It’s the first Amazing Spider-Man comic of the year, but the fourth chapter of the spider-extravaganza known as “Spider-Verse.” Which means more new Spider-Men from other dimensions, more of those Spider-Men being killed, and the arrival of one character who was billed as “the most surprising Spider-Character yet” who’s last-page reveal was hyped to “break the internet in half!”
“Spider-Verse Part 4: Anywhere But Here”
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKER: Cam Smith
COLORS: Justin Ponsor
LETTERS: Chris Elliopoulos
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Dewin Lewis
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Ellie Pyle
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
THE STORY: As the Spiders attempt to attack Solus who, after consuming Cosmic Spidey, is powered by the Enigma Force, Morlun proceeds to take Mayday’s baby brother, Benjy, with him back to The Loom World. Mayday tries to stop him, but Morlun proves too strong, smacking her aside as he takes her brother through one of the Master Weaver’s portals. Spider-UK sends a distress call to Peter, and he returns with Spider-Gwen and Anya Corazon, along with new recruits Managverse Spider-Man, Spider-Man J, and Supaidāman with his giant mecha, Leopardon. Supaidāman uses Leopardon to attack Solus, which allows the other Spiders to escape. Meanwhile, Silk, having been continually chased by the Inheritor twins, Brix and Bora, has stumbled into a world devastated by nuclear war (as seen in Spider-Woman #2). Brix attempts to go after Silk, but begins to suffocate from the high radiation levels, forcing both him and sister to leave. Silk then weaves herself some insulated webbing to protect herself from fallout, as goes off exploring to figure out what to do next.
Peter and the other Spiders have transported to an Earth still populated with dinosaurs. Supaidāman arrives, having survived his battle with Solus, but at the cost of Leopardon. Peter promises Mayday they’ll get Benjy back, but in her anger, she declares she’s done listening to him, that only her dad was “the one real Spider-Man” and the rest, including Peter, are fakes. Peter then gets call from Spider-Woman who (as also seen in Spider-Woman #2) is gathering intelligence on the Inheritors in Loomworld, explaining she’s in disguise as an alternate version of herself, who just so happens to be Morlun’s handmaiden. Peter thinks this is “way too convenient,” and as Spider-Woman agrees, a voice tells her this was all by design, and Spider-Woman sees The Master Weaver. After getting an update from Miles Morales, who has recruited even more Spider-Men, Peter calls Miquel O’Hara to get an update on his and Lady Spider’s autopsy of Daemos’ previous clone body (as seen in Spider-Man 2099 #7). But before Miquel can give Peter the details, the communicator cuts off by Jennix, who reveals to Peter he’s been monitoring all their communications the entire time. Jennix then gives his sister, Verna, their coordinates, and she arrives with new “hounds,” alternate versions of The Rhino, Hammerhead, and Ox.
Back in the Loomworld, the Master Weaver explains to Spider-Woman that he spins the Web of Life and Destiny, that the Inheritors captured centuries ago and forced him use his clairvoyant powers to aid them. However, he’s been able do “small acts of rebellion” that they otherwise wouldn’t notice in the web pattern, such as Spider-Woman being able to impersonate Morlun’s handmaiden. He gives Spider-Woman a pair of scrolls containing prophecies about The Other, The Bride, and The Scion, and what the Inheritors true plans are. But before Spider-Woman can get any answers, Morlun enters the hall with Benjy. He gives the baby to Brix and Bora, and sees Spider-Woman. Fortunately, Spider-Woman was able to use the last of her wrist teleporter’s energy to send the scrolls to Peter, who is starting have doubts about his leadership. At that moment, Silk contacts him, saying she’s found a new safe zone, and Peter and the other spiders escape to the post-apocalyptic Earth. Following some signs Silk left for them, the Spiders come to a bunker exactly like the one Ezekiel made for Peter and Silk. Peter opens it to find Silk and the Spider-Totem of this particular Earth…Uncle Ben!
THOUGHTS: There is a moment during Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #12 which I didn’t go into much detail in the recap. When Peter checks in on Miles and the Ultimate cartoon Spidey’s progress in their “Spider-Man recruitment drive,” we see they’ve not only teamed-up with the Spidey from the 1960s cartoon, but their conscripts include a Spider-Man version of the Lone Ranger, and a Spider-Mobile who talks like Speed Buggy. (And after writing this review, I found out the talking Spider-Mobile’s real name is “Peter Parked Car.” No joke. And apparently, this was a creation of Slott’s who, during his talk-up of “Spider-Verse,” he wanted to introduce in the story but was ordered “no” by his editors.) And all of them are being chased up the side of a building by police helicopters. Once I finished the issue and went back to re-read it for the review, and then arrived once again to this particular scene, I said to myself, “I wonder what’s the story is behind this scene? How did Miles wind up getting himself in such a mess? Why are we not reading this story instead?” Because that one single page is what “Spider-Verse” should have been right from the start: a fun, zany, madcap romp celebrating all things Spider-Man as opposed to the joyless, over-padded, tedious slog the actual story has really been.
