So after the last page from Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #12 “broke the internet,” what’s the story behind the Uncle Ben with spider-powers? And how did his clothes stay so clean and tidy after a nuclear holocaust? And what’s written in those magic scrolls the Master Weaver pulled out of his mechanical nether-regions? And, if you even care at this point, which “Spider-Man” will be quickly and unceremoniously killed off next? Oh, there are answers to those questions, and the answer to the last one may rile a few Clone Saga fans up something fierce.
“Spider-Verse Part Five: Spider-Men: No More”
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKER: Cam Smith
COLORS: Justin Ponsor
LETTERS: Chris Elliopoulos
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
THE STORY: On Loomworld, the Inheritors tell their father, Solus, that their clone factory is destroyed (as seen in Scarlet Spiders #3) and that “the Bride” escaped (as seen in Spider-Woman #2 and Amazing Spider-Man(2014) #12). Solus, however, is unconcerned, as they already have the Scion, and that the Master Weaver has foretold the “the Other” and “the Bride” will come to them. Meanwhile, on Earth-3145 (the post-apocalyptic Earth), the Uncle Ben Spidey explains to Peter and the other Spiders that he used to be the Spider-Man of his world, until one of his enemies, the Emerald Elf (his world’s version of the Green Goblin) learned his secret identity, and killed his world’s Aunt May and Peter. When approached by this world’s version of Ezekiel Sims, who told the bunker could protect him from Morlun, the Uncle Ben Spidey, took him up on his offer. However, while Uncle Ben Spidey was in the bunker, his world’s Otto Octavious held the world hostage with a nuclear bomb; unfortunately, the bomb went off prematurely, killing everyone else on Earth-3145. After Uncle Ben Spidey’s story, Peter opens the Master Weaver’s scrolls, only to find out it’s in a hieroglyphic language none of them understand. Silk, feeling guilty about leaving Spider-Woman behind (as seen in Spider-Woman #2), slips away in secret to teleport to Loomworld to rescue her, and is accompanied by Spider-Gwen.
SpOck takes the scrolls and asks his Anna Maria Marconi holographic AI to run a deciphering program, but she also cannot translate them. Peter expresses surprise that SpOck has a “talking computer” based on Anna Maria, and thus Otto, having deduced that Peter couldn’t possibly know Anna Maria since they never met, realizes Peter is not from the past as he assumed, but from the future. It turns out the only one who can read the scrolls is Anya Corazon, thanks to her powers being more totemic in origin than the other Spiders. She tells them how the Spider-totems are destined to “end the reign of the Inheritors” in 1,000 years, and the Inheritors plan to avoid this by performing a magic ritual which will “wipe out all Spider-Totems from existence.” This ritual requires the blood of The Other (Kaine), the Bride (Silk), and the Scion (Benjy). It’s then Peter realizes Silk is missing, just as he gets her transmission from Loomworld. She, along with Spider-Woman and Spider-Gwen are fighting pirates (as seen in Spider-Woman #3), and during the fight, her communicator/teleporter is damaged. Over in Earth-802, we learn Ben Reilly has sacrificed himself to destroy the Inheritors clone factory (as seen in Scarlet Spiders #3), and Kaine, morphing into the Other, teleports to the Loomworld to seek revenge, leaving Ultimate Jessica Drew behind. Knowing all three totems are in Loomworld, Solus orders Jennix to prepare Benjy for the ritual, as he, Morlun, and Daemos head after Kaine, while Verna, Brix, and Bora, along with Verna’s hounds consisting of different version of the Green Goblin, head after Silk. Kaine, as the Other, is able to kill Solus, but Morlun avenges his father by ripping off and impaling Kaine with one of his spider legs, explaining to Daemos they don’t need the Other to be alive to have its blood.
Peter sends a transmission to all the Spiders that they will be attacking Loomworld, while Anya Corazon, explaining that the scrolls tell of something which will help them, mobilized a team of her own. But as Peter and the other Spiders are about to head out, the Uncle Ben Spidey refuses to go with them. Peter tries to change his mind, showing that Uncle Ben Spidey still kept his suit even after giving up, and that if he’s anything at all like his Uncle Ben, he also knows that “with great power must also come great responsibility.” Uncle Ben Spidey, however, says that men with power are just men, that they make mistakes, and that he cannot afford to fail again. That’s when SpOck berates the Uncle Ben Spidey for quitting, saying that he’s lost more times than anyone but always got back up, because “every fight that ever been worth fighting has been against adversity,” that there’s no such thing as an “unbeatable foe,” and that it’s not their spider-powers who makes who they are, but “the will of the man.” Inspired, the Uncle Ben Spidey suits up, and as the Spiders teleport to Loomworld, SpOck declares “The die is cast!” while Peter’s says as a rallying cry, “Spider-Friends, go for it!”
