Peter David Spider-Man books don’t have a happy history of avoiding the influence of larger company-wide or title-wide “events.” During the original Spider-Man 2099 run, the book would intermittingly have to break from its larger narrative to make room for storylines that traversed all the 2099 books. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, PAD’s return to the Spider-Verse in the mid-2000s, was notorious in how it jumped from one big event to the other – “The Other,” “Civil War,” and eventually (sadly) “One More Day.”
So I have to wonder what’s going through David’s mind as his rebooted 2099 series is now getting caught up in “Edge of Spider-Verse.” It makes sense, thematically, for 2099 and Amazing Spider-Man to somehow be intertwined for “Spider-Verse,” especially since both characters are currently co-existing within the same timeline (Earth-616 for all you Multiverse fans out there). But I also thought there would be a bit more to the crossover than what we ultimately got in Spider-Man 2099 #5: which is basically a parallel narrative about Morlun hunting all of the alternative Spider-Man 2099s in the same fashion that he’s currently hunting every “mainstream” Spider-Man.
The whole thing sorta comes across as the Russian nesting doll of storytelling, and while it’s difficult to call out a story such as this for holes in its logic, I still think this approach is flawed and it plays into some of my original misgivings about the “Spider-Verse” concept. If the premise of “Spider-Verse” is that Morlun is hunting every Spider-Man ever, then its immaterial to divide the reader’s attentions between a story that focuses on alternative mainstream Spider-Mans and one that keys in strictly on 2099 variations. In other words, all of these alternative Spider-Men (and women) are part of the same general pool of characters. Does this mean that Morlun and his crew are currently canvassing the Multiverse hunting every iteration of Spider-Ham or Spider-Man Noir? Actually, the answer to that question should be a pretty straightforward “yes,” but such activity doesn’t warrant its own dedicated storyline because it’s safe for all of us to assume when Marvel says “every Spider-Man” ever vis a vis “Spider-Verse,” they mean “every Spider-Man ever” and we should have to uproot the narrative of a perfectly good book like 2099 in order to get a story that mirrors what’s going on in all of the other “Edge of Spider-Verse” tie-ins in the same fashion.
The only variable we received with Miguel O’Hara thus far is that unlike Peter Parker, or some of the other Spider-Men, he seems to have some kind of spiritual connection to his Multiverse ancestors, and as a result is overcome with extreme physical pain and discomfort whenever Morlun strikes one of them. Perhaps as more comics related to this event are released, we’ll learn that this quality isn’t unique to Miguel, but like Chekov’s gun, I fully anticipate a writer as smart and clever as PAD to make this angle part of his hook over the next few issues.
It was nice to see more obscure characters from Marvel past, including a Spider-Man 2099 iteration from the underappreciated Exiles series, but as I’ve mentioned before, having these alternative Spideys as fodder for Morlun is becoming old hat at this point. We’ve already received two issues of Superior Spider-Man, the Edge of Spider-Verse miniserieries, and the B story in Amazing Spider-Man #7 that have all reaffirmed the same point – “every Spider-Man ever” is in grave danger as Morlun continues to hunt and kill these characters for their totemic powers. The initial killing of 2099 in this issue while his Avengers teammates look on is clearly designed to be shocking and unsettling – even Captain America doesn’t know what to make of what just happened – but these seems like the fifth or sixth Spidey character to bite the dust since “Spider-Verse” kicked off. Are you telling me there’s no other way to move off of this one repetitive plot point?
I almost think the storyline would be better served if it took the Crisis on the Infinite Earths approach, which essentially poofed away entire timelines of DC characters without much fanfare (or focus) and saved the more important deaths (Flash, Supergirl) for visual depiction and publication. That way, readers still get a sense of the huge threat Morlun poses (“he just wiped out a million different Spideys in one shot!”), while not potentially negating the impacts of the death of a character of actual importance and history (which I fear will potentially happen, especially with all of the “mwahaha-ing” going on regarding Mayday Spider-Girl Parker in ASM #8).
Again, when David is firmly in control of his own characters and universes, he has demonstrated a gift of storytelling and characterization, so any larger issues I have with the structure of Spider-Man 2099 #5 I’m going to assume its related to the comic being a ham-fisted tie-in to an event that’s not really the brainchild of PAD. That’s not to say I’m going to dismiss these 2099 “Spider-Verse” crossovers, but I remain hopeful that over the course of the next few issues we’ll get something a little more compelling and Miguel O’Hara-centric (and specific) than what Spider-Man 2099 #5 brought us.