Graphic Novel Review: Amazing Spider-Man: Amazing Grace

Amazing Spider-Man: Amazing Grace

Amazing Spider-Man: Amazing Grace - Credit: Archant

The dead are walking in Harlem and Spider-Man’s going to do something about it. But when the trail leads straight to The Santerians, Spidey finds out that he’s bitten off more than he can chew. Collecting Amazing Spider-Man #1.1-6.1.

(Panini Books)

In the 1990s, mini-series featuring Spider-Man came and went with regularity, self-contained stories which barely had any impact on continuity, yet offered something a bit different from the character’s various ongoing series. This six-part storyline – pitched as .1 issues of the regular Amazing title – draws obvious comparisons to those minis of old.

Despite introducing an entire team of barely defined characters – the Santerians – and suggesting the scientifically-grounded Peter Parker might be more open to exploring his spiritual side, odds are stacked against this storyline being reflected on going forward.

That’s something of a shame, as there are some interesting ideas and concepts explored here, not least of which is the existence of faith and the afterlife in a Marvel Universe populated by self-titled gods and magicians, with even our protagonist having returned from beyond the grave not so long ago.

But it’s the ordinary people of Spidey’s world we’re talking about here, the everyday victims who aren’t fortunate enough to enjoy a second chance at life, and whose belief in their religion is without question. So when a father and husband climbs out of his grave in the middle of Harlem, seemingly resurrected despite having undergone a full post mortem examination, and then begins displaying otherworldly powers, Spider-Man’s quest for answers takes him into a dark world of magic, monsters and mayhem…

Writer Jose Molina takes steps to ground his narrative in a message, which unfortunately seems rather forced at times, but it’s artist Simone Bianchi who proves the biggest obstacle to the storytelling process, with dark and obscure sequences of art which is hard to decipher, and a line-up of characters who are equally difficult to distinguish.

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If you’re going to introduce a whole super-team from scratch, you need to ensure they make a mark on the reader, something the Santerians fail to achieve. Not only are their names very similar – a detail Spider-Man actually references in the book – but their powers and costumes are also very muddled. The battle sequences peppered throughout this storyline therefore deteriorate into a confusing mess, rather than the big set-pieces they were intended to be.

That’s not to say this is a total disappointment, and it’s head-and-shoulders above those nineties mini-series of old, but unless there is some long-term pay-off from the events portrayed in this narrative then you may find yourself asking yourself what it was all for.