Review: A Lesson In Cliffhangers Gone Wrong In ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #53
by James Ferguson
We finally get a peek under the mask of Kindred, but it’s too little, too late. Since everyone but Peter Parker knows who he is, does this really matter?
For over two years, Kindred has been pulling strings in Spider-Man’s life from the shadows. The mysterious villain has finally made his big move, infecting the extended Spider family and turning them into literal monsters. Spider-Man sacrificed everything to save them…so what’s next in Kindred’s schemes?
“Last Remains” has had a pretty strange pace since it started and Amazing Spider-Man #53 is no different. Writer Nick Spencer delves into Kindred’s perspective for the first time, showing what he’s been up to when he’s not staring at Spider-Man from afar. Since we know that he’s (allegedly) Harry Osborn, this doesn’t pack a punch. It’s not revelatory or exciting. It’s just there. There’s no new information so it’s very much treading water. It feels like a last ditch effort to try and develop this character and it falls completely flat.
This is coupled by a strange cliffhanger page. I’m going to spoil this in a moment, so consider this your warning. I never do this, but since it doesn’t feel like much of a reveal, I think it’s ok. The final page of Amazing Spider-Man #53 has Kindred unmasking in front of Spider-Man. Again, this would have a much greater impact if we didn’t already know who was under the mask. Peter Parker was the last one to find out.
To add some confusion to this, Kindred looks more like Norman on this page than Harry. Of course, it doesn’t help that the two characters look virtually identical, separated only by age and the occasional facial expression. This isn’t a dig on artist Mark Bagley’s work as it’s stellar as always. It’s just tough to provide that jaw-dropping moment in comics with some rare exceptions as artistic styles are different (see Colossus’ return in Astonishing X-Men for an example of one done right.
There are a lot of call backs to the beginnings of “One More Day” in Amazing Spider-Man #53, making me wonder further about Mephisto’s involvement. Could it be that since Peter and MJ got back together, effectively taking back the love they gave up, that the devil is undoing everything that came after? Is this retconning all of this? That would explain Harry Osborn’s involvement as he was brought back to life as part of that storyline, willed back into existence.
There’s an interesting balance in Amazing Spider-Man #53 between the bright memories of the past and the haunting Kindred in the present. Bagley’s artwork leans into the horrific in these shots. Kindred is creepy as all get out. The guy looks like a mummy and he’s always got giant centipedes swirling around him. Inker John Dell captures all the fine details in this design.
We shift from those memories of a happier time to the horrors of the present, back and forth. Colorist Edgar Delgado brings out the small glimmers of hope in those flashbacks and then drowns them in sorrow as Kindred rises again. It’s like his very existence swallows up any possible way out for our hero. This helps raise the stakes of the issue considerably.
Kindred’s voice is just as gravelly and disturbing as ever. If he does have ties to Mephisto and Hell itself, it would certainly be a good fit. Letterer Joe Caramagna shows the villain’s words in rough-shaped word balloons, conveying a dark and frightening tone.
I keep coming back to Amazing Spider-Man hoping that something is going to start coming together and every issue the story basically walks in place. Think of how much more of an impact the “reveal” in this issue would have been if we didn’t already know that Harry is Kindred. As it stands, since everyone else knew except for Peter, it falls flat. I reached the end of this issue and said “So?” Again, I keep hoping we get something more here, but that’s fading.
Amazing Spider-Man #53 from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.