THOUGHTS: For those who decided to read the recapping of this issue instead of skipping down to this point in the review, I sincerely hope you’re feeling better. Because I imagine after reading that summary, you then squinted your eyes, held the bridge of your nose, prayed that the sudden migraine you had developed would go away, as you thought to yourself, “Good grief! How can anyone even come close to understanding such a convoluted mess?” Believe me, I feel your pain. Because even though Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #13 is better than the previous installment, it’s near incomprehensible unless you’ve not only read each chapter of “Spider-Verse” up to this point, but also every single “Spider-Verse” tie-in issue. And the fault lies as much with editor Nick Lowe in terms of organizing the comics that make up “Spider-Verse” as it does with Dan Slott for outlining it.
Just as we’ve seen all throughout “Spider-Verse,” we are given constant reminders via editorial footnotes—and in many cases, even entire scenes—that involve major plot developments taking place in other comics. Want to know how the Inheritor’s clone factory blew up, and why they’re no longer “immortal?” Sorry! You won’t get an in-depth explanation of that in this issue; you have to read Scarlet Spiders #3. Can’t figure out why during Silk and Spider-Gwen’s rescue-attempt of Spider-Woman they’re all fighting pirates; or why Spider-Woman, after wearing the handmaiden garb given to her by Morlun is back in her costume? Too bad! You have to go out and buy Spider-Woman #3 to make sense of it all, and even then it might not be enough. What did Anya Corazon find out in the second scroll that can help them against the Inheritors? Surprise! You got to read Spider-Verse Team-Up #3 to learn that it’s all about Karn, Morlun’s exiled diving helmet wearing brother who was built-up to be such a major player in the pages of the “Edge of Spider-Verse” tie-ins, Superior Spider-Man #32 and #33, only to have thus far appeared in just one scene in all of the event. Want to know what Miquel O’Hara and the Steampunk Lady Spider are up to, or why they’re in the former “safe zone” before Peter gave them the call? That’s right! You have to get yourself a copy of both last month’s Spider-Man 2099 #7 and next week’s Spider-Man 2099 #8 to get the answer. And what about all those the crazy misadventures Miles Morales and the Spidey from the Ultimate cartoon were up to as they traversed across the multiverse? Too bad, true believers! You’re never going to know because there are no tie-in issues involving them or the other Spider-Men they recruited after Spider-Verse Team-Up #2, and there won’t be any more tie-ins after the last one with Spider-Man 2099. Thanks for getting all worked up over something you’ll never be able to read, suckers!
Oh sure, we’re told that Ben Reilly died when he destroyed the Inheritor’s clone factory (as if you didn’t already guess this months beforehand), which results in Kaine completely succumbing to the Other within him and seeking vengeance. But unless you’ve also been following Scarlet Spiders, you never actually see Ben Reilly die. Thus for anyone who had been just reading Amazing Spider-Man, whatever emotion you may have shared with Kaine over the loss of his “brother,” or whatever sorrow you might have felt when he later meets his supposed demise at the hands of Morlun, neither of those deaths carry any weight. Because outside of Scarlet Spiders, there’s no connection whatsoever to either of those characters. It’s even more of a problem when you also realize that the deaths of Ben Reilly, Kaine, and Solus, are part of a crucial turning point Slott uses in setting the stage for the upcoming climax for the entire story. Like Brad Douglas so appropriately stated on Episode #351 of the Spider-Man Crawlspace Podcast, it’s akin to reading a epic novel with several of its key chapters missing.
I realize this is the nature of the modern comic book crossover, that the major comic book companies publish mini-series tying into the main story to promote lesser known characters, or use this to bolstering the sales of fledgling or newer titles by having them linked to a best-selling title. But it seems some marketing genius figured out that the surefire way to get fans to actually plunk down their cash for those comics was to make sure they contained vital pieces of information and character development essential for telling the complete story in the main series of the crossover. Never mind that this creates a sloppy, inconsistent narrative of varying quality, or that not all readers are going to spend up to $80 or more. So long as Marvel beats out DC Comics in terms of market share, that’s all that really matters, right?
However, when Slott is not forced to depict or rehash scenes from “Spider-Verse’s” multiple tie-ins as part of some editorial edict, that’s where much of the strength in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #13 lies, in particular when it comes to the depiction of Ben Parker of Earth-3145. Even the most casual of fans know of the profound influence Uncle Ben has had on Peter, that even though he was killed off in the very first Spider-Man story, he continues to be both a constant reminder of Peter’s failure to act and the person Peter seeks to live up to and follow in his example. So to see an Uncle Ben who, unlike Peter, started off using his powers as a hero, only to give up after suffering the loss of everyone he ever loved is not only perfect in its dramatic irony, it makes him come off as less of a cipher and someone far more tangible and human. He, just like his nephew, just like every one of us, is imperfect, capable of making tragic mistakes and shortcoming, and who can succumb to moments of weakness and doubt. As Johnny Cash once said, “It is sinners who make the best saints.”
