This is it, Spider-Fans. The final issue of the controversial Superior Spider-Man! Wait a minute, didn’t we already have a final issue not too long ago?
Edge of Spider-Verse
SCRIPT: Christos Gage w/ Dan Slott
PENCILS: Guiseppe Camuncoli
INKS: John Dell
COLOR: Antonio Fabela
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
WRITER: Christos Gage
ART: M.A. Sepulveda
COLORS: Richard Isanove
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
VARIANT COVER: Skottie Young
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Ellie Pyle
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY #1: On Earth-2818, we see a Spider-Man being chased by Karn, the strange figure with the diving helmet and energy spear from Superior Spider-Man #32 at a train yard. Karn tosses a train car with one hand to block Spidey’s path, then stabs him in the back with his spear. Only Spidey doesn’t die; instead, a sonic cannon emerges from his back and blasts Karn. It turns out this universe’s Spider-Man is a cyborg, and warned ahead of time of the killer’s coming. Cue SpOck and his Spider-Army.
The Spider-Army webs up Karn and, along with SpOck’s own specialized energy beams from his mechanical spider-legs, apparently deplete him of his totemic energy. Ashley Barton/Spider-Girl (from Wolverine: Old Man Logan) and Assassin Spider-Man (from What If? Spider-Man Vs. Wolverine) want to execute Karn, much to the shock of the other Spideys, but SpOck states they must interrogate Karn first. When SpOck asks Karn what his mission is, Karn states he has none—that he and his “family” simply kill spiders. When SpOck asks Karn if the rest of his family are vulnerable to SpOck’s weapon as well, Karn reveals it didn’t and attacks. Despite wounding Karn, even throwing him into a fuel tank and blowing it up, nothing the Spider-Army does slows him down. Then two members of Karn’s family appear, a twin brother and sister pair named Brix and Bora, who wound the Six-Armed Spidey (from What If? Vol.2 #42, and not “Man-Spider” from Mutant-X as I originally thought) and rips off one of Cyborg Spidey’s arms. SpOck orders for a retreat. Spider-Man Noir uses a smoke bomb to cover their escape, only for Karn to clap the smoke away. Bora attempts to throw her blades at the fleeing Spider-Army, only for Spider-Monkey (from Marvel Apes) to catch them and hurl them back, striking Karn and Brix. Karn, angry that the twins interfered, attacks them both while the Spider-Army teleports back to year 2099.
At their headquarters, SpOck replaces Cyborg Spidey’s arm, but is discouraged his own weapons had no effect on Karn. He leaves the other Spideys to talk to his holographic Anna Maria Marconi, and tells her the problem is that, unlike himself, the members of the Spider-Army are all variations of Peter Parker while there are no other like him. He can’t add to his army without increasing the chances of them being tracked, but, because Karn is only one of many as well, SpOck’s knows he needs the other Spider-Men. And SpOck knows he can’t return to his own universe for fear of having the real Anna Maria be caught in the crossfire. Thus finding new resolve, SpOck vows to defeat Karn and return to his beloved, and thanks the holographic Anna Maria. Returning to his troops, he orders Cyborg Spidey to search databases on Karn and the twins, while telling Spider-Man: India, Spider-Man Noir, Six-Armed Spidey, and Spider-Monkey to track down Karn’s home dimension. After they leave, SpOck takes Assassin Spider-Man and Ashley Barton into his confidence, telling them that, to stop Karn and his family, they may have to commit “genocide,” even if the other Spider-Men should oppose it.
STORY #2: On Earth-1771, Karn is battle with a half-man, half-spider deity named Al Apaec. As Al Apaec wounds him with his “soul venom,” Karn recalls a time “centuries ago” in “Universe 000,” where he and his family known as the Inheritors—which includes his brother Morlun and the twins from the main story—hunted the Master Weaver, a part-man, part-spider, part-mechanical being who threads together “the web of life and destiny.” Karn is chosen to dispatch the Master Weaver by his mother, much the annoyance of his eldest brother, Daemos. Daemos attacks the Master Weaver with his war-hammer, only when the Weaver cuts a thread from his web, the hammer dissolves. The Inheritor’s mother then orders Morlun and their sister, Verna, to clear a path for Karn. Karn, unlike his sibling, manages to make it past collapsing floors and pillars caused by the Weaver snapping threads, boasting he will not be stopped. The Weaver, however, tells Karn that he is not unlike the other Inheritors because he “takes no pleasure in death,” and that he is “one who would wish to build, not destroy.” This makes Karn hesitate because he knows the Weaver is telling the truth, and so the Inheritors’ mother attempts to kill the Weaver herself. But the Weaver breaks a strand of webbing which causes her to crumble into dust, much to Karn’s everlasting grief.
