BACK ISSUE TO THE FUTURE: Spectacular Spider-Man #136 by Sean H.

If you’ve been reading Amazing Spider-Man lately (and you should, it’s been great), you probably have become familiar with the Sin-Eater. I myself wrote on his debut appearance a while ago in death of Jean DeWolff. That was the story of how he lived. This is the story of how he died.

Now, quick background, when Sin-Eater was introduced he had no obvious superhuman abilities. He was tough and he was resourceful, but he was ultimately just a deranged man with a shotgun. Instead of throwing him in a steel box, they threw him in a padded room, and almost uniquely he emerged as a healthy and functioning member of society. Unfortunately, the word of a team of certified psychologists and physicians is not enough for our resident wall-crawler, who set out to prove that Carter was still the killer he locked up, harassing him and eventually confronting him on live television.

That is where Spidey’s involvement in this story more or less ends and this issue begins. In my experience, some of the best superhero stories are great because of the human element, and Spider-Man has always been a master of this. Anyone who has read Amazing Spider-Man #248, “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”, knows what I’m talking about. However, in some ways, this issue is the antithesis of that story. That’s a story about the positive influence Spider-Man has on a young child. This is a story about the negative effects Spidey’s scrutiny has on a villain trying to go straight, scrutiny that causes his mental state to deteriorate, and ultimately results in his death.

Most of the issue is told from Stan Carter’s addled perspective as he tries to come to terms with himself and his own actions, with Spidey only interacting with him briefly. The final section of the story is particularly powerful, with beautiful panel work juxtaposing Spidey’s triumph over a rampaging Electro with Sin-Eater’s tragic end at the hands of the police, with the two converging as Spider-Man arrives too late to make a difference, and makes a final discovery confirming what Spider-Man feared the most: that at his core, Stan Carter was indeed a good man.

Absolutely worth checking out for anyone who is a fan of the current Nick Spencer Spider-Man run or just wants a good story.