Spider-Man is also very satisfying, with an exaggerated angularity that's reminiscent of J. Scott Campbell's excellent take on the character.
If I have any criticism of the book, it's that the previous issue's cliffhanger (which saw Peter Parker publicly shamed for faking a photo in order to exonerate the innocent J. Jonah Jameson) isn't really followed up here. Aside from the brief opening and closing scenes and a couple of references in the dialogue here and there, the development doesn't inform the story at all (in fact, it even throws up contradictions -- would Frontline really be happy to employ a photographer that had been so publicly shamed?). It makes me wonder whether these references were bolted on to the story at a later date, as without them, it could have come directly after the last Rhino story without anything feeling out of place.
Despite this minor complaint, this is an enjoyable story, and one that gives me hope that Amazing Spider-Man isn't going to slide back into mediocrity after a recent run of above-average issues. Joe Kelly has become easily one of the title's better writers, so I can only hope that he's heavily involved in future issues of the overarching "Gauntlet" storyline.
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