Later, the Inheritors were able to subdue and imprison the Master Weaver, harnessing his powers to traverse the multi-verse. They then force Karn to wear a mask as a symbol and reminder of his shame and disgrace to the family, and forced to hunt in various dimensions alone. Thus, the story returns to the beginning where Karn is able to feed on the totemic energies of Al Apaec
THOUGHTS: As you may no doubt have discerned, Superior Spider-Man #33 is a set-up issue for the greater “Spider-Verse” story. Yet what a set-up issue it is. Along with the expected drawing of the battle-lines between the two sides and the emerging factions within those sides, this is also a broadening of the character of Otto Octavious, and, even more surprising, Morlun through the character of his “brother,” Karn.
Those who have read stories featuring Doctor Octopus, including Superior Spider-Man, know that he is someone whose own intellect is often times outmatched and undone by an over-inflated sense of pride, and Christos Gage’s script is able to show us this in both obvious and subtle ways. As we’ve seen many times before, Otto places far too much importance and confidence in his own scientific and technological skills, so when science fails, it doesn’t occur to him that Karn’s power really are magical in origin, something Otto outright dismisses. The same goes for his capabilities as a leader, in that having his Spider-Army nearly defeated, SpOck is quick to lay the fault on them being Peter Parker analogues because he, who believes he had defeated Peter, is unique.
It is here where, in a story involving parallel worlds and alternate versions of oneself, Otto displays a different kind of arrogance: that he, unlike his fellow Spider-Men and Women, and even the Inheritors, is unique in all the multiverse. As readers, we know Otto likely has counterparts in other dimensions, and the reason there’s “only one like him” is because he placed his own mind into Peter’s body. Whether he wants to admit it or not, Otto has ironically become a “Peter Parker analogue” himself. (An even further irony, however, is that we do know of one person who, as far as we know, has no other counterparts in any other dimension, and thus really would be the only one like them in existence. Yes, I am, of course, referring to Cindy “anything Spidey can do, she can do better” Moon, aka Silk. Morlun did single her out when smelling her across time and space, after all, and called her the “Spider-Bride,” remember?). Yet Gage also uses Otto’s own brand of introspective soul-searching to show how alone he feels. We are also reminded how SpOck, through his interaction with the holographic Anna Maria, has genuinely come to love the real Anna Maria. Being this comic, from SpOck’s perspective, takes place before he returned to his own time, it’s a reminder that Otto, through his developing an unselfish love for someone else, was on a path to possible redemption, as Gage and Dan Slott attempted to show in Superior Spider-Man #30. For all The Superior Spider-Man’s faults, the one thing the series managed to do right was to mold Doc Ock into a more rounded, complex antagonist for Spider-Man, and this comic is no exception. The moment where SpOck asks the holographic Anna Maria to call him “Otto” whenever they are in private is both amusing in showing his egomania, but also touching, an excellent example of generating sympathy for a character who is traditionally not sympathetic.
Another character who gets similar treatment is the designated villain of the comic, Karn. While is another version, and literal blood-relation it seems, to Morlun, Karn has motivations beyond just killing “spiders” and other totems for sport; for him, it’s a matter of making amends for having failed his rite of passage which cost the life of his mother. This, in a symbolic sense, makes him more like Peter than Morlun, in that Karn believes had he acted when he should have, the person who raised and loved him would not have died. Furthermore, he too wears a full face mask just like the various incarnations of Spider-Men he hunts, something which escaped by notice last time until Gage alludes to it here. It is also through Karn, and his backstory, in which we learn more about who Morlun is and where he comes from than in anything J. Michael Stracynski ever did, giving us a taste of what appears to be a fascinating cosmology and world-building. Granted, aside from having the already contentious spider-totem angle and sliding through various realities, throwing a bunch of steampunk energy vampires into the mix only makes “Spider-Verse” even further removed from the usual street-level type stories Spider-Man is more accustomed to. Also, Morlun and Karn’s family in terms of their hunting Spiders seems almost too reminiscent of Kraven and his brood from “The Grim Hunt.” Nevertheless, it makes for some compelling science fiction in its own right, even if it feels out-of-place for a comic book such as Spider-Man.