More ironic is that it’s not even Peter who ultimately motivates the spider-powered Uncle Ben to become a Spider-Man again as we would expect, but Otto Octavious, the archenemy of Spider-Man and, as we learn, the one whose counterpart is responsible for destroying this Uncle Ben’s world. In a speech reminiscent of drill sergeant, Dan Slott has Otto remind Uncle Ben, Peter, and the readers that Spider-Man is not just about using one’s gifts, talents, and “powers” for the greater good, but that it’s also about how we deal with the challenges and struggles of everyday living, that it’s how we stand up to them, no matter how insurmountable the odds, is what makes all the difference. That Otto is telling Uncle Ben this after having learned that Peter is going to eventually get his body back, knowing that he will ultimately lose, makes what he says all the more powerful. By itself, this scene is, without a doubt, the best moment in all of “Spider-Verse.”
I say “by itself” because when taken within it’s full, broader context, the scene once again highlights the most glaring misstep Slott has taken since the relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man. It makes Peter Parker—the hero whose name is on the front cover every issue, the designated leader of the Spider-Men, the original Spider-Man himself—look ineffective and weak. No matter how much Slott may try to tell us how great Peter is, what makes him special and important, or why he is the definitive Spider-Man, we keep getting moments which show us otherwise. Had we seen examples of Peter being more competent as a superhero since his return, some proper foreshadowing of his leadership capabilities, then the scene between himself, Otto, and Uncle Ben in this issue would’ve been much more effective, as it would have accomplished what Slott set out to do with this scene and then some. But because Peter far too many times under Slott is made to be naïve, confused, outmatched, and outwitted, it gives the impression Peter is the “inferior Spider-Man” next to the “superior” Doctor Octopus. Also, let’s not forger how Peter Parker was able to get his body back: it was because Otto Octavious gave up, believing he had failed to live up to being a “Superior” Spider-Man. Which means we have the man who inspired Peter being given words of inspiration by someone who winds up proving himself to be a self-important hypocrite.
There are other moments which, by themselves, would’ve acted as great character defining moments. The conversation between Pavitr Prabhakar (aka Spider-Man: India) and Spider-UK gives insight into what these other Spider-Men are feeling on seeing their own counterparts, while also providing some meta-textual commentary over how important can they be if they are just derivatives of one particular person instead of having their own unique identity. Anya Corazon winds up being crucial to figuring out the Inheritors plans in a way that ties back to the origins of her powers. It’s a shame then that “Spider-Verse” has spent little to no time with these other versions of Spider-Man up to this point, a matter which could have been easily rectified from the beginning had there been fewer characters to deal with instead of featuring “every single Spider-Man ever!” The only one who has gotten close to having an arc has been Mayday Parker, and she’s essentially reduced in this issue of having to plead for the others to help save her brother, or shamming the Uncle Ben Spidey for acting like a coward.
The comic also creates a rather humungous plot hole which threatens to undermine everything that has transpired in “Spider-Verse” up to this point, thanks to what is revealed within the Master Weaver’s magic scrolls. Granted, the Inheritors wanting to prevent themselves from being overthrown by the Spider-Totems is understandable, even though it also means making their primary source of food extinct in one fell swoop. Or that their sudden urge to go after all the Spider-Totems now was never that solid a foundation for “Spider-Verse” to begin with, even more so since we learn they literally have a 1,000 years worth of leeway, that there won’t be any more Spider-Totems after Benjy, which gives them plenty of time to plan and prepare. What makes less sense, however, is that if they just needed the blood of only three Spider-Totems, then why even go on a rampage across the entire multiverse to hunt down and kill every single Spider-Totem who were not those three? Remember, Solus has stated many times throughout “Spider-Verse” that he, thanks to the Master Weaver and his Web of Life and Destiny, knew exactly where the Other, the Bride, and the Scion would be all along; so why not just tell his steampunk vampire children where they were from the start so they could just capture them to begin with? Better still, all they really needed to do was to capture just one of those Spider-Totems because, as foretold by the Master Weaver, the other two would come to Loomworld anyway, which is exactly what happened. The result is that every single death of nearly every alternate version of Spider-Man becomes even more pointless and unnecessary than they already were because the Inheritors never actually had to hunt them down. But I guess that would’ve made “Spider-Verse” a lot shorter and less expensive since there wouldn’t have been all those “Edge of Spider-Verse” and “Spider-Verse” comics being published these last several months.
