“Marvel Knights: Spider-Man” #4, the penultimate issue of this mini-series, sees writer Matt Kindt reveal the menace behind Spider-Man’s recent gamut of strange battles with members of his rogues gallery, and artist Marco Rudy continues to render it all by running his own gamut of diverse art styles. This issue, like those that preceded it, continues the odd amalgamation of Spidey’s trademark lighthearted mood with a much stranger, almost surreal sort of backdrop, and the results remain just as mixed. It’s entertaining enough, but the off-kilter feel has never really settled into any kind of real groove that readers can get comfortable with.
Kindt has maintained a constant, dreamlike ambiance that served as an intriguing hook when the series started, but has started to wear kind of thin at this point. The trippy, psychedelic atmosphere is now just as much puzzling as it is interesting, and now that the nature of the threat has been revealed, it’s almost more of a distraction. Kindt’s revelation is a genuine surprise, but the story’s structure and aura almost make it feel like a non-issue. It has the same feel of being half-asleep while someone’s yelling that the building’s on fire; the importance of the moment is muddled, and its impact is lessened.
Rudy plays a big part in the mind-altering feel of the story with exclusively non-traditional panel layouts like semi-circular sequencing jagged panels resembling broken glass. Rudy’s not the only artist to draw layouts in this manner, of course, and his pages carry the same kind of vibe as artists who frequently use more modern type layouts like J.H. Williams III or Yanick Paquette, but they’re not entirely derivative; they’re attractive in their own right and keep the story visually appealing, even as it grows old, script-wise. Rudy, as well as colorist Val Staples, excel at different illustration techniques, as well; sparsely detailed pencils and inks give way to more lushly detailed greytones, for instance, and some panels are exquisitely inked in fine lines while others have a much more coarse approach. There doesn’t seem to be any design or direction as to how and where these styles are placed, but it makes for a pleasingly unpredictable and oddly attractive comic to look at.
“Marvel Knights: Spider-Man” #4 kind of stumbles along like it’s in a drug-induced haze, but artistically it has an unconventional sort of appeal that makes it difficult to stop reading. It’s not for everybody, but it’s most attractive to those who are looking for a different kind of Spider-Man story, as this is definitely different.