Three months and change after the issue of "Web of Spider-Man" that featured the origin of the Rhino, we get some more Rhino action -- double Rhino action actually. Max Fiumara drew the first scuffle between the two Rhinos in "Amazing" #617 and he returns to draw the duo here. Fiumara's art is a study in contrast: the lithe and gangly Spider-Man compared to the hulkingly massive Syetsevich compared to the ultrasleek new Rhino. In these character studies, Fiumara delves deeper in actual light and dark contrast. This is a story of light being extinguished by dark, and Fiumara does a stunning job making it so.
I'm not a fan of the new movement here to color the dialog balloons, or certain stress words within the balloons, but when there's an exclamation, it does work out to be a pretty stunning and almost retro visual. It's like Bobby McFerrin handling the sound effects for the comic.
Peter Parker, the everyman hero, is sharing a little more in common with the everyman as he waits in the unemployment line to begin this issue, and it spoils nothing for me to tell you that's where he ends the issue as well. The middle is an entirely different, heart-pounding, intense story. This is less an issue of "Amazing Spider-Man" and more an issue of "Indomitable Rhino."
Hit with the most devastating loss of his life, Alexei Sytsevich makes a decision to leave himself behind and reemerges as the Rhino. Everything that Joe Kelly and crew set up in "Amazing" #617 was for a reason, and that reason is right here in heart-tugging reality.
There is a scene where Spider-Man foolishly attaches a web to the Rhino's back, hoping to haul him down like a rodeo steer at the end of a cowboy's lasso, but the Rhino drags Spider-Man through the street like a boat drags a water-skier through a lake, without Spidey having the benefit of skis between his feet and the asphalt.
Joe Kelly uses Norah Winters to give us some new insight to Spider-Man, with Norah's admission that Spidey creeps her out, maybe due to the "eye thingies" and the costume stink. Kelly's wit doesn't end there, as he seems to really capture the loneliness of Peter Parker and does a great job juxtaposing that with the light-hearted incessant blathering of Spider-Man. Even Kelly's Syetsevich is a character of depth and compassion, compelling the reader to be empathetic. I'd like to see more Joe Kelly Spidey stories, especially if they include the Rhino.
This "Gauntlet" storyline is starting to put some wear on Spider-Man and Peter Parker, and while I cannot pretend to know exactly what the endgame is, I am finding most of the issues to be compelling reading. This is certainly one of the most compelling yet.