This comic also, I believe, does an excellent job in establishing the moral dilemma the various Spider-Men and Women will face throughout “Spider-Verse,” which is how does one fight against an enemy who wants nothing more than your death, and who cannot be reasoned or negotiated with? Otto recognizes right away he and the other Spider-People are in a war of survival, that it’s kill or be killed, a sharp contrast to Peter and his various doppleganger’s creed that “no one dies” regardless of the circumstances. Being that Peter Parker is the hero, it’s a given he will advocate for another solution than the “genocide” of Morlun, Karn, and the rest of their kind, but given what this comic presents, it’s difficult not to side with Otto’s position. If written correctly, Peter and Otto’s competing ideologies could be just as engaging and contentious as their inevitable physical confrontation.
Aside from the climatic scene in which Otto creates his alliance with the more ruthless Assassin Spider-Man and Ashley Barton, Gage, along with Guiseppe Camuncoli’s wonderful artwork, creates several well-crafted scenes and images all through the comic. Cyborg Spider-Man’s introduction is brilliantly executed, as was the battle between SpOck’s Spider-Army and Karn. The moment where Karn is literally blown up yet emerges from the wreckage on fire but unphased has echoes of the classic “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut” in showing us the Spiders are up against a seemingly unstoppable force, and the images of Spider-Monkey catching and flinging back the knives makes an otherwise silly looking character look rather badass. M.A. Sepulveda’s art in the second story is also good and well-suited for the kind of tale it is, in particular the rendition of the “Master Weaver,” creating a rather enigmatic and unsettling figure who will no doubt will be pivotal in the upcoming event.
It’s almost a shame that, like Superior Spider-Man #32, Superior Spider-Man #33 has been marketed as mere tie-in comic because it’s essential reading. Strange as it may sound, if both of these comics were indeed the original chapters of “Spider-Verse,” then I find myself wondering what the outcome of SpOck and his Spider-Army’s battle might have been had this still been a Superior Spider-Man story as Slott originally conceived. But even though “Spider-Verse” is now an Amazing Spider-Man story, as it appropriately should be, then this “final issue” of Superior Spider-Man offers us a great beginning.
- As cool as Cyborg Spider-Man’s reveal was, I still can’t help but wonder how he still survived being stabbed through the back, even if his anatomy is mostly robotic parts—particularly since we see Karn’s energy spear come out through his chest. Not to mention there are no puncture wounds of any kind afterwards. Maybe Cyborg Spidey has rapid self-repairing?
- “This is bananas!” Oh, of course, the monkey version of Spidey has to make a monkey-related pun. But at least it makes far more sense, and feels as though this is a legitimately recurring catchphrase, than “This is crazy-town banana pants!”
- Hey, Assassin Spidey! Maybe the reason Cyborg Spidey doesn’t shoot bullets is because that big ‘ol cannon he has for a right arm probably shoots laser beams which are probably more effective than your bullets. Then again, your line of “I think a better question is—why don’t yours?” was pure Clint Eastwood in its awesomeness, you get an automatic pass.
- An added and minor point of contention with SpOck’s reasoning that his troops are “variations of Parker.” The Ashley Barton Spider-Girl is not a variation of Peter, either. Although, according to “Old Man Logan,” she’s his granddaughter by way of his third marriage, as well as the daughter of Hawkeye, so, in terms of genetics, I guess she sort-of counts?
- So despite in being established Otto has no sense of humor, he’s adept at coming up with nicknames for the other Spider-Men à la Sawyer from the TV show Lost. Aside from calling Cyborg Spidey “Cyborg” (and thus risking copyright infringement with DC Comics) and calling Spider-Man: India by his last name “Prabakhar,” he calls Spider-Man Noir “Turtleneck,” Spider-Monkey “Ape” (even though apes do not have tails) and Six-Armed Spidey “Polymelian” (which, considering how this version of Spidey is an advocate for the disabled and handicapped on his world, rightfully finds this insulting, probably because his extra arms are the result of experimental serum, not a birth-defect). I guess he figured since readers kept calling him SpOck, or Potto, or OtTer, he might well return the favor.
- All right, if the Master Weaver is supposed to be another “Spider,” why does he only have five legs? Which means, counting his arms, he only has seven instead of eight limbs like every other arachnid. Maybe an alternate Tony Stark also designed the lower half of his body, considering how the 616 Tony created the Iron Spider suit which also gave Spidey three instead of four mechanical legs and thus made him have seven limbs, too?