Great Rhino, Garbage Mysterio.

Spider-Man is magical, I think most comic fans will agree. The formula was simple, and executed perfectly from the start – a simple everyman with a moral compass with just enough pratfalls and tragedy… voila. Amazing. But as such simple formulas tend, the dust of the years has occasionally not been so friendly to Peter Parker (see: the 90’s). But recently there’s been a good smattering of quality webhead… like the first of the two stories collected in “The Gauntlet volume 2”, featuring the Rhino.

The Rhino. I’m not on some weirdo fanboy kick with this character like I might be with other villains (Baron Zemo, Hobgoblin, Dormammu, N’Ashtir…) so I feel confident saying without bias this was a well crafted story. A beaten and removed from action Rhino is the feature as Spider-Man makes a pretty limited appearance, especially given its his book. A ‘new’/nu Rhino comes looking for trouble, needing to best the original to rightfully claim the title. For some reason this nu Rhino reminds of a pathetic Power Rangers castoff, but that’s really secondary. The rest of the first half of this trade hits every note – nice little summary original piece by Stan Lee (a really smart, quick, and witty read that reminds you this is the guy who created 90% of the Marvel landscape) right into a two/three parter that immediately sucks the reader in. I’d say that this is one of my favorite Spider-Man stories in the past 30 years. Cool read.

And to the flip side… the second part of the book. Mysterio – not a bad villain. Not a bad character. But wow, what happened here? This storyline just never turned over – imagine a brand new car sitting in your driveway that won’t start. I kept waiting for it to pull me in, as the story directly preceding it, sharing the billing of this collection, had. But it never did. I found myself thinking, hoping maybe, ‘wait, is the Rhino story going to kick back in?’ and unfortunately, it just came to an ending as unappealing as the start. The art was there – it was just that the story had a bit too much exposition and no hook.

And thus we come into the problem with books with a constantly rotating creative team – as the thrice monthly Amazing Spider-Man book employed, having just changed over to a steady writer this month. Too many voices lead to an uneven level set for the quality and pace of the book. But look at it this way – I would say one perfectly crafted story and one meh is worth the price of admission. Give this one a shot.

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