After four parts and multiple tie-ins, not counting the previous comics leading up to “Spider-Verse” itself, Dan Slott is still in set-up mode, giving us more vague generalities about the Inheritors and prophecies involving “the Other, the Bride, and the Scion” instead of real answers; more Spider-Men and Women introduced to appease the hardcore fan-base who are really nothing more than thinly-developed potential victims to be unceremoniously slaughtered; more scenes from other comic books containing vital plot developments simultaneously acting as elaborate advertisements for those comics; more exposition repeating key information we already know; and more of Peter Parker, despite being the titular hero of the comic and the designated leader of the group, once again falling prey to needless guilt (“This is all my fault”) and self-doubt (“I don’t what to do”), only to be bailed out at the last moment by far more competent, capable, and proactive allies. On top of all this, and after giving us the typical moment where all hope seems lost as out heroes are backed into a corner against overwhelming odds, Slott, without a hint of irony, uses sheer coincidence and a literal deus ex machina to turn the tide.
For example, it’s by sheer happenstance and luck Silk finds herself in the one world where the Inheritors cannot go because of their weakness to radioactivity. I suppose Slott deserves some credit for having remembered it was radiation poisoning which allowed Spidey to defeat Morlun in J. Michael Stracynski’s “Coming Home,” never mind that, as we now know, this didn’t finish Morlun off for good. Even so, having Silk literally stumble into the Inheritors one weakness and thus possibly save the day comes off as sheer laziness; unless, just with Spider-Woman and her being able to impersonate her own doppelganger, this was also the work of the Master Weaver. Speaking of which, his scene with Jessica Drew should serve as a prime example of how relying on a “god in the machine” to advance the story and help solve the characters’ problems can lead to sloppy writing. It also raises a huge plot hole, one which was also evident in the back-up story for Superior Spider-Man #33: if the Master Weaver is this powerful to where he can literally reweave the course of history without the Inheritor’s notice, then how was even captured and enslaved by the Inheritors in the first place? How does Solus even have one shred of control over him? Why even bother seeking help from lesser mortals to help him, including literally giving them the answers on how to stop the Inheritors as opposed to having them figure it out on their own, when we’ve seen him literally erase Inheritors from existence? As I’ve mentioned before in my reviews and on the podcast, I am dreading that Slott will use this character to bring back to life all the Spider-Men and Women slain by the Inheritors, thus making their deaths even more pointless and cheap than they already are.
And while I’m on the subject of contrivances, if Benjy as “the Scion” is such a threat to the Inheritors, then why doesn’t Morlun just kill him rather take him back with him to the Loomworld, much less hand him over to his brother and sister for them to babysit? After all, isn’t killing Benjy what Daemos tried to do in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #8 went her went after Mayday and her family? Don’t misunderstand, I am not advocating for Slott to go as far as to kill an infant child in this story because that would be beyond the pale, and this is exactly the problem with having Benjy being held captive by the Inheritors. By turning Benjy, who is already branded as a “chosen one” to also become a “child in distress” this soon, Slott is ensuring there’s no way Benjy’s life is in any real jeopardy, even if he tries to convince us otherwise in later issues. Clearly, the only reason this happened was provide an additional motive for the Spiders to stop the Inheritors (as if saving themselves from being eaten wasn’t enough), and to have a scene where Mayday gets angry at who amounts to a younger version of her dad in order further along her quest for vengeance.
It also doesn’t help that this issue, just like the previous Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #11, succumbs to slow, disjointed pacing due to its dependency on so many ancillary titles to tell the complete story. Just as it was in the Miles Morales’ chase scene, there are single but too brief moments in the comic which hint at the story that might have been. For example, it would have been nice to see how Peter, Spider-Gwen, and Anya recruited those three-different Spider-Men as opposed to learning they did so off-panel; or, in the case of the Mangaverse Spidey, only getting such a story in the pages of a tie-in issue. Even better, we could have been getting scenes of how Peter reacts to those other worlds he travels to, getting glimpses of what his life might have been like under different circumstances. Or even better still, seeing versions of Spider-Man like Supaidāman, the self-proclaimed “Emissary of Hell,” actually contributing to the story in a meaningful way beyond acting as a plot-device. Given the madcap, over-the-top, utter insanity of that live-action Japanese TV series, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wanting see Takuya Yamashiro in full, absurd glory, as opposed to having the promise such a character brings be utterly squandered by getting all but completely jobbed by Morlun’s big bad Santa Claus-looking dad within less than a page after his over-dramatic entrance. It all goes back to one of the biggest problems “Spider-Verse” has had since its inception: in its promise to deliver us “every single Spider-Man ever,” there are now too many characters, many of whom are reduced to either an inside joke or a blink-if-you-miss it cameo appearance, all of whom are flat and underdeveloped with one-note personalities, who only exist to serve the plot instead of the other way around.
