“I thought it was clones, but you’re from parallel worlds, aren’t you?”
Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham! Old-Man Spidey! Spider-Man Noir! Six-Armed Spider-Man! BEN REILLY!! Five Spider-Men in two tales for the price of one comic! Plus: the return of legendary Spider-Scribe ROGER STERN! You know you want to click on the link. G’head. . .
PENCILLERS: Dave Williams (I) & Bob McLeod (II)
INKERS: Dexter Vines (I) & Bob McLeod (II)
COLORISTS: Chris Sotomayor (I) & Andrew Crossley (II)
LETTERING: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER by Dave Williams & Andrew Crossley
ASSOCIATIVE EDITOR: Ellie Pyle
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORIES: The first story opens on Ben Reilly, as Spider-Man, fighting the classic Vulture. He makes light of the situation until he notices that Toomes has filed all of his teeth into points. Before he can process why, Spider-Man is attacked by the Blackie Drago Vulture, Young 90’s Vulture, Brand New Day Vomitty-Vulture, and Big Time Black-Suit Vulture, who all claim to serve the Inheritors, the Big-Bads behind Spider-Verse. They say that their masters consume the Spiders essences and leave the bodies for the birds. Spider-Man is overwhelmed by the flock and is about to serve up a pound of his own flesh, but Old-Man Spidey from JMS’ ASM #500 and Spider-Ham show up in the nick of time to save him. The three have some fun character interplay as they bring down the Vultures, and then scoot out of Ben’s dimension before the Inheritors themselves show up. They regroup with Spider-UK’s crew in a “Safe-Zone” dimension, protected by a Spider-Man who never lost his Captain Universe powers. As the other Spiders greets Ben, Old-Man Spidey and Ham wonder if Ben’s optimism will help him survive the coming battle.
The second story picks up with two members of the other Spider-Crew, namely Spider-Man Noir and Six-Armed Spidey. The duo have been sent by their “Superior” to check in on a Peter Parker in a dimension where the radioactive spider bite gave him a severe rash and put him in a coma (correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this Peter is from Warren Ellis’ Marvels-parody, Ruins). While peeking in through Ruined-Peter’s hospital window, Noir and 6-Arms are both aghast to see that this Peter still has his Uncle Ben. Apparently Ben and May have been at the hospital with their nephew since the bite and were not home when their house was burglarized. Anyways, Noir suggests they abandon the hopeless Ruined-Peter, but the optimistic 6-Armed Spidey insists upon helping the poor soul. While Noir keeps watch, 6-Arms sneaks into a hospital lab and starts mixing up some sort of concoction. But before 6-Arms can finish, Noir calls for help when Ruined-Peter starts convulsing and mutates into a Man-Spider. The two heroes bring the fight up to the roof and together manage to subdue the Ruined Man-Spider. Noir suggests putting Ruined out of his misery, but 6-Arms stops him. 6-Arms injects the Man-Spider with the same formula that he once used on himself in an attempt to get rid of his Spider-Powers (in ASM #100), postulating that it might work on Ruined-Pete since the latter is much younger and his powers not as deeply rooted. Instead of further cursing Ruined-Pete with extra arms, 6-Arms’ serum works, effectively removing his rash, as well as all of his Spider-Powers, effectively negating the threat of the Inheritors in this dimension. Noir and 6-Arms watch from the shadows as Ruined-Pete wakes to see his Aunt and Uncle overjoyed at his recovery. As they slip away, Noir thinks to himself how nice it is that at least this Peter gets a happy ending.
THOUGHTS: The first story was a fun, if unimpactful tale. If you’ve read Amazing Spider-Man #9, you know these characters make it through this story. This is simply back-story that portrays how Ben comes to join the main event. However, I would not go so far as to call this tale “redundant” because Ben Reilly stories are a rare commodity. And while I am not saying that Spider-Ben’s presence in a book necessarily makes it a great comic, in this case it’s admittedly nice to see him again.
Regarding the villains, I first thought that it was kind of a cool idea that the Inheritors have enslaved various alternate versions of Spidey’s rogues gallery to be their minions, but I’m already beginning to get wary towards it. ASM #9 has three other Spidey-characters (whose identities I won’t spoil here) functioning as the Inheritors’ “hunting dogs” while this story has different Vultures functioning as their “garbage disposal.” While I don’t have a huge problem with the villains who are being used as their lackeys at the moment, I worry that one of Spider-Man’s A-Listers may be next in line to be dominated by the Inheritors. But, as that is simply speculative, I will simply reiterate that I think the idea as it is now is kinda cool.
The Spiders’ interactions in the first tale were a joy to read. Ben’s optimism, Ham’s head-slapper puns, and Old Man Spidey’s grit were a fun mix. I especially liked it when Old-Man Spidey breaks classic Vulture’s arm during the battle. Ben reacts with sickened shock, asking Ham why he isn’t aghast at the Old-Man’s violence, and Ham responds, “Where I come from an anvil to the head is a flesh wound. You people are so fragile.”
