New To You Comics #98: Dive Into ‘Amazing Spider-Man: Spider-Verse’

by Tony Thornley

With the comics industry continuing to battle the effects of the pandemic, Brendan Allen and I are continuing to talk about comics that the other might not have read. I’m more of a capes, tights, laser guns and swords guy, while Brendan loves dark magic, criminals, and things that go bump in the night. This week, we dive into a Marvel event that’s had a surprising amount of influence on the company’s multimedia offerings.

Spider-Verse came at a weird time in the history of Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man. The series had just relaunched after the years-long Superior Spider-Man story, in which Doctor Octopus took over Peter Parker’s life. This volume found Peter suddenly picking up the pieces of a life that Otto had completely upended and very nearly ruined.

The volume quickly set a new status quo for the character, and introduced several new supporting cast members. Meanwhile, in the background one of Peter’s newer and more frightening enemies was making a comeback. Soon it was apparent what the volume was headed towards- Spider-Verse, a massive multi-verse Spider-Man event.

Including issues #9-15 of the 2014 volume of Amazing Spider-Man, Dan Slott, Olivier Coipel, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Justin Ponsor, Wave Von Grawbadger, Cam Smith, Livesay, and Chris Eliopoulos simply told one of the biggest Spider-Man stories to date. When a family of powerful energy vampires called the Inheritors start hunting the Spider-Men and Spider-Women of the multiverse, Peter Parker of Earth-616 is forced to take a role he’s never faced to save the multiverse- a leader. But stopping the Inheritors may be more difficult than he expects when his greatest enemy, Otto Octavius, the Superior Spider-Man, returns!

 Tony Thornley: It seems whenever we talk about Marvel books, Spider-Man stuff has been your favorite. Now, I know you were a big fan of Into the Spider-Verse, which we talked about at length when we covered Spider-Men. Now we’re looking at the other big story that influenced that film and I’m sure the differences are much more apparent. This is a big crazy event, but it’s entirely centered on Peter Parker (or Parkers if you’re feeling cheeky). It’s easily one of my favorite Spider-Man stories of the last decade.

Brendan Allen: This one is way more intense than the last. So many more moving pieces. I didn’t really get what was happening in the opening sequence, so I was ready to gig the writing for dated, rhyming slang before I realized it was an alternate Spider-Man, and that must be his thing. Grousing? That reminded me of a terrible joke my grandfather used to always tell. 

Tony: That opener was a great hook to draw the reader in. Still one of my favorite event opening scenes.

I’m going to be straightforward, I think Slott is a good writer, but he can be problematic. At the beginning of this story we see it a little with the relationship between Silk and Spider-Man. When she was introduced, the two of them had a primal urge to be together… in the biblical sense, and Silk’s costume was just being naked with webbing covering stuff (which yes, is at least partially on the co-creator). He has also written other plot points in his career that have been well-meaning but unintentionally transphobic or ableist. In short, he often needs a sensitivity reader and clearly doesn’t have one.

With that said, this is probably his best Spidey story, and he wrote Amazing for a very long time. He took a simple plot point- a character who appeared from nowhere several times, dying after each fight- and created this massive epic around it. The Inheritors are scary on a level that Spidey villains usually aren’t and I love all the different Spider-Men, both new and existing. It’s a big loud event, but it’s also a good solid Spider-Man story with a lot of the emotional stakes that goes with that.

Brendan: Having barely any relevant knowledge of the Spider-Verse, I didn’t have a whole lot of trouble finding my way around. It might be a little bit of an annoyance for diehard readers, but I found the little footnotes really helpful in getting oriented. This was part of a larger crossover, right? That would have been a lifesaver for me if I was trying to follow along in real time, having those little notes telling me which comics to pick up to get the rest of the story. For my purposes here, though, it was just really helpful to know I was supposed to be a little lost when there was a key point that was sort of glossed over. Oh, I would know what that throwaway line of dialogue meant if I had these other sixteen books? Fair.

