Hey, Crawlspacers! It’s your Friendly Neighborhood Amazing Spider-Man reviewer, Stillanerd here doing a special-guest review. This week, there were three other “Spider-Verse” comics published alongside the main series, and today, I’ll be tackling one of them—the final issue of the tie-in mini-series, Spider-Verse Team-Up. So if you want to get mad at what you read here (especially my fellow Spider-Girl fans), then you’ll know who to blame. I’ll promise I’ll be gentle, though.
“Too Many Spider-Men”
WRITER: Christos Gage
PENCILER: Dave Williams
INKER: Dexter Vines
COLORIST: Chris Sotomayor
STORY, PLOT, and PENCILS: Tome DeFalco and Ron Frenz
FINISHED ART: Sal Buscema
COLOR ARTIST: Andrew Crossley
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ARTIST: Jamal Campbell
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY #1: During the events of Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #13, Anya Corazon explains to both Peter and SpOck that the second of the Master Weaver’s scrolls tell about the exiled Inheritor, Karn. Peter is all for Anya mission, but SpOck, having faced Karn before, thinks its a “suicide mission.” But when Anya tells SpOck Karn actually hates his family, his father, Solus, in particular, SpOck (being that he never liked his own father) is convinced. Thus Anya assembles a team consisting of herself, Spider-UK, Spider-Punk, Spider-Man: India, and the Ashley Barton Spider-Girl, as they teleport to Earth-3123. There, Karn is threatening the lives of that world’s Peter and Uncle Ben until the Spider-Totem reveals themselves, who turns out to be Aunt May, aka “Spider-Ma’am” (from What If? #23). She tells Karn he can kill her so long as he spares her husband and nephew. Karn, reminded of his own mother, considers sparing her, until he reminds himself that he must earn the approval of his family. But before he can spear Spider-Ma’am, Anya and her team arrive. However, they’re not looking to fight Karn—they’re asking him to join them.
Karn, believing they are either “despite…or mad,” attacks the Spiders, even as they try to convince him of the truth: that the Inheritors didn’t send him into Exile as punishment for their mother’s death, but because he dared to question their actions. They also point out how, despite all the Spider-Totems he’s killed over the last hundreds of years, his family still never allowed him to return. Karn, however, believes the Inheritors are too powerful to be defeated, but the Spiders tell him he doesn’t have to follow “the natural order,” that according to the Master Weaver’s scroll, Karn wanted to explore and record the other worlds instead of hunt down totems. They then give Karn a choice: he can either tell the Inheritors that the Master Weaver helped the Spiders, or fight by their side. Karn reminds them that, as an Inheritor, he still needs to consume the life force of totems to survive. So Anya offers that Karn can take a little life force from each of them in exchange for his help. Karn, realizing everything he did for the Inheritors was based on a lie, agrees. Thus, after absorbing a portion of the Spiders energy to replenish his strength, he and Spider-Totems teleport away, leaving behind a confused Uncle Ben and Spider-Ma’am, with Peter saying “Well, that was weird.”
STORY #2: On Earth-3145, Mayday Parker demands that her fellow Spider-Men head to Loomworld to save her baby brother, Benny. When the other Spiders are reluctant to go, fearing it’s a suicide mission, Mayday, after calling them phonies, tells them that if her dad—the one she considers the real Spider-Man—were still alive, he would’ve found a way, and that if they won’t help, she’ll go to the Loomworld herself. But she as particular ire towards the Uncle Ben Spidey of Earth-3145, saying that because he allowed his Earth to become a “radioactive wasteland” that he’s “the biggest coward of all.” And, as she leaves the group, Mayday tells the Uncle Ben Spidey that her father would be ashamed of him. Mayday then comes to a dead-end, and proceeds to break through it, determined to rescue Benny, believing it’s her responsibility to save him and her’s alone. However, the Uncle Ben Spidey has followed her, reminding her that they’ve all suffered losses, and asks what her Peter Parker was like. Mayday, in her anger, tells him to “go to hell” and attacks him. She says that her father’s Uncle Ben taught him “to stand tall” and that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Uncle Ben Spidey points out it’s actually “must also come,” a key distinction because power and responsibility are not always linked, that “too many focus on the former without any regard for the other,” and that while he admits he gave up when his Peter and May died, Mayday has no right to judge him. During their fight, Mayday uses impact webbing which surprises the Uncle Ben Spidey; he’s even more surprised when Mayday says it was a gift her own uncle, Ben Reilly, as Reilly was Aunt May’s maiden name.
It’s then that, suddenly, both Mayday and Uncle Ben’s spider-senses warn them that the crack in the wall made by Mayday is growing larger. A cluster of mutant spiders–the only other lifeforms to have survived the nuclear holocaust–tear it down and swarm through. Mayday attempts to slow them down with her Web Stingers, and then her regular webs to entrap others. Finally, after telling the Uncle Ben Spidey to get off the floor, she uses her ability to magnetize object to freeze the spiders in place, allowing for the Uncle Ben Spidey to web the rest of them up into a ball, then seal them outside. Uncle Ben Spidey points out to Mayday that it was because of her anger which led to mutant spiders breaking through, and that she should get her emotions under control and forget about Loomworld. Mayday, more determined that ever to rescue her brother, tells Uncle Ben Spidey that Benny is all she has left. She states that does hope there are an infinite number of alternate worlds, and that one of them has a Mayday Parker waking up to eat wheatcakes with her parents and baby brother, and that she will be fighting for them as she rescues Benny and kills Daemos.
