One of the things I’ve heard repeatedly from people who are fans of “Spider-Verse” is that I need to be more forgiving of its narrative flaws because it’s “fun.” It’s “fun” that all of these different Spiders from around the Multiverse are showing up and having an impact. It’s “fun” to watch these character interact on these far-out worlds and dimensions.
My stance has been what’s so fun about a storyline that features a diverse range of crazy characters that are mostly standing in a circle talking about what they’re going to do next? What’s fun in introducing Spider after Spider if these characters don’t have a distinct voice or reason to care about them (other than their connection to past stories)? What’s fun about introducing themes and ideas, only to drop them from your narrative and then pull them out again at the 11th hour when it’s most convenient (rather than let the storyline develop organically).
That’s not fun.
But I’m not going to be needlessly unfair to this storyline just for the sake of being contrary. The main reason why I opened with this “fun” vs. “not fun” spiel is because I thought last week’s Spider-Man 2099 #8 – the penultimate chapter of “Spider-Verse”– was a lot of fun. In fact, after reading this comic, I came to a realization that if the 950 or so other installments of “Spider-Verse” were as much fun as Spider-Man 2099 #8, I probably would have a far more favorable impression of this arc right now.
Spider-Man 2099 #8 is not a perfect comic, but it’s the kind of comic I was quietly hoping for when the idea for “Spider-Verse” was first put forward by Dan Slott and Marvel last year. It features unique and silly new worlds, new but familiar characters, and heroes with a defined voice and purpose.
In short, if you told me that one component of “Spider-Verse” would have involved traveling to a universe that’s stuck in the late 1800s and features an iteration of Norman Osborn/Green Goblin leading a group of villains dubbed the “Sinestry Six” I would have absolutely have signed up for the story in an instant. Watching Miguel and Lady Spider take on these hilarious villains is just a lot of fun (worth noting: Otto Octavius in period costume – a trench coat and fedora – doesn’t look all that different from the Sam Raimi take on the character in Spider-Man 2). These are the kinds of stories that make me a fan of the superhero genre – no fuss, no muss, just fists, feet and some snarky banter between good guys and bad guys.
And that’s not to say the whole comic is fluff either. Peter David’s script delivers some pretty inspiring character beats, most notably in the beginning when Miguel and Lady Spider arrive at the site that was formerly known as the “Safe Zone” and see their fallen comrades. The duo has a very honest and authentic reaction. They wonder if they are the only two Spiders left. And in true Spider-Man fashion, Miguel offers that even if they are, they are NOT going to “die today.”
The issue even finds a way to come back to the otherwise frivolous scene from Amazing Spider-Man #12 where Japanese Spider-Man showed up in his big battle robot. Though, if I’m being perfectly honest, having Miguel and Lady Spider take the robot back to the 1890s to fix it up for the “final battle” against the Inheritors still doesn’t exactly make up for the fact that the entire Japanese Spider-Man sequence felt like it was attached to the narrative with a rivet gun. But since I’ve complained a few times about there being a bunch of Chekovian guns that haven’t fired in this story, we at least now have Chekov’s Robot. Plus, it is yet another tool for the Spiders to use against the Inheritors, and between the big fighting robot and Karn’s betrayal of his family, readers have at least been given a reason to believe that Spider-man can actually win this fight.
But I think what works best about Spider-Man 2099 #8 is that even if it’s read in a vacuum, David manages to tell a self-contained story that hits all the beats it needs to. Would reading the entirety of “Spider-Verse” enhance one’s understanding of every little nuanced thing that went on in this comic? Of course it would. But one could still derive joy from it all the same, an element that has just been sorely lacking from the bulk of the other tie-ins, including the previous three issues of Spider-Man 2099. This comic gives me hope that David is still committed to telling the same kind of fun stories with Miguel that he did in the 1990s, and that this whole relaunch wasn’t just some kind of cynical cash grab to tie into somebody else’s storyline.
Now let’s bring on Future Imperfect Hulk (another great Peter David story from the past) and be done with it.