Which leads to this issue’s obligatory cliffhanger on the last page: the “return” of Uncle Ben. To be honest, the only thing at all surprising about this “twist” is that it didn’t happen sooner. “Spider-Verse,” after all, deals with parallel universes, and a standard trope in such stories is to have characters who are dead in one reality still being alive in another—especially if those characters played a significant role and influence in the protagonist’s development. And no one has influenced Peter Parker more than his surrogate father whose tragic demise motivates him to use his “great power” with “great responsibility” in the first place. Considering “Spider-Verse” has an alternate version of the long-deceased Gwen Stacy with spider-powers as major character, the introduction a spider-powered Uncle Ben was expected and anticipated. Prior to Old Man Spider from Earth-4 being revealed as an alternate version of Ezekiel Sims, many readers, including myself, presumed he was an alternate version Uncle Ben. Moreover, the prologue for Spider-Verse #1 already introduced us to an Uncle Ben who was, with none-too subtle foreshadowing, about to be bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter, a prologue written by none other than—you guessed it—Dan Slott. It would’ve been odd and disappointing for Slott not to follow-up on something he himself had teased, even if it was a story for a tie-in anthology mini-series. Besides, a Spider-Man who is Uncle Ben is a nifty and tantalizing idea.
What is disappointing, however, is this is now the fifth time within twelve years where a Spider-Man story has Peter reuniting with Uncle Ben in some way shape or form. It happened during J. Michael Stracynski’s story Amazing Spider-Man #500, in which Dr. Strange has Uncle Ben’s ghost appear to Peter for five minutes as a birthday present. Then it happened again during Peter David’s run on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, which involved an evil Uncle Ben from a parallel universe as a long-running subplot. And it happened yet again in Brian Reed’s “Spider-Who?” story in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #39, where Peter is never born à la It’s A Wonderful Life, and thus Uncle Ben is still alive. Even Dan Slott has already had Peter reunite with Uncle Ben during Amazing Spider-Man #700 via an out-of-body experience. As a result, whatever emotional impact the last page attempted to have becomes undermined by the narrative equivalency of déjà vu. Then again, “Spider-Verse” has been one long déjà vu experience already since, by Dan Slott’s own admission, he came up with the idea while writing the script for the Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions video game. And let’s not forget the two-part finale of Spider-Man: The Animated Series from the 1990s, which not only has Peter team-up with other versions of himself and travel to other dimensions, he’s also helped by an alternate version of Uncle Ben. Is it any wonder then how some fans have jokingly called Marvel “The House of (Recycled) Ideas” these days?
This is also the issue in which Guiseppe Camuncoli temporarily replaces Olvier Copiel on art, and while Camuncoli penciling is still decent, it’s also a real step down in terms of quality, especially when compared to Copiel’s fantastic looking “family portrait” of the Inheritors he did for this issue’s main cover. There are too many overcrowded and confusing panels during the fight sequences. And while the various figures are still nicely detailed and rendered, there’s one too many times in which some look disproportionate to others, or looking unresponsive to what is supposed to happening on the page. The scene where Solus rips the arm off of Leopardon makes the Inheritor’s patriarch look as though he grew several inches in height while SpOck looks an ant when next to the mecha’s foot. Also, in the page where Silk shows Peter that she’s found Uncle Ben, both Silk and Uncle Ben just stand as though they were stiff, plastic action figures. One gets the impression that in filling in for another artist, Camuncoli is just phoning it in until Copiel comes back.
“Spider-Verse” may be more than half-way done, but it already feels like it’s gone on for way too long. Even as this issue advances the plot, one still gets the sensation the story hasn’t really progressed given how repetitive the last few issues of Amazing Spider-Man have been. Spiders team-up; Inheritors find them; some Spiders are killed; some Spiders escape and regroup; more Spiders appear for the other Spiders to join forces with; rinse, lather, and repeat. As far as I’m concerned, the last two chapters of “Spider-Verse” can’t get here fast enough, not so much because I’m eagerly awaiting them, but because after this comic, I just want this story to be finally, mercifully, over and done with.
