Amazing Grace - Worst in Years

Lately, Marvel has had the habit of publishing .1 Spider-Man miniseries (that really don't make much sense with numbering and continuity). Slott's "Learning to Crawl" was pointless, although I like Clash and what Gage has done with him lately. On the other hand, Conway's "Spiral" was an excellent comeback. However, the recent "Amazing Grace" story ... well, it's truly horrible. Seriously, this is likely the worst Spidey story since OMD. It may even be worse.

I'm not a religious person, but Peter's obnoxious atheism in this miniseries is ill-advised. He's never been especially outspoken with his religious views, but JMS heavily suggested he's Christian. Further, he's seen the Devil himself (during OMD) and Heaven (during Web of Death in ASM 700). There's always been an understanding that Peter is influenced by Christian values.

That makes his dogged rejection of religion so annoying in "Amazing Grace." Writer Jose Molina assumes that because Peter is a scientist, he is automatically an atheist. Molina has a narrative to express that really doesn't work with Spider-Man's character. Of course, the religious themes have no real direction and are confusing to follow (likely because Molina really doesn't know what he's trying to say). Nothing in the plot really warrants that Peter needs to question his religious views in the first place.

Perhaps the worst scene of the series features Peter in Uncle Ben's hospital room as he dies. Peter blames Jesus for letting Ben die, contradicting his origin story. That he blames himself for Ben's death is the most important element of his motives as a hero. By retconning in the concept of Peter's anger with God, Molina shows he has no idea what he's doing with Spider-Man. (Why is Ben even in a hospital room when he's pronounced dead anyways?)

The whole "Peter as an atheist" thing is really forced and frustrating. It makes Peter sound like an immature, whiney kid, and Molina's horrible scripting of the character doesn't help. Peter is constantly making tone-deaf, at times cruel jokes. Nearly everything he says is a bad one-liner, and he constantly breaks the fourth wall. Fans may complain Slott's Spidey is immature, but Molina's acts like an obnoxious high-schooler.

Beyond Peter's mischaracterization, Molina has absolutely no clue of how to structure an interesting plot. Scenes often occur with little rhyme or reason, and characters randomly converge without any explanation of why or how. The pacing is slow and boring. Molina doesn't understand writing in the comic book format, and he needs to go back to working on TV shows.

Further, there is no suspense because Molina gives readers no reason to care about the characters. He uses a group called the Santerians, but they are established and described so poorly that I couldn't tell you one member's name off of the top of my head. They really have no reason to be in the plot.

The story centers around Julio, a regular guy who suddenly comes back from the dead. There really isn't any meat to his backstory and the revelations uncovered of why he was resurrected are hardly interesting enough to sustain a six-issue plot. Julio's mystical mumbo jumbo feels extremely out-of-place in a Spider-Man book anyways (at least JMS's mystical stories were interesting and involved Peter directly). The action involving the character is sparse and lackluster, especially thanks to Simone Bianchi's art (which I'll get to later).

For some reason, a hallucination of Uncle Ben or something appears. He lectures Peter about religion for no real reason. Ben becomes a plot device get across Molina's ham-fisted religious themes, similar to other characters in the story like Jameson and the Beast. Not only does Molina try to ruin Ben's place in Peter's origin but he tries to dilute the importance of his death with these stupid flashbacks (especially since there are so many alternate versions of Ben in the Spider-Titles now already).

The only plot element I enjoyed was the political commentary Molina embedded in the script during Peter's trip to Cuba. It's nice to see Peter traveling to other countries and Molina takes advantage of Spider-Man's international status quo here. Rarely do we see writers comment on the state of other countries' governments like Cuba's still-oppressive dictatorship. However, the politics don't play a role in the larger events of the plot and Peter's trip to Cuba is just a waste of time. The story would be far better if Molina decided to spend more time focusing on politics instead of religion.

Unfortunately, as bad as the story is, Bianchi's art only makes it more bland. He has a unique sense of hatching and shadows that is neat for sci-fi, otherworldly stories. However, his art style really doesn't work with this mostly street-level story. The characters look horrible with his murky details and unnatural shadows. It's difficult to discern who the characters are in many scenes, especially those involving the Santerians. Bianchi fails at showing emotion and the action is stiff, especially because the fighting is poorly-paced and unfocused. Every once and a while, there is a cool pin-up spread of Spider-Man, perhaps the only saving grace for the art. It also doesn't help that there are two fill-in artists whose styles fight with Bianchi's. Unfortunately, these fill-in artists are often either mixed up or given no credit on the recap pages. Silva's coloring, as usual, is dreadful and distracting, but Curiel's colors in the latter half of the story look good. Still, they can't save Bianchi's art.

Overall, this easily cracks my top ten worst Spider-Man stories. It hasn't gotten much attention lately, mostly because it isn't involved with the main title. I'm honestly shocked more readers (especially Christians) haven't said much about it. Although it wasn't hyped and noticed as much as other bombs like OMD and The Final Chapter, "Amazing Grace" dares to ruin Peter's origin and motives, as well as turn him into an obnoxious atheist. Hopefully, Molina never writes another Spider-Man comic and other writers forget this was ever published.