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Amazing Spider-Man #617

Written by Joe Kelly

Art by Max Fiumara

Colors by Fabio D'Auria

Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

If there's a moral to Amazing Spider-Man #617, it's got to be this -- you really can teach an old Rhino new tricks. With Joe Kelly's swift pacing meshing nicely with the quirky yet energetic pencilling of Max Fiumara, it's a fun book that manages to also have some heart.

Out of all the myriad Webheads working on the Gauntlet, Joe Kelly is definitely my odds-on favorite, just based on the strength of this issue. He plays up Peter Parker's neuroses perfectly, and his sense of pacing -- just driving the story along at a refreshingly fast tempo -- makes this issue feel both light and dense. Yet where Kelly surprises us is his portrayal of the Rhino -- unlike the one-note portrayal seen since the 1960s, we know see a deeper character, a big guy from a bad world who carries himself with an understated, almost Shakespearean grandeur.

Max Fiumara, meanwhile, combines the angular linework of Chris Bachalo with the stylized, cartoony faces of a Marcos Martin. The linework is certainly appropriate, as the redesigned Rhino looks particularly sharp and menacing -- there's one image in particular, with the villain using a decidedly surprising weapon that really just leaped off the page. That said, while the villain looks great, Fiumara's take on the Webslinger himself feels almost tentative -- there's really no iconic money shot here of Spider-Man, with the composition largely tip-toeing around our hero. Colorist Fabio D'Auria is also an interesting case here -- he manages to combine the more realistic hues of a Frank D'Armata, but manages to make them pop as loud as Laura Martin. It's great stuff.

In terms of the writing, of course, Kelly isn't quite able to overcome some of the issues that are symptomatic across the board with this series. While Spidey's interactions with his villains are strong, seeing Peter's cartoony relationship with women feels less like sympathetic melodrama and more like a shrill sitcom. By having all the women in this book be cuh-razy love interests and not independent characters, it sells the human drama of Peter Parker short. Or to be a little bit more glib, it's hard to feel sorry for a guy who has random blondes coming over and licking him. ...Maybe that didn't come out right.

This done-in-one issue, in many ways, charges through some awkward beats based on the sheer strength of the Rhino's character alone. Despite my excitement for Dan Slott and Marcos Martin taking on Mysterio next issue, it's almost sad that Joe Kelly couldn't stick around for a few more issues. With action, inventiveness -- and dare I say, a powerful scene of forgiveness -- it's issues like this that go a long way towards making Amazing Spider-Man a solid read.

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