Dec 11, 2015

[Comics] Spider-Verse

I thought about reviewing the individual sub-lines and mini-series titles related to Spider-Verse on an individual basis, but the story really doesn't make sense in that manner. So similar to what I've done for a few other major crossover events, I've decided to just tackle the whole thing at once as a single review discussion.

Now I've largely stayed away from Spider-Man since the Clone Saga despite how much I've always loved the character for whatever reasons but over the years I've felt the urge to come back and explore what has been going on. Thus I've continued to pick up a few story arcs here and there thanks to periodic comiXology digital comic book sales making it easier and a lot more affordable to get my hands on additional stories.

But when I heard about Spider-Verse, I wasn't quite sure how to feel at first. Initially it felt like one big gimmick to get old and new fans talking about a single story. On the other hand it was brilliant for those very same reasons since it also became a way to bring back older characters that had fallen through the cracks of the Spider-Man timeline to give way to other things.

I finally got to read the whole crossover series recently and it was certainly a lot of fun.

Synopsis: Spider-Verse is a Marvel storyline and crossover event, although one that pretty much involved multiple iterations of a single character. The overall story was primarily penned by Dan Slott, the man in charge of steering Spider-Man stories for the time. The event also triggered a number of different mini-series titles and eventually a few spin-off comics as well.

The basic premise is simple - Morlun and his fellow inheritors have begun to systematically hunt down and kill various incarnations of Spider-Man across the universe. Like vampires, they feel on such totemic individuals and they have a particular focus on spider totems. In time, some of the different Spider-Man alternates are alerted to the threat and begin to band together to gather an army of Spider-Man to figure out a way to deal with the Inheritors. Eventually, all Spider-Men turn to our hero, Earth-616 Spider-Man to lead them as he is the only one to have successfully killed an Inheritor - specifically Morlun. But there's also some greater prophecy of sorts that involves several other Spider totem who are expected to have key roles in the final outcome of things.

As expected, a lot of the stories in this event do not actually tie in all that directly the main plot. Given a story that promises every single incarnation of Spider-Man even, including many that we've never seen before, that's a lot of potential fluff. But to be fair, it's fun fluff that can be worth reading for long-term Spider-Man fans who get to enjoy comparing and contrasting each version of our hero and explore quite a number of "what-if" scenarios while we're at it. In the infinite reaches of the Spider-Verse, pretty much everyone in Spider-Mans core group of friends and family apparently have the potential to become a Spider-themed hero. So enjoy many of the tie-ins on their own and try not to take them too seriously.

On the flip side, some of the core titles of this book are real gems that hit nostalgic fans right in the sensitive bits. I'm looking at you Scarlet Spiders! As much as I had my problems with the original Clone Saga as a story arc, I never had a problem with Ben Reilly, the first Scarlet Spider. He was quite the phenomenal character and I just wish that he had been given a chance to explore being his own hero instead of someone to swap in as Spider-Man.

I also enjoyed the somewhat significant role played by Spider-Man 2099, as those silly books of the future were always a fun and quite memorable part of the 90's. Having Miguel O'Hara back in action in the past was already fun but really making the most of his character here really pushed things along. And who knew that he would work best with the likes of Lady Spider of the steampunk-inspired Earth-928? Scientific characters of true genius transcend different spheres of technological development and advancement apparently.

Now a lot of this story relies on the somewhat more mystical side of the Spider-Man world, and that has always give me mixed feelings. I'm talking about things like the Great Web, the Spider Totems and all that magical stuff. But in this story, they kind found a way to make those weird plot hooks kind of work and even tie the famous spider-sense to some limited ability to tell the future based on the Great Web. Whatever - it makes for fun explanations of things!

Everyone will have their favorite version of Spider-Man and this story certainly makes sure to cram in as many versions as possible and to try and given them a few speaking lines here and there. But perhaps even more important that the big confrontation between the Spider-Man army and the Inheritors, this arc also provided Peter Parker a chance to finally face the mind of Doctor Octopus in his body as the Superior Spider-Man. Let's face it, we all wanted to see them come to blows and seeing them challenge one another in many aspects including tactical decisions in terms of how to face the Inheritors to jockeying for leadership of the group all made for great moments.

Spider-Verse is a story dressed in fan wanking and we're all more than happy to drink the Kool-Aid this time around. The resulting story is pretty amazing and I'm glad that this book was put together. So maybe more as a fan than as a practical, critical reviewer, I give this book 4.5 surprise alternate Spider-Man origin stories out of a possible 5.