THOUGHTS: The most interesting aspect about Spider-Verse Team-Up #3 isn’t so much what the two stories within the comic are about, but what they share in common despite being written by two different teams of writers and artists. These separate, but interwoven interludes tackle a theme which has been prevalent throughout “Spider-Verse” as a whole and which, up until this comic, was something I had overlooked. That theme is about family—what is a family? What does belonging to a family mean? Must we journey the roads our families paved for us and expect us to follow? How far should our obligations to that family go? And how far are we willing to go to protect them?
In Christos Gage’s “Too Many Spider-Men” (an aptly named description of “Spider-Verse” if there ever was one), Karn is driven to appease and win back the love of his biological family by doing a “duty” he despises no matter how “necessary,” while the Spider-Men are a surrogate family fighting for their own survival. The result is that the Spider-Men chose to adopt Karn, one of the people who has been systematically slaughtering them across the universes, by convincing him that, sometimes, one is not obligated to one’s family if they have abandoned you. In contrast, Mayday Parker, in Tom DeFalco and Ron Frez’s “Bugged”, is driven towards revenge by the loss of her family, determined to save its last surviving member, while the Uncle Ben Spider-Man, literally “the last man on [his] Earth,” just as determined to have her stay in the protective bunker, perhaps in part because Mayday is a reminder of the family he, too, used to have, and what might have been had they survived. Theirs is an actual and figurative conflict between generations, between the impulsiveness and anger of youth, and the punctiliousness and regret of the old, neither of whom, due to their “old Parker gumption,” can see eye-to-eye. Thus, we have one story in which a family comes together, while another is still kept apart.
Something else both tales have in common is they each involve a person or a group of persons trying to persuade someone else to their side while engaged in fisticuffs. This is a common practice is superhero comics, of course, but I believe it’s better used within the context of Gage’s story, as Anya’s group of Spider-People are on a mission to recruit an already confused and antagonistic Karn over to their side. For DeFalco and Frenz’z story on the other hand, Mayday lashing out at the Uncle Ben Spidey both physically and verbally makes sense as it’s in keeping with her need to save her brother. That is until the giant mutant spiders show up. While it’s a clever touch to tie-in Mayday’s ability to use her wall-crawling abilities to “magnetize” other objects as an analogy for her argument that “you [always] have to try,” it’s rather silly that she and the Uncle Ben Spidey would be continuing their debate while midst of what amounts to pest-control.
The other problem DeFalco and Frenz’s story has is that it doesn’t line-up at all with what happens during Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #13, which is when the events of their story are supposed to be taking place. Based on what happens in that particular issue, there’s no opportunity for Mayday and the Uncle Ben Spidey to leave the group as they do here. Furthermore, all the other Spider-Men, except for the Uncle Ben Spidey, are willing and eager to go to Loomworld in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #13, while in this comic, only Mayday is willing to take the chance while everyone else appears to agree with the Uncle Ben Spidey to hide out in the bunker.
Of course, if you read between the lines of DeFalco and Frenz’s story, you can see it’s less about being consistent with “Spider-Verse” and more about alleviating disgruntled fans of Spider-Girl after Dan Slott’s back-up feature in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #8, where he had one of the Inheritors murder her parents and her boyfriend, Wes Westin. After the issue’s publication, Frenz gave an interview to the Swerve Magazine not only announcing that he and DeFalco were going to contribute a Spider-Girl story for “Spider-Verse,” but also openly criticized Slott’s story, that he had missed the basic point on what her solo-series was about, and that he didn’t do the proper research, pointing out how he went as far as to get Mayday’s signature introduction–”My name is May “Mayday” Parker, I’m the daughter of Spider-Man”–completely wrong. So DeFalco and Frenz in “Bugged” have Mayday introduce herself by saying “I’m Mayday Parker, the Spider-Girl,” which were the exact words Slott used for Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #8; they also have Mayday refer to her brother as “Benny,” even though Slott has had her refer to her brother as “Benjy;” and finally, there’s Mayday entertaining the idea of multiple versions of herself in other worlds whose family is alive and well that she’s fighting for. Translation: it’s essentially DeFalco and Frenz saying, “Don’t worry, folks. The Mayday Parker Dan Slott has been using over the course of ‘Spider-Verse’ is just an alternate version. The real Mayday Parker was never in his story, for her parents and boyfriend were never murdered, and her baby brother, Benjy, is safe.”
