I’m currently working on an article that examines the success of All New Marvel’s Spider-Female push. Considering it all started with Spider-Woman #1, a Spider-Verse tie in, I figured I’d throw together a quick review of the recent Secret Wars Miniseries, inspired by Dan Slott’s 2014 event. Does going back to where it all started bring out the best for our Spider-Women, Anya Corazon and Gwen Stacy?
There was an issue with the color of the text in writing this review, so this may not be viewable on mobile. Apologies for that.
Spider-Verse: Volume Two
Writer: Mike Costa
Artists: Andre Araujo (Issue’s 1-5, main story) & Steven Sanders (Spider-Ham Back-Up, Issue 1)
Colorists: Rachelle Rosenberg & Jim Campbell (Spider-Ham Back Up)
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Nick Bradshaw (Issues 1-4) & Jim Campbell (Issues 1-4) & Andre Araujo (Issue 5) & John Ruach (Issue 5)
Editors: Devin Lewis & Nick Lowe
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Anya Corazon finds herself trapped in a world that is not her own. Her stable rock is her mentor and fellow Spider-Person, Billy Braddock aka Spider-Man UK. The duo are assaulted by Oscorp goons but beat them with aid from the Spider-Man of India, Pavitr Prabhakar, who reveals he has been using his spider sense to track those with similar abilities.
This ability to track Spiders leads them to Gwen and Spider-Ham. Pavitr brings them to his place and explains how they’re all from universes that no longer exist, brought together through a connection he has learned to track. He leads them to Spider-Man Noir, but the Spiders are attacked by a version of the Sinister Six. The Six take down the Spiders quickly and bring them to Norman. He apologizes for the Sinister Six’s rash actions, explaining he wants to work with them. Norman discovered a web amongst the DNA of the universe, one broken into tiny pieces. Each Spider is a piece of that web, something Pavitr geeks out over. Gwen freaks out and tries to talk the others out of it unsuccessfully; Billy and Anya stay behind to look after Pavitr, Noir stays out of curiosity, and Spider-Ham is already working with Norman.
Gwen leaves and goes to her grave to find peace of mind, but meets this universe’s Peter Parker instead. Before they can talk much, Venom attacks them. Gwen learns Peter is powerless and Venom is working for Osborn. Gwen is able to take Venom down with a sonic guitar solo and Peter explains that Noir found and recruited him, so they could stop Norman with help from other Spiders. Peter sends a picture of himself to Norman to draw him and his goons out, while Gwen goes to the others.While the others are nerding out, Anya and Spider-Ham eat at a buffet. Ham explains that Norman has a special chair that he believes will give him the power to kill Doom. Anya grabs the others and they examine this chair, The Siege Perilous. It begins to react to the Spiders, alerting Doom’s Thor Corps to its presence. A female Thor arrives and deduces that the Siege Perilous draws power from the Spiders. Gwen arrives just in time for Thor to decide on killing them. Nothing the Spider-Folk do seems to harm Thor, so they try to destroy the Siege Perilous to appease her. Instead, they accidentally activate it, blowing up part of OsCorp and knocking the Thor out. Norman returns with Peter at this point and he tries to use the Siege Perilous to attack Doom. Peter and Spider-Ham manage to destroy the machine while Norman is inside, frying his brain.
With the Baron of this realm brain dead, chaos will settle in. But the Spiders decide to remain a team and protect the city.
Not the worst way to spend a friday evening: Mike Costa, Andre Araujo, and Rachelle Rosenberg take the reigns of several notable alternate Spiders in this miniseries, but more than anything else, this book feels like a continuation of Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi’s Spider-Gwen series. Gwen is front and center, easily the most proactive member of the group, and constantly on the move while the others are often forced to share screen time with one another. Spider-Verse references several things from Gwen’s ongoing, so it’s clear the creative team did their homework. Gwen comes off as a cynical young adult, critical of everything and everyone, but also determined to get answers. It’s a Gwen Stacy I don’t think perfectly lines up with what we’ve been given, but she might be even better.
The real show stealer though is Spider-Ham, who is a constant and consistent source of humor throughout the book. He gets the most scenes of the non-Gwen Spiders, largely because Costa takes notes from Gwen’s series, developing a good relationship between Ham and Gwen, based off of her hallucinations. He is also meant to be the focus of the backups, appearing in the first issue before the backups just disappear (unless the to be continued of the first backup meant in the main story, which then raises a confusing question about continuity. How is it to be continued if the proceeding events took place before the actual back-up in the main story?) Continuity confusion aside, Ham’s shtick of being an avid fan of pork foods is mined to great effect here; one built off a joke in the second issue of Spider-Gwen.
After Ham, I would say Spider-Man Noir fares the best. His investigative skills pull him ahead of the pack, as does his more violent nature; he shoots Carnage several times to put the symbiote into a coma, but admits he only learned this by shooting him the first time. His 1930s views gives him a distinctive voice, one a little bit racist and sexist, and he’s played very deadpan against the others for comedic effect.
After Noir, I’d say Pavitr has the last meaty role in the series, bringing the scientific mind of Peter Parker to the forefront. He’s arguably the most proactive aside from Gwen and is the weakest fighter in the group, making him the brains but not the brawn. His quips are few and fair between, playing his scientific mind off everything happening around him to great effect.
Sadly, Billy and Anya feel like an after thought, only in here to continue the dynamic duo status quo they were given after Spider-Verse. Anya is reduced to being the team’s bad ass fighter, moving with more grace than her mentor and most of his skill. Billy gets a few good one liners, but not much else. None of their material is bad, there just isn’t much of it.
