Similar to what took place during “Spider Island” in 2011, Marvel announced a few months ago that there would be a string of spin-off miniseries and tie-in issues connected to its big “Spider-Verse” event. While none of these comics outside of the Rick Remender Venom series proved to be all that consequential to my overall enjoyment of “Spider Island,” there were a couple of entertaining reads found in the bunch, such as the Cloak and Dagger miniseries by Nick Spencer and Emma Rios (which should have led to an ongoing, but apparently people out there just don’t get C&D the way I do).
The beauteous thing about the conceptualization of “Spider-Verse “is by including “every Spider-Man ever,” there’s actually a whole lot of latitude and potential for additional content. That’s part of the reason I’m ever so slightly disappointed with what we got from the first of the spin-off books in Spider-Verse Team-Up #1. Marvel recruited some top notch writing talent for the story, including Christos Gage, who has scripted his fair share of Amazing Spider-Man books during the Dan Slott run, and one of my all-time favorite scribes in Roger Stern, but like a bunch of the books we got during “Spider Island,” this issue has an inconsequential feel to it that doesn’t beg me to rush out and buy the very next book.
That’s not to say this comic is a total washout. It’s entertaining enough, and if you’re a reader who is looking to get a little bit more backstory and characterization about some of these parallel Earth Spideys that are jumping into the main book, then Spider-Verse Team-Up as a series will definitely scratch that itch for you.
As Dan Slott already started to do in ASM #9 last week, these two stories which feature Spider-Ham, “Old Man Spider,” and Spider-Ben (Ben Reilly) in the first, and Spider-Man Noir and Six-Armed Spider-Man in the second, do an admirable job of trying to define all of these “Peter Parker analogues” from each other. Ultimately, the overall strength and impact of “Spider-Verse” is going to rest on how these characters are drawn and evolved. If these characters are constantly under siege from Morlun and the Inheritors, and the body count is going to be as high as I anticipate, then both the main book and the spinoffs need to give me a reason to identify with and care about these characters. Otherwise, this whole storyline is going to collapse under the weight of all of its moving, interchangeable parts.
That’s not to say that either of these tales present dramatic character studies, but both Gage and Stern find little nuanced details to focus on that should potentially add some unique wrinkles to the larger cast. For example, Gage has cast the new iteration of Spider-Ben (who in this dimension, never became a steaming pile of clone goo like he does at the end of the “Clone Saga”) as a cock-eyed optimist who is able to help his teammates succeed against some parallel Vultures despite the fact that the odds are clearly stacked against them.
In the Stern story, Spider-Man Noir is demonstrating some more of his morally ambiguous tendencies and is constantly looking for reasons to put the alternative Peter Parker who is actually transforming into a furry spider “out of his misery.” This attitude stands in stark contrast to the Six-Armed Spider-Man (who is clearly derived from the ASM #100-102 arc involving Morbius and Lizard), who, despite being a monster himself, also maintains all of the positive, admirable traits of the mainstream Peter.
With these characteristics now defined, it should be interesting to see how these stories are eventually honored when these characters make additional cameos and appearances in other books. If everything carries over, which it hopefully should considering the amount of planning that went into “Spider-Verse,” we can at least safely say that Spider-Verse Team-Up (and the other books that are coming out this month) will have served some peripheral purpose. It just appears based on this first issue that it’s unrealistic for us to expect something to happen in one of these spinoff books that will really drive the main “Spider-Verse” narrative in an important way.