There's nothing like a comic hitting a big round number. While Amazing Spider-Man #850 might not seem as monumental as #1000 (or #1027 if you're a fan of Marvel's Distinguished Competition), it's still impressive and gives these creators an opportunity to deliver an over-sized issue that could have lasting effects moving forward.
Written by Nick Spencer, Kurt Busiek, Saladin Ahmed & Tradd Moore
Art by Ryan Ottley, Humberto Ramos, Mark Bagley, Cliff Rathburn, Victor Olazaba, John Dell, Nathan Fairbairn, Edgar Delgado, David Curiel, Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Tradd Moore, Tamra Bonvillain, Aaron Kuder & Frank D'Armata
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Nick Spencer's run on Amazing Spider-Man has been choppy as the back to basics approach seemed to quickly wear out its welcome once the allure of Ryan Ottley's art became somewhat expected. With this one, Spencer and company essentially give us a fight comic but one with deeper emotional stakes that set the stage for what's to come from Spidey's webbed corner of the Marvel Universe.
If you're not sold on this iteration of Sin-Eater as a force in this book, that's completely understandable. We've frequently seen these types of villains that cure other villains or absorb their powers or both. But this issue is less about Sin-Eater and more about Spider-Man's relationship with Norman Osborn. What do you do when the only option to save the city is team up with your greatest foe? That's the unenviable position that Peter finds himself in as the ol' Parker Luck strikes again.
While in broad strokes this issue is cashing in on emotional stakes built up over 50+ years of storytelling, it allows Spencer to establish a new foundation for the wall-crawler. Peter is pushed to the edge yet again and now he's not just putting himself in harm's way for Aunt May or MJ - he's doing it for the cadre of Spider-people inspired by him. But that's weighing on him. How many times can you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results?
I think Spencer does a great job reminding us that Osborn could have been the father that Peter never had. There's a link between them that is undeniable. In a lot of ways, they are a mirror of each other - a path not taken. But for Peter, Osborn's continued villainy is something he sees as a failure and in a lot of ways, that's not all that different from what is playing out with Stanley Carter a.k.a. Sin-Eater as well - Peter wasn't able to help him. And that pushes Peter into some risky territory - what if he had the resolve to make the truly hard decision? To kill his enemies? To really keep people safe? Spencer does a good job of keying readers in on that idea.
The main three artists are Ryan Ottley, Humberto Ramos, and Mark Bagley and all three are really effective draftsmen despite a totally inspired design for Sin-Eater taking up so much of this page count. Ottley's work almost exists as a combination of the other two and it's fun to see their work all together. Bagley's reputation as a Spider-Man artist precedes him - he's responsible for so much of what we think of when we think about Spider-Man in the modern era - but Ramos and Ottley show how artists can remix that visual language and create something that feels classic in its own right.
I would have preferred to see one colorist bridging each part of the story together but Nathan Fairbairn, Edgar Delgado, and David Curiel acquit themselves well here (even if Delgado pulls slightly ahead of the other two, partially because of greater contrast with Victor Olazaba's inks).
The back end of the book includes a trio of stories for an all-star group of creators including Kurt Busiek, Chris Bachalo, Tradd Moore, Saladin Ahmed, and Aaron Kuder. They aren't all that significant but they're good fun and have the potential to set up more stories in the future. Bachalo and Moore steal the show artistically while Ahmed's story lays more narrative groundwork. They're a nice capstone to the intensity of the main story.
Overall, Amazing Spider-Man #850 is a celebration of Spider-Man has been and will always be and a testament to the narrative flexibility of the character.