Fortunately, Giuseppe Camuncoli appears to be back in form as his art is much improved over last issue. Perhaps this is due to how this chapter allows for more quieter, reflective moments, thus giving Camuncoli a chance to better opportunity for characters to have more distinctive and plausible-looking body postures and facial expressions (although holy cow! What’s with Daemos’ enlarged eyes!) to visually convey the correct emotions behind the dialogue. Not that he’s any slouch when it comes to depicting any on-panel action, as the two key fight sequences are highly-detailed yet easy to follow. The image of Kaine in his complete Other form as a gargantuan man-spider is equally impressive, and you can mentally feel the weight and power behind his punches, footfalls, and spines.
In my last review, I lambasted “Spider-Verse” for becoming a “joyless, over-padded, tedious slog. With this penultimate chapter, we see the glimpses of what “Spider-Verse” might have been had the story managed to avoid such a path. Because as great as those moment between Peter, SpOck, and the spider-powered Uncle Ben were, as nice as it is to see other Spiders have their moment to shine, or, in the case of Silk, see that she’s not always little miss perfect, it feels as though it has come far too late for it to matter. As I said earlier, Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #13 is better than #12, but this only means it’s not as good as it might have been. And the bloom which was the promise of “Spider-Verse” has long since faded from the rose. If only we didn’t have to depend so much on those “missing chapters” in those other comics.
- Wow! I thought babies are supposed to grow as they got older, not shrink. Just look at the size of Benjy’s head when compared to Morlun’s big bad Santa Claus daddy, Solus. It’s the same size as Solus’ chin! If I didn’t know any better, I would think the MC2 Mary Jane gave birth to one of those 12 inch G.I. Joe action figures.
- “Petey thought it was the bee’s knees.” Really, Uncle Ben? The bee’s knees? The last time that was a popular saying was during Prohibition, and even though you’re supposed to be a senior citizen, you don’t look that old. Besides, with you being near the same age as Martin Sheen, I would think it would have much more sense for you to say “Petey thought it was far out.”
- Okay, I’m willing to give Silk somewhat of a pass for how she could possibly know about Peter’s Uncle Ben as it’s likely that Uncle Ben told her who he was off panel. But how does she know the name of Inheritor’s home dimension? Did she, at any time, hear the word “Loomworld” mention by anyone? Oh right, it was probably in one of those Spider-Woman comics I was supposed to read to figure out what the hell is going on in this story.
- No, Spider-Gwen. “Everyone” did not tell you stay behind back in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #10. Only Peter did, and he was overruled. “Everyone” (well, just Ezekiel Sims, actually) told Silk to stay behind because, being that she was “the Bride,” she would attract the other Inheritors to them and thus be a liability. Which proved to be correct. Just because your counterpart was a love interest of Peter’s does mean you’re also comparable to his current “love interest.” Besides, everyone knows you’re much cooler than Silk could ever hope to be.
- “And that other fella? Who’s to say he’s not a pale reflection of you.” Wait a minute, Spider-UK…are you actually saying that, because Pavitr is East Indian and Peter is Caucasian, that Peter is literally a “pale reflection” of Pavitr? Because if you only meant so metaphorically, then that was a very unfortunate and awkward choice of words to say the least. I mean you’re already on thin ice when you consider the tense and volatile relationship Great Britain had with India back when it was one of their colonies.
- “Sweet…sour.” Oh, I get it! Spider-Ham’s commentary of what Anya says about the scrolls is a reference towards sweet and sour pork. And since he’s a pig…yeah, we here at the Crawlspace are great admirer of hammy puns.
- You know, Kaine, I probably would’ve been a lot more heartbroken over your death if (along with not having to read Scarlet Spiders in order actually be invested in your character arc) you hadn’t backhanded the Ultimate Comics Jessica Drew on your way into the portal to Loomworld. Sure, you’re giving into the Other, but still…
- Really, Jessica? You’re snappy comeback to Silk sheepish defense of how a multiversal pirate damaged the teleporter is to say “That’s your answer for everything?” How does even make any sense, especially if Silk’s original teleporter was also damaged by multiversal pirates? Then again, it maybe she did and I just don’t know about this because I have to read yet another tie-in comic to figure out if this is true or not.
- So I guess Morlun’s big bad Santa dad getting jobbed by Kaine is supposed to make for how Cosmic Spidey, Leopardon, and other jobbed to Solus. Only to wind up being a zero sum game since Kaine ends up jobbing to Morlun. Not exactly a dignified way to go out considering who Peter’s one-time evil clone used to be in two ongoing series not too long ago.
- Pete, I know you’re trying, but the Spider-Friends were not your group of other Spider-Men and Women from parallel worlds. They were a version of you, Firestar, and Iceman. And they’re dead now. Now if you excuse me, I’ve just inadvertently brought up some painful memories of Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #7, so I’m going to go off to have good cry now.