On the Panel – Spider-Verse Team-Up
Two Spider-Verse stories for the price of one here -sort of- so I will cover them separately and rate them separately with an overall score presenting itself for the comic.
Too Many Spider-Men
This story was fully teased in Amazing Spider-Man #11 with a brief look at Miles Morales and Animated Ultimate Spider-Man crossing into the heavily memed 60s Spider-Man cartoon universe.
One thing this issue definitely shows us is how far animation and comic book art has come in the past few decades. The 60s Spider-Man cartoon has not aged well at all in terms of visual style and storytelling. This story takes full advantage of this in every possible way. The two Ultimate Spider-Men underestimate this universe’s Peter Parker because everything is overly simplified here, at least on the surface.
60s Spidey helps shatter their assumptions when he reminds them that his motivation is the death of Uncle Ben as well which gives us a reminder of something that cartoon would completely gloss over due to the nature of it being made for kids. It was a clever contrast to have expectations subverted by 60s Spidey taking things seriously occasionally. He’s also used to comment on the sillier aspects of the Ultimate Spider-Men. Particularly the animated version’s propensity to break the fourth wall gets regarded with hilarious confusion.
This story was full of humour and all of it works really well. For one thing the contrast of the slick and detailed Spider-Men vs the simplistic design of 60s Spidey was just hilarious and plenty of fun was poked at that. One notable example would be that New York looks the same everywhere which of course calls back to the reused backgrounds in the show. 60s Spidey also repeats some of his famous stock poses.
It’s quite a short narrative but it works as a full story and proves that Spider-Verse can work with the sillier elements of the character’s history while paying the due respect.
A Spider In The Dark
Another story involving Spider-Gwen. This is definitely something that many people -including myself- had wanted to see more of her and we get our wish here.
This story isn’t as strong as its companion in this issue. Gwen finds herself in a reality where Peter Parker never got over the death of his Gwen Stacy. It plays out just like the original story until the point where Spidey confronts The Green Goblin. In this version Peter kills Norman Osborn which causes him to snap and become a Goblin himself.
Interestingly the Goblin he becomes still desires to do good but psychologically Peter feels that by killing Norman he has become him and therefore is no longer worthy of being Spider-Man. It makes sense as he’s always held himself to a particular moral standard that he hasn’t directly compromised in the main reality. Once he no longer lives up to his own principles then he can no longer be Spider-Man.
Meeting Gwen helps give him a reality check and reminds him of the type of man he left behind which leads him to redeem himself before his death. This Peter’s death reopens an old wound for Gwen as she feels that she has failed to save Peter Parker again. Naturally this will cause her lots of emotional anguish and it should inform her choices in interesting ways when we next see her.
Unfortunately this story feels incomplete. When it begins it feels half done and the emotional arcs feel very rushed. It’s a shame as it was very interesting stuff. I like the idea of a Peter Parker who has abandoned what he feels defines him and has given up all home. Something that the main Peter Parker avoided and using Gwen to explore that is an inspired idea since she represents a big mistake for him. This version of Gwen has her own regrets too so this should have worked better.
I really think this story would have been better served with more time to develop the emotional core. Instead it comes across as rushed and doesn’t live up to the full potential.
Too Many Spider-Men
The highlight of this issue. It’s so much fun to revisit the 60s Spider-Man universe in all its rudimentary artistic glory.
Contrasting the animation styles of the detailed universes and the 60s Spider-Man becomes a great visual joke and poking fun at the differences forms the bulk of the story. The jokes land and the story works really well on its own merits.
It’s nice to see that Spider-Verse works when it embraces the sillier aspects of Spider-Man lore while celebrating them at the same time. It’s all part of the character history so it’s nice to see this revisited.
A Spider In The Dark
Giving Spider-Gwen her own story again is something that lots of people wanted and it’s a good read for the most part.
It’s a much more emotionally serious narrative than the companion piece and it’s interesting to explore a Peter Parker who went too far and never forgave himself for Gwen’s death. Using Spider-Gwen to contrast that with her regret over the death of Peter Parker in her universe works really well too.
The problem is that we come into the story in what feels like the middle of it and there isn’t enough time spent exploring the emotional potential of this character interaction. What we get is good but it feels too rushed.