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The Amazing Spider-Man – Grim Hunt (Review)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

Although not technically part of The Gauntlet, Grim Hunt serves as a climax to eight months of stories in The Amazing Spider-Man. It comes at the end of what has been a pretty tough slog for the wall-crawling web-slinging superhero, after a string of pyrrhic victories and out-and-out losses. In essence, Grim Hunt is the culmination of all the plot threads running through The Gauntlet, as the sinister plot against the iconic superhero enters its end game.

It also comes towards the end of the Brand New Day era of The Amazing Spider-Man, only two story arcs before regular writer Dan Slott would take over the series for the next stage of the character’s development. Brand New Day was a controversial era for Spider-Man fans, building off a clumsy continuity reset in One More Day and trying to balance the weight of the character’s history against bold new directions.

As such, Grim Hunt also serves as something of a meditation on the history of The Amazing Spider-Man, a reflection on editorial attitudes to continuity and character development – an astonishingly self-aware and reflexive story arc that feels like a commentary on the character and the way that comic book storytelling tends to work.

A shot in the arm...

A shot in the arm…

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The Amazing Spider-Man – The Gauntlet: The Lizard – Shed (Review)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

Shed is the climax of The Gauntlet. It is The Gauntlet pushed to its logical extreme – just about as dark and grim as you could possibly make a story in The Amazing Spider-Man. In many respects, Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo’s Shed starts out as a typical Spider-Man story. Curt Connors has relapsed, as he tends to do. Connors has transformed into the bestial Lizard, and the Lizard has decided to target Connors’ family in order to assert his dominance.

The basic plot is familiar. It is standard Spider-Man fare. Our hero will react to this crisis and fight the Lizard to save the Connors family from the monster that their husband has become. Indeed, Spider-Man may even use Curt Connors’ love his family to help vanquish the Lizard, thus offering readers a “happily ever after” ending to what was an emotional ordeal for all involved. It’s one of the most basic and archetypal of superhero stories, one so compelling because it’s about humanity winning out over basic instinct.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

That isn’t what happens in Shed.

What makes Shed so brutally effective is the way that it manages to completely subvert expectations. Thanks to the meddling of outside forces, Peter Parker isn’t able to protect the Connors family; he can’t save the life of Billy Connors; he can’t redeem Curt Connors. The Lizard wins. The Lizard dominates. However, what makes the story so clever is the way that Wells layers another twist on top of this, suggesting that although the mosnter has vanquished the man, the monster may not be unchanged.

Balancing the scales...

Balancing the scales…

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The Amazing Spider-Man – The Gauntlet: Morbius – It Is The Life (Review)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

At a scant fourteen pages (sharing a single issue with a larger Flash Thompson story), It is the Life feels like something of an interlude in the large scheme of The Gauntlet. While most of the stories in the cycle are relatively short and contained (with nothing running over four issues), this is an exceptionally brief encounter between Spider-Man and one his older foes-turned-allies.

At the same time, writer Fred Van Lente manages to pile a lot into the fourteen pages of It is the Life, maintaining a wonderful thematic consistency across the line. Editor Stephen Wacker has done a wonderful job managing his team of “web-heads” and making sure that The Gauntlet remains internally consistent and on-point. Despite the diversity in talent working on the sprawling Spider-Man epic, it never feels like the larger threads get away from any of the writers.

Even a short fourteen-page interlude manages to hit on many of the event’s core themes.

What's at stake?

What’s at stake?

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