Tony: Yeah I jokingly sent you the link on Comixology Unlimited of the version that had all the preludes and tie-ins and was over 600 pages. I’m glad they collected it like that, but if you didn’t have that printing, Slott and the editorial team did a solid job of pointing you in the right direction.

Brendan: I’m not reading six hundred pages unless it’s one of my picks. I was about to tell you to pick something else. 

Tony: One day we’ll do the complete Batman: Knightfall and you’re gonna like it.

Brendan: I have Knightfall. All three volumes. You’re getting off topic.

Tony: Hah! I originally read this with all the tie-ins as it came out, and I think I’ve only re-read it once since. I was pretty happy to see it holds up pretty well as just this volume. Yes, there are holes in the story where other stuff is happening in tie-ins (looking at Miles, Jess and Miguel, the most important of the bunch), but it never feels like you can’t follow the story. Everything is relatively easy to follow, and has a relatively strong emotional throughline. Silk, Spider-Girl and Gwen all get solid plots. Peter gains a lot of confidence in himself. Even Otto gets to grow a bit, even if it’s not in a positive direction.

Brendan: Agreed. Like I said, I have no idea who half these Spider characters are, but there’s enough exposition to figure most of it out, and I don’t need to know any of the super deep cuts to get from cover to cover. 

Tony: Agreed and in a lot of cases, it was just enough to make me say “I want to know more about Spider-Punk, Spider-Girl or Ultimate Jessica Drew.” So I think it succeeded there.

A huge draw for the series is the art, I think. Coipel does pencils for the first half of the story, with Camuncoli on the second half, and they really compliment each other. Some of Coipel’s pages are just stunning, and that’s due to his pencils and the stunning work of the late Justin Ponsor. I think Camuncoli is one of the best superhero pencillers out there right now, and this arc is a lot of the reason why.

Brendan: That was another thing that made it pretty easy to tell what was going on. Six hundred Spider-Men on a page? That could have gotten ugly, quickly. Each of the suits has its own little distinguishing features, and several of them also include details that give hints to the character traits of the wearer. I really like the one that has a skull on the chest with spider legs coming off it. Which Spider-Man is that dude? Does he have his own series?

Tony: Spider-Man 2099? I love Miguel O’Hara. You’ll have to read up on him before the next Spider-Verse movie, because he’s going to be a big part of it.

But to your first point, you’re exactly right. There’s often a TON happening on page, and both pencillers always make sure the action is clear and easy to follow. Ponsor’s colors are clear, but they’re not BRIGHT. It’s more like he always had a clear sense of where the light was coming from and made sure you could see the details thanks to that.

Brendan: It’s a beautiful book. The art team had a lot on their plate, and there are really only a few very minor gigs that I could point out, if you really pressed me to. Fantastic job all around.

Tony: I think there’s a lot of value in this event’s tie-ins. Reading this, it doesn’t feel essential to be reading them, but at a minimum, the Spider-Man 2099 and Spider-Woman tie-ins are worth it for getting the whole story. That said, I think it’s fair to say this is probably one of the big two events that handles being an event story best. It’s gorgeous, and a pretty damn fun story, even with its warts.

Brendan: That’s a great point. If it weren’t for the little editor’s notes, it isn’t completely obvious this even IS a crossover event, and that’s really the way crossovers work best. If each piece doesn’t read as its own complete story, you’ve got readers missing out when they shelled out their $5 for their favorite title, only to find they need four more books that week to understand what’s up. 

Tony: So, where did you fall on this?

Brendan: It’s good. Really good. You’ve almost got me wanting to go back and read that 600 page monster to catch all the side action.

Tony: Honestly, it’s Christmas this week. Go do it. Even if not all of the tie-ins are good, they’re mostly very fun. Even with the Greg Land art. What have we got up next?

Brendan: We’re going to have a look at Dark Horse Comics’ Ether Vol. 1, by Matt Kindt and David Rubin.

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