Now anyone who read my review of Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #8 or listened to the Crawlspace podcast know full-well that I loathed Slott’s Spider-Girl back-up feature in that issue, and I confess there’s some of schadenfreude on my part in seeing Spider-Girl’s creators giving it a metaphorical middle finger. So I completely sympathize with them, as I’d pretty upset too if I had come up with a character and some other writer did something with them that I thought went against everything that character was supposed to stand for. All that being said, however, if you take an objective look at “Spider-Verse” as a whole, then DeFalco and Frenz’s retcon doesn’t actually work. Because like it or not, it’s obvious the Mayday Parker we’re reading about in “Spider-Verse” is supposed to be real Mayday Parker, not some similar-but-different counterpart. The result is we now have one side-story contradicting the main story even before the main story is finished, and all because one creative team didn’t like what another writer did. This is why when you have a story crossing over with multiple titles that an editor needs to step-in and control the situation, and it’s another example of how Nick Lowe has done an inadequate job in managing the Spider-Man group of titles. I suppose one can make the case that it’s up to the reader to decide for themselves if the Spider-Girl in DeFalco and Frenz’s story is or isn’t the “real deal,” but it’s pretty evident from the story which side they come down on, and they could’ve just as easily made the case that this Spider-Girl was not the original without contradicting another story. All they really had to do was have Mayday refer to her brother as “Benjy” and left it at that.
On the other hand, Gage’s story has the exact opposite problem. It’s in sync with Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #8, but it should have been a part of the main narrative, not stuck in some anthology title. Karn joining forces with the Spider-totems is a major narrative turning point, a crucial chapter of the larger story. It’s especially important because based on the Superior Spider-Man #32 and #33 tie-in issues for “Edge of Spider-Verse,” Karn was built-up to be a significant player for the crossover, a character who, in comparison to his siblings, was the most developed of all the Inheritors. Yet with the exception of this comic, he has so far only appeared in one scene in all of “Spider-Verse.” So you would think a character who had been given so much attention and focus in the beginning would not be reduced to a less-than supporting role. Then again, this is yet one more result of “Spider-Verse” having too many so-called characters that even the writers can barely keep track of them.
As for the art, Dave Williams’ work in the first story is decent, but nothing all that exciting. It does what’s required and gets the job done, but that’s all it does. It’s not terrible by any stretch, but it’s not all that great, either. As for the Spider-Girl story, it’s not only great to see her co-creator illustrating her again, but to have such a veteran like “Our Pal” Sal Buscema on board as well. It’s a visual delight for those who love old-school Marvel art-styles, and both Frenz and Buscema are still in top form. It may not be the super-detailed, over-rendered “cinematic” look of contemporary comics, but it’s a fine example of how it’s just as important how to tell a story visually without worrying about whether it will make for great poster art. It’s simple, it’s elegant, it’s consistent, and best of all, it makes the reader understand what is going on in each panel. That, by itself, is worthy of a recommendation.
All the same, I believe that both stories could have been better, and it also highlights just how haphazard, disjointed, confusing, and, dare I say it, lazy the coördination has been between the various comics that are a part of “Spider-Verse.” If there is a silver-lining for Spider-Verse Team-Up #3, it’s that I hope it increases the demand for a new Spider-Girl series written and illustrated by DeFalco and Frenz, because if any comic book character deserves another chance to have a title of her own, it’s definitely Mayday Parker. At least then, her creators would be able to truly free her from of the confines of “Spider-Verse” and give her respect she so deserves.
- Okay, I can see why Anya would be fed up with the Superior Spider-Man, but why would she also be fed up with the Amazing Spider-Man? Peter, after all, is the one who is actually supports her decision to try to recruit Karn against the objections of SpOck. So then why would she be “fed up by both of them?” Unless she’s annoyed over how Peter has acted as the Spider-Totems supposed leader which, given how he’s been acting thus far in “Spider-Verse,” who can blame her?
- Dude, Spider-Punk! I realize you’re supposed to be some anti-establishment rock-and-roll revolutionary where you come from, but that looked like a very expensive guitar you just broke on the side of Karn’s head. Not to mention, where exactly did you get that guitar? Did you tell Anya, “Hey, before we go mess that diving-helmet dude up, mind if we take a quick stop in another dimension first to pick up a six-string?”
- Now far be from me to know how the rules of biology and physics work in comics to the real world, but I’m sure if Karn can actually be harmed by his own harpoon since that’s what he’s been using to draw the life energy from spider-totems. Also, if he could already absorb the life energies of spider-totems with his bare hands just like all the other Inheritors, then why does he even need that energy harpoon at all? Is it just to fit the steampunk nautical theme he has going for him?
- You know, for someone who just wanted to talk to Mayday, the Uncle Ben Spidey put those web-shooters of his on in a hurry. It’s almost as if he anticipated that Mayday would attack him, or that the bunker would be invaded by giant mutated spiders. Speaking of which…
- Spiders are not insects, Uncle Ben! They are arachnids. One has six legs, the other has eight. One has three body segments, the other has two. I realize you weren’ t the budding scientist like your nephew was, but surely he told you the difference while he was alive, right?
- Gee, I hope Mayday and the Uncle Ben Spidey’s webbing doesn’t dissolve after an hour like Spidey’s does, or otherwise somebody is going to have deal with those mutant spiders all over again.