Amazing Spider-Man #16

After a multi-title bonanza like "Spider-Verse," some post-event hangover is inevitable, and "The Amazing Spider-Man" #16 is expectedly bland. Dan Slott and Christos Gage set up the coming arc in an easy, familiar way that -- while welcome after all the multiverse-hopping -- doesn't make for a riveting single issue. Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba's artwork is similarly average with a few fun action scenes and boardroom conversations. Most puzzling, the issue also cuts off into a Black Cat story before any of the plotlines can pick up momentum. While it's great to see Peter back balancing his personal, professional and superheroic obligations, "Amazing Spider-Man" #16 is a simply average issue.

The story opens in an oh-so-Spidey scenario: Peter's busy battling Iguana when he's supposed to be pitching Parker Industries' latest project. Slott clearly enjoys this classic set-up, filling it with one-liners and last-minute saves. He has a strong sense of Peter's voice but, while the banter lands, the conflicts don't. None of the tensions are given time or space to bite.

For instance, Sajani and Peter clearly disagree about the project, but their argument doesn't get any weight. Peter is given page space for a long speech about his motivations, but Sajani's side of the story is limited to lines like, "I wanted to pursue our nanotech program... No way am I going in there and pitching a project I don't even believe in!" With a few more panels to present Sajani's passion for nanotech or her counterarguments to Peter's prison idea, the disagreement would have felt less like thinly veiled exposition. This sort of lightness characterizes the whole issue and, as a result, it doesn't grip the reader.

Ramos and Olazaba's exaggerated, pointy-jointed figures don't always help. They're a delight in the action scenes, where the rambunctious linework amps up the irony of Peter's purported compassion for supervillains. As he cries, "They need our help!," he pile-drives Iguana; as he emphasizes "understanding," he knocks his jaw sideways. Olazaba gets more aggressive with the inking to emphasize the violence of the blows, and Ramos draws Peter a little meatier and less lithe in those panels. It's quite funny.

However, I don't love the team's work on characters' faces. Sajani looks almost demonic on the phone, gestures don't always fit the dialogue and all the businessmen have the same blankness to their expressions. Colorist Edgar Delgado adds a believably corporate sheen to it all, but conversation panels are not Ramos' strong suit and the pitch meeting in this issue highlights that.

However, the least effective element of "Amazing Spider-Man" #16 is the Black Cat story, the first of three. It's an interesting enough examination of her motivations, but it's tricky to see how it meshes with the rest of the story, aside from the auction that ties everything together. It shortens the main plotline without seeming to add anything. I may find myself surprised as this arc progresses but, for now, I'm perplexed.

"The Amazing Spider-Man" #16 is a perfectly enjoyable transition issue that just doesn't rise above its narrative and structural limits.

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