The first issue that connected to “Spider-Verse” — a prologue published in Superior Spider-Man #32 — was published last August, more than six months ago. Just looking at that sentence is difficult to believe, not necessarily because six months is a very long time for a modern comic book arc to unfold (it does seem excessive to me, but with today’s “writing for the trade” mentality by creators, even the best series have a habit of needing five, six or more monthly issues to tell a comprehensive story). But rather because of how little (of consequence) actually happened during the time that “Spider-Verse” was being told.
Don’t be fooled by all of “Spider-Verse’s” moving parts, tie-in issues, secret scrolls and magic crystals and its overall penchant for screaming for the reader’s attention via its parade of meaningless deaths and contrived plot developments. This has long been a story that’s wanted to be epic, but has been meandering and rudderless. A story that chose to prioritize costumes over characters. A story that features “every Spider-Man ever,” but lacks any of Spidey’s trademark heart or humanity.
There will be people who have bought into the all sizzle/no steak approach of Dan Slott, Nick Lowe and their collaborators over the past six months and celebrate “Spider-Verse” for being one of the most “fun” Spider-Man stories ever. I respect your opinion if that’s how you feel, but also acknowledge that there’s very little I can say or do at this point to convince you of the arc’s demerits. I’ve spent the better part of the last six months criticizing “Spider-Verse’s” inconsistent characterization, incomprehensible plot (especially as it pertains to concepts like time travel), sloppy editing, poor narrative construction and chiefly, it’s apparent indifference to actually writing a grand Spider-Man story about Spider-Man (Peter Parker).
So rather than beat that drum one more time, I’m going to use the remaining few paragraphs of this post to celebrate Amazing Spider-Man #15, aka “Spider-Verse’s” epilogue — celebrate the fact that we can finally move on from this story and maybe, hopefully get back to the kinds of character-centric, plot sensitive Spider-Man stories that made me such a fan of this character and the medium.
Because that’s what it ultimately comes to now when it’s time for me to discuss the current state of Amazing Spider-Man — indifference, apathy, frustration and boredom. Six months after first teasing the idea of a threat looming over all of the Spider totems in the Multiverse, we are left with a punchline that the “fabric of reality … the tapestry of the entire multiverse” has been badly damaged by Spider Ock. What does any of this actually mean? Well, to be honest, I really can’t say (or don’t care to say) but all I know is that it’s really, really BAD because the writer of this comic keeps reminding me that it’s very very BAD on every page.
Now, I’m probably just being needlessly cranky here and for me to turn around and lambast a storyline for being inconsequential when Slott is very clearly outlining the aftershocks caused by the past six months of “Spider-Verse,” is quite unfair of me. But I’m not interested in reading a Spider-Man comic book series that centers its drama around some kind of faux philosophical “web of life.” In that regard, “Spider-Verse” looks to be the unwanted gift that keeps finding a way to regift itself to you.
I want a comic book about a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man that stars a hero that I relate to for his shortcomings and his fallibility, while also admiring his passion and humanity. It’s been so long since Slott had written a Spider-Man story like that, I find myself wondering these days if we’ll ever get back to that place. In looking at the previews for Gerry Conway’s “Spiral” arc, there is hope on the horizon, but I worry if “Spiral” is just a brief layover before the comic is mired in the muck again.
Getting back to ASM #15 for a second — a topic I probably haven’t addressed enough considering this blog post is supposed to be a review of Amazing Spider-Man #15 — there were a few moments in the issue that could have potentially grabbed my interest in a significant way, but as “Spider-Verse” often has done in its preceding chapters, these moments all failed to deliver for various reasons.
We got another dramatic showdown between Peter and Spider Ock after Otto finally connects the dots that he is destined to lose his battle for Parker’s body in the future and as a result, refuses to go back to his proper place in the timestream. Otto’s unpredictability lends a sincere bit of drama to this storyline, even with the odd choice by Slott to have all the characters talking over the Peter/Ock fight, narrating it and telling each other what they think is going to happen. I guess a part of me thought for a second that Slott was going to pull the trigger on the unthinkable and find a way to keep Spider Ock in the present day (he still might, but not in this issue). Instead, with all of his brilliance, arrogance and hubris, Otto still just ends up being pushed through a portal like a chump, ending up in the exact same place that we saw him in during Superior Spider-Man #19 back in 2013.That’s how little any of this actually matters. To say that the status quo in this instance is unchanged is an understatement. It’s stuck in neutral. What a boring payoff for the return of one of the most intriguing characters Slott has ever created. Literally (and the word “literally” works here) nothing happened.
There are also some smaller moments in ASM #15 that I saw as missed opportunities. The story teases the idea that Silk might have to stay behind to take over as the Master Weaver after his untimely (and still inexplicable) death at the hands of Otto. I know Silk just had her own debut issue — one I found myself liking far more than I thought I would before the series was released — but rather than doing something more unconventional by showing Silk making a hard decision with dramatic consequences, Slott instead lets her off the hook by having Karn, Anya Corazon and later, a world-less Spider-Man U.K. take care of the dirty work on Loomworld (it doesn’t hurt that these characters tie-in nicely to the Secret Wars: Spider-Verse mini that was recently announced for the Spring).
Mayday Parker, a character that even Peter admits has been “put through the ringer” in this storyline, actually gets a somewhat satisfying conclusion when she reunites with her mother, Mary Jane (who did survive the Inheritors’ attack after all). There’s actually a sense of May’s arc coming to completion as she inherits her father’s old costume and evolves from “Spider-Girl” to “Spider-Woman.” Unfortunately, the actual impact of the moment is lost on anyone who was not already a die-hard fan of the category since Slott and Co. did so little to build this character within the confines of “Spider-Verse.” But to give credit where credit is due, if this sequence is indeed Mayday’s “happily ever after” moment, it was a good one, probably one of the better scenes Slott has scripted in a year.
Lastly, who can forgot the resurrection of Kaine — a character I laughably joked would find a way to return and who can never stay down. Marvel couldn’t even go six months without hitting the reset button on his apparent death at the hands of the Inheritors last month.
And that’s just it … for a long-form serial medium like comics, much of “Spider-Verse” felt like it was being plotted by the seat of its pants. Snap decisions being made then abandoned, then made again. There were parts of ASM #15 that felt very reactionary — like the scene that explains that the Inheritors stranded on the toxic planet won’t die because they’re capable of getting fuel/energy from any kind of animal source. I’m sure this comic was long at the printer by the time myself and other questioned how Peter and the others could leave the Inheritors to die during the conclusion of ASM #14, but the whole thing felt tacked on as if Slott and Co. anticipated that people would call them out for such a incongruous character moment.
That’s best evidenced with Peter’s “final reflection” of sorts upon his return to the 616. Peter claims that the whole “Spider-Verse” experience has instilled in him the confidence to run his own company at Parker Industries — a subplot I quite frankly have forgotten all about. Beyond the fact that Slott’s interpretation of leadership continues to be “Peter just said he’s a leader so he’s a leader” I also was never under the impression that Peter’s inability to run a company had anything to do with a lack of confidence on his part, but more to do with the fact that someone as disorganized and scatterbrained is probably not a great choice to run a multi-national corporation that Otto had set up during Peter’s “absence.”
This entire character beat is just another instance of telling not showing from Slott and Co., a sin that “Spider-Verse” committed far too often.
Better yet, rather than me spill any more words on the topic, let’s just put this all aside and move on. Last one left holding your “Spider-Verse” comic, turn off the lights.