From a different point of view, however, the character interplay also brought the issue down for me. In what is written to be a Ben Reilly-centric story, Ben is out-shined by the dynamic duo of Old-Man Spidey and Spider-Ham. These two have become quite the pair, and seem to enjoy working with each other, having been on the same squad in Edge of Spider-Verse #5 and ASM #9. Again, this is something we have seen before, but it’s nice to see this duo fleshed out in a full adventure. Their pairing is the highlight of the story as the nature of the tale’s humor lies in the juxtaposition of these two opposites. And while it was kind of cool to see these two show some battlefield-hardened camaraderie at the end of the issue, I felt like it kind of came at the expense of making Ben look like a starry-eyed amateur. However, in this story’s defense, Ben’s optimism won him the big hero-moment for the story when he overcame Big Time Vulture’s paralytic darts with his “never give up in the face of overwhelming odds” attitude. On the other hand though, his borderline corny “can-do” attitude does make this optimism a bit too quaint for my palate. The winning streak that is Ben Reilly’s life has made him immutably positive, almost to a fault. I was with Old-Man Spidey and Ham in the end: wondering if Ben’s optimism will see him through this event.
As a final comment, I personally enjoyed the throwaway-line that Ben gave indicating that his Peter has lost his Spider-Powers in this dimension. If I am correct, I assume that this version of Pete lost his powers for good during his “Final Adventure” in Portland and is continuing to live happily ever after with his pregnant wife.
The second story was great. While I first thought that the creative teams should have switched stories, Stern loving the Vulture so much and Gage doing such a good job with Sp-Otto’s crew in Superior Spider-Man #’s32&33, I’m perfectly happy with the resultant issue as Stern and McLeod did a very good job on the latter tale.
Roger Stern has not lost his touch at all. He was always very good at implementing Stan Lee’s “every comic is someone’s first” policy and you see that here. He manages to catch us up on Spider-Man Noir’s back-story and recent developments in a way that leads us into the story at hand without being overtly expositional. His grasp on Noir and Six-Armed Spidey’s voices is great, providing some fun interplay between the two (6-Arms calling Noir “Bogart” and the latter not getting many of the former’s references) and adding some nice man-out-of-time moments (Noir calling the hospital tech “Buck Rogers Machines” and being taken aback at how people in the future seem to “want to be younger,” as opposed to how people in his time wanting the opposite). The charm of this issue lies in the two Spideys’ generational gap and their varying limitations in crime fighting. Stern writes Six-Armed Spidey with a voice more familiar to his 616 Spider-Man, nailing his humor and his focus, which was refreshing to read.
McLeod’s art had a nice classic feel with a bit of modern polish. As opposed to Spider-Man 2099 #5, in which Leonardi’s inker didn’t do his pencils any favors, McLeod’s inker bridges his art into a more contemporary style in a pleasing and crisp way. I will say that my one qualm, with the whole story mind you, was an artistic on, particularly the panel where 6-Arms is fighting the Ruined Man-Spider. I remember reading an interview with Grant Morrison one time in which he praised frequent collaborator Frank Quitely for the way Quitely draws multiple-limbed characters. Morrison said that Quitely was perfectly suited to those stories because Quitely apparently has tons of doodles in which he experiments visually with how multiple limbed characters would move in different circumstances. Having that in mind, McLeod’s portrayal of 6-Arms during the aforementioned fight-scene felt static in comparison and sighed with missed opportunity. However, McLeod won me back a bit with the distinct ways in which he drew the two heroes’ Spider-Senses.
Stern has always set a good example of how to incorporate continuity into a story without being pornographic about it. I particularly noted this when 6-Arms used the ASM #100 cure on Ruined-Pete. If you’ve read the original story, it’s a nice touch and draws from history of this character while bringing a new and different outcome, but it also makes sense within the confines of this one story. The way he writes makes every Stern-story matter because he effectively builds on what has been done before while telling new and entertaining stories. For the record, I would buy the heck out of a Stern-scribed Spider-Book.
As a closing remark, I admit that this story leaves me stinging at a bit of injustice. Of all the Spiders to get a happy ending out of Spider-Verse, it’s the bleak Ruins-version, not the Amazing Friends or Mayday freakin’ Parker. This doesn’t detract from my grade of the second story, but the principle of it all leaves me a bit indignant.
GRADE (I): B+ (very good – a non-essential, but fun team-up; Old-Man Spidey & Ham’s bromance kind of steals Reilly’s spotlight, but it’s still great to see Ben again)
GRADE (II): A- (great – a nice done-in-one tale with a classic feel that took full advantage of its pairing; the art could have impressed more during the fight-scene, but still great character work by two Spidey-Vets)