While I’m discussing characters, I should mention Peter. In this universe, Peter lost his powers, settled down with MJ, and had a kid. In his place, Ben Reilly took over as Spider-Man, until Norman Osborn killed him. Peter is used to great effect here, a vital side character who never steals the show but charms constantly and helps move events along. He also kind of saves the day, but not in a way that overshadows the other Spiders.
The strongest thing in Spider-Verse is the humor. After an over reliance on movie quotes and fish out of water humor in the first couple issues, I was worried we’d see an Avengers 2 level of endless quips. Thankfully, the quips are fairly spread out amongst the Peters and based off their personalities; Ham’s love of Pork based food, Noir’s racism/sexism, Pavitar’s science, Billy’s leadership. The battle quips are great too, with distinctive moments like Anya fumbling her joke or Billy joking he’s waiting for an anvil to drop on Spider-Ham’s head. There’s recurring jokes by the end of Spider-Verse and I hope some carry over to the Web Warriors ongoing.
There’s an interesting focus on battle techniques in this mini, with characters examining one another and their ability (or inability) to work together as a whole. While this could come off as more ‘telling’ than ‘showing’, it actually works here, allowing each character to develop their own fighting style with limited panel space. Seeing Gwen line launching herself at Scorpion after Billy notes she likes ranged attacks gives us a good idea of how she is fighting off panel. It’s not executed perfectly, but it works.
Another thing that works more than it doesn’t is Costa’s over reliance on exposition. In his Scarlet Spiders miniseries, he practically narrated the events of the issue, instead of letting them play out. In this one, he handles exposition much better, managing to hide it fairly well in Gwen’s sarcastic thoughts, using humor to make it less overbearing. Again, it’s not great that it’s in here, but I appreciate the effort to at least make it entertaining for us.
Before I shift gears to look at the art, I have to point out that they took the Siege Perilous from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. I hated that cartoon, except for the Spider-Verse episodes, so I thought it was a neat addition to add it to the Spider-Verse miniseries.
I would say the best way to describe Andre Araujo’s work on Spider-Verse is admirable. I really get the sense he’s out of his depth, but he still tackles every issue with everything he’s got. And to his credit, his action is easy to follow, if a little stilted. And his facial expressions are easy to understand, something even the greats can struggle with. Hair is a definite weakness in his art, but it helps that the majority of the cast wear masks. His backgrounds are also fairly sparse, but his work does improve as the mini goes on. There is the makings of a strong artist with a distinctive style here, something akin to Nick Dragotta’s work, and hopefully he gets better with practice and more work.
Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg delivers some good work here as well. She does good work with the somber scenes, out in the rain, but she is severely limited by the fact most of the series takes place indoors. One of the strengths of the Spider-Gwen series is Rico Renzi’s bombastic colors, giving an animated feel to the art, something Rosenberg doesn’t get much of a chance to do, outside the Gwen/Venom fight in issue 4. Where Rosenberg truly excels is in the scenes that occur outdoors. Her sky is fluid, constantly changing colors and sneaking indoors however it can. She also does a good job of drawing the eye to our Spiders’ webs and energy/lightning from enemies, so we can follow the fights easily.
Verdict: I was really worried when I learned Costa would be taking over for our Spider-Verse crew. I disliked his style in Scarlet Spiders and I wasn’t over the roof when they announced Andre Araujo as the artist. But this is some fine work from both of them, tapping into what made the Spider-Gwen series great (cynical humor mixed with a bit of heart) while also managing to distinguish the Spiders from one another, better than what was done in the Spider-Verse event. Spider-Verse is not without flaws though, especially in regards to Anya Corazon and an over abundance of exposition. My biggest worry going forward is how little of what occurred on panel will make it out of Secret Wars, since we’re pretty in the dark here on post-SW Marvel. But I’m glad this team of Spiders is continuing and hopefully we’ll shift away from Gwen to focus on the other members of the team.
- Fights easy to follow
- Exposition Heavy
- Backups Disappear after Issue 1
- Colorist Limited by Script
Issue 1: C (Gwen is great, the others get short-ended)
Issue 2: B- (Noir, teams come together, but exposition heavy)
Issue 3: B+ (Ham, Peter Parker, fight but still super exposition heavy)
Issue 4: A- (Fun fights, Peter charms, Ham/Anya, ties into Secret Wars)
Issue 5: B (rushes to the end, but has a lot of fun doing so)
Going forward, Mike Costa will continue to write the Spiders’ adventures in Web Warriors, where he will be joined by artist David Baldeon. Spider-UK will lead the team, Gwen will continue as our PoV character, and Electro will be our big bad for the opening arc. The team’s goal will be the protection of the Web of Destiny and Costa plans to bounce the heroes around many universes, starting with Earth-9105, a world where Pharohs still rule and their Spider-Man was killed by Morlun. It does sound like this series will pick up after the Spider-Verse event, not the Secret Wars mini.
Moving forward, I hope Costa and Latour communicate with each other to create a sense of continuity for Gwen. If the events that occur in this mini remain in Gwen’s mind, then this the first time she meets a symbiote, something I’m sure will come up in Spider-Gwen somewhere down the line. With this experience under her belt, Gwen could really emerge as one of the great Spiders, far more prepared for the threats her universe will throw at her than she was in volume one. Also, this better lead to Robbi Rodriguez getting the chance to draw Spider-Ham again, the character he was born to draw.