As the summer’s big Spider-Epic, “New Ways to Die,” reaches its fourth part, it becomes clear that Slott’s gift for writing Spider-Man isn’t solely centered on his ability to pull off jokes and banter perfectly — he’s also great at writing action. Compared to previous Slott-penned tales, this chapter is low on jokes, but what it lacks in humor it makes up for in its desperate, ominous tone. It’s not the first instance of Peter being in trouble that we’ve seen recently, but it is perhaps the first time he’s not been able to laugh it off for a while.
Despite the massive cast, Slott keeps a tight leash on everyone, carefully choreographing the interactions of several competing groups with Spider-Man in the middle. Elsewhere, a familiar Spider-Man trope of “powers on the fritz” gets a new twist, as Anti-Venom lives up to his name, partially cleansing Peter’s blood and wreaking havoc with his abilities as a result.
Brock’s transformation into Anti-Venom demands perhaps the most of the reader — it’s unclear, at this point, whether he’s grown a new symbiote somehow or if there’s just something in his system mimicking the powers. Either way, his personality experiences a radical shift following his transformation, and without any reason given we’ll just have to wait out an explanation — though it is a mild distraction.
The issue’s high point is clearly an encounter between Osborn and Menace. Indeed, the return of Osborn in this arc has only highlighted just how perfectly he fits into the Spider-Man cast, and it’s a shame he isn’t around more. We see a little more of where Menace fits into the Goblin legacy, and the character is quickly becoming one of the more intriguing members of Spidey’s new rogue’s gallery.
New villains aside, the most rewarding element of this story has been Peter’s interaction with more familiar faces, like Venom/Gargan, Osborn, and Brock — and having Romita Jr. draw it should only please fans who want to feel a little more of the Spider-Man magic that they’ve missed with all the focus on spinning a new web to surround the character. Readers were promised a blockbuster story this summer, and now over halfway through, it’s already certain that it’s living up to those expectations.