Amazing Spider-Man #697

With so much hype surrounding the final three issues of "Amazing Spider-Man", it'd be easy to miss the fact that the current arc, culminating in this issue, has been a pretty entertaining read in itself. Christos Gage co-writes, joining the regular team of Dan Slott and Giuseppe Camuncoli for the final installment of the Hobgoblin three-parter, "Danger Zone".

One of the strongest aspects of this story is partnering Horizon Labs head Max Modell and Peter Parker together against the Hobgoblins, with the former proving surprisingly forgiving when it comes to accepting Peter's explanations about "his friend" Spider-Man. It's strongly hinted that Max has figured out Spider-Man's identity (he is, after all, a genius) but whether that's a long-term plot or something that'll come up in the final arc remains to be seen. Either way, it's an interesting development, and one that has been convincingly earned over a far longer time-scale than these issues alone. It feels natural, and that's important if readers are to believe that it might have genuine consequences.

Just as interesting is the short-term story, involving a "war" between the two Hobgoblins. In particular, the resolution of the arc throws out all sorts of new ideas, re-imagining the Hobgoblin as the head of a Batman Incorporated-style cabal of franchised villains. It's a development that puts the character in a new position, and finally gives him a place in Spidey's rogue's gallery that isn't simply "the other goblin". (And speaking of "Other Goblins", Osborn fans won't want to miss this issue...)

Giuseppe Camuncoli's pencils seem more enthusiastic than usual, perhaps because such an action-heavy issue plays to the artist's strengths. Camuncoli uses a lot of widescreen panels to create a near-cinematic sense of motion, which is a device that's arguably over-used by superhero comics at the moment -- but it's seldom done this well. Camuncoli knows how to construct a widescreen panel so that the action flows properly through it, which makes all the difference to readers.

The dialogue (presumably Gage's) is convincingly Slott-esque too, and has the characters' voices down perfectly. It's a little less quippy than Slott alone tends to be, but still casual and convincing. It's not at all jarring to have a guest-creator on board, and Gage helps maintain the book's consistency. Indeed, that consistency can sometimes work against it, making it easy to forget that the general quality of "Amazing Spider-Man" has been very high of late. If this is what Marvel organizes for a normal month, readers can't help but look forward to the upcoming grand finale.

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