The villains take center stage as Martin Li and Norman Osborn seek out their own paths for redemption in Amazing Spider-Man #59. The last issue saw Martin Li (a.k.a. Mr. Negative) come clean to May Parker as they take shelter in a F.E.A.S.T. center. That development continues in the opening pages here. Nick Spencer reveals that the man readers have come to know as Martin Li is a fraud, having killed the actual Martin Li and taking his name.
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Marcelo Ferreira, Wayne Faucher, Morry Hollowell, and Andrew Crossley
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Reveals like this can fall flat, becoming just another in a long chain of twists, each less exciting than the last. Rather than treating this as a big-stage reveal, however, Nick Spencer treats it as a thematic opening salvo. The true identity of 'Martin Li' is irrelevant here, with the story focused more on the man’s decisions to face his consequences. This story is intertwined in the issue with the continued story of Norman Osborn, who is still seeking a connection with Liz Allen and his grandson, Normie.
Marcelo Ferreira’s pencils and Wayne Faucher’s inking take the issue to another level, bringing out the emotions of the story in a naturalistic way. In particular, a panel of Liz Allen nervously listening to Norman speak from the other side of the door really captures her frozen by her emotions. Is she really going to trust Norman? Again? The agony of her decision to hear him out is all in that panel in a palpable way. When she does ultimately choose to go with Norman to see Harry, Ferreira switches from horizontal panels to narrow vertical ones, building a sense of claustrophobic tension as they navigate the facility where Harry is being held and monitored.
Between Li and Osborn, readers get a sense of both villains trying to turn some sort of corner. For Li, it means facing his past. For Osborn, it means trying to reconnect with the family who he has repeatedly betrayed.
The focus on the villains means that Spider-Man himself takes a bit of a back seat here. Yes, there are some bits of action as Spider-Man continues his fight against the Inner Demons gang that started in the previous issue. But in terms of character, there isn’t much movement here. Part of the reason for this is the number of moving pieces.
The return of Mr. Negative also loops in Mayor Wilson Fisk to the story. Between all the plots moving, Peter is left to basically react to the other characters around him rather than driving the story forward himself. Furthermore, the stakes here aren’t particularly well defined. Spider-Man wants to know why Harry has returned to villainy, but while that search for answers is acknowledged in this issue, it isn’t developed. Two issues in the arc and we still don’t have a clear picture of what Peter is at risk of losing.
Ultimately this makes for a frustrating reading experience. While Spencer, Ferreira, and the rest of the team have done a good job developing the supporting characters and creating a strong thematic thread for them, Spider-Man’s quest for answers about Harry lacks the immediacy of the compelling stories being told through his adversaries. Peter not only feels like a secondary figure here, he feels unnecessary.
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