- “Holy #@$*! He just killed that Captain Universe Guy! We are so screwed!” First off, Spidey-Punk, Solus didn’t literally just kill him. As we saw in the last issue, all your fellow spiders watched as Morlun’s big bad Snata Claus-looking dad killed Cosmic Spidey and then, based on how Slott wrote it, the spiders reacted and despaired over how their most powerful member was killed, to the point where Copiel’s artwork made it look like they had given up and were walking away from the scene. But I suppose some confusion is warranted since the scene is written and illustrated to look as though Cosmic Spidey just died.
- “Morlun, you have him? The youngest totem?” Yes, Solus, Morlun does have the Scion…just like he you and everyone within earshot last issue while holding up lil’ Benjy as if he were He-Man lifting up his magic sword and declaring “I HAVE THE POWER!” But even baring that, you can totally see that he does because…he’s standing right in front of you!
- Let’s follow the sequence of events here: Mayday was holding Benjy in her arms when, after Solus killed Cosmic Spidey. Then Morlun casually strolled up behind Mayday (Spider-Sense? What’s that?) and slapped her across the face. Then he took Benjy out of her arms and did his He-Man impersonation. Then, a mere split-second later, Mayday gets back on her feet, puts her mask back on, moves at least a yard or two away from Morlun, gets the other spiders around her, pleading for somebody to save her baby, only when she tries to save him, she gets backhanded by Morlun again. Are we sure the Master Weaver isn’t playing around with space-time continuity of his universe, too?
- “This is all my fault.” Well, if you mean letting Silk out Ezekiel’s bunker which shielded her from Morlun and the other Inheritors, thereby triggering off their hunting of all things spider in the first place, then yeah, it totally is, Pete. But if you mean having to leave with Spider-Gwen and Anya Corazon to give Spider-Woman her secret mission after Spider-Man: Noir was injured, then no. As anyone who read Spider-Woman #1, then it’s really all Silk’s fault because if hadn’t been acting like immature cocky idiot, you wouldn’t have to leave to salvage what was left from her mess in the first place.
- Is that supposed to be Peter telling SpOck that he’s not actually leaving Supaidāman behind (even though he totally is) and that he has a plan (even though he really doesn’t)? Because I could swear the word balloons are pointing to Spider-UK in that particular panel.
- “For Silk, this is the end of the line.” Oh, if only that were true. Which lead me to ask why is Cindy Moon even susceptible to radiation like a normal person? After all, wasn’t she bitten by the same radioactive spider which gave Peter his powers? Doesn’t she have the same kind of radioactive properties in her blood as Peter does? For that matter, why are any of the Spider-Men and Women, at least the ones who were bitten by radioactive spiders, even coughing from radioactive dust in the air? You’d think considering how Peter having once injected himself with a radioactive isotope they’d all have more a built-in resistance, right. And on this same point, we also get…
- Yet another random property of Silk’s organic webbing! Not only can she use it to somehow insulate herself from electricity, she can also use it to weave herself a makeshift hazard suit to insulate herself from the fallout of a global thermonuclear war. There is a difference, ladies and gentlemen between suspension of one’s disbelief and utter and complete bullcrap.
- If Jennix has been hearing every one of Peter’s transmissions all along, then wouldn’t he have also heard how Spider-Woman has taken the place of and in disguise as Morlun’s handmaiden and lover and is spying on the Inheritors in the Loomworld? All he has to do is contract Morlun like he did Verna and Jessica Drew’s full-proof, way too coincidental counter-espionage plan would’ve undo
- So Spider-Punk’s itsy-bitsy spikes on his mask are able to withstand and hold up against the full charge of Hammerhead withstand his headbutt? And Spider-Punk doesn’t receive a concussion from this? Unless Spider-Punk really doesn’t have much in terms of brains left. Still funny, though.
- How could Morlun not see Spider-Woman sending the scrolls through a dimensional portal behind her back, given the amount of light and energy those portals appear to give off? I guess he was distracted and dazzled by Jessica’s bright, green eyes or pheromone powers to really notice.
- “Cindy wouldn’t have led us here without a good reason–” Not based on what we’ve seen from her so far, Pete. Also, basing her trustworthiness and competence on because you have the hots for her is not really the sign of an effective leader. Then again, you haven’t exactly been doing a bang-up job in that department, it seems.
- “Smart move?” Silk stumbling into a dimension full of the Inheritors one weakness, which also just so happens to have a bunker to shield your totemic-essences from the Inheritors, which also just so happens to have an Uncle Ben with spider-powers as the last survivor of this post-apocalyptic Earth does not necessarily make a “smart move,” Pete. Luck, maybe. Plot-induced coincidence most definitely, but “smart?” Try again when you’re not being distracted by spider-lust.