Going back to one of the very first installments of “Spider-Verse” (which, believe it or not, took place in August), the character of Karn – an Inheritor who appeared to be the black sheep of this totem-hunting family – struck me as someone who would likely be a key part of the plot. It’s not every day that a secondary villain gets his very own “B” story in a comic that is geared towards generating sympathy for the character. But the presence of Karn was a Chekovian gun if there ever was one – at least, that’s what I had assumed.
As “Spider-Verse” chugged along through all of its iterations, the focus seemingly moved away from Karn and instead shifted to some of the other Inheritors, as well as some of the numerous other Spider-characters who had not yet made an appearance in the arc. In typical Dan Slott fashion, a bit of lip service was paid to Karn in Amazing Spider-Man #11, with a passing reference to the character that accomplished little beyond showing that Chekovian gun in the holster, still waiting to be fired. Then we got two more issues of ASM and a bunch of other tie-ins, and Karn was pushed to the back of the idea pile again.
That’s why I was so surprised to see that gun finally fire in the first part of one of the “Spider-Verse,” B-titles, Spider-Verse Team-Up #3. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining about any lack of follow-through with Karn’s story, but I have to imagine for anyone who has not been reading (or has given up reading) all of the various tie-ins for this arc that they’re going to be in for a rude awakening when Karn suddenly shows up on Team Spider-Man in next week’s big “Spider-Verse” finale.
For those who think I’m being far too critical of this storyline and I’m not just allowing myself to have fun and “go with it,” the arc of Karn is a perfect demonstration as to why I’ve turned so hard and fast on this whole experience. Introducing a character and teasing his betrayal of his villainous brothers in the main narrative only to bury it and finally pull the trigger in a B book that only a fraction of your audience is reading just epitomes how uncontrollably bloated “Spider-Verse” has become. Such a critical moment – quite possibly the one that will firmly turn the tide in the favor of the Spiders, needs more than just a couple of one-page references before making the big reveal. It’s also entirely unconvincing that a character would finally decide to turn on his blood just because a couple of heroes asked him nicely to do it (as we saw in SV Team-Up #3). Are you telling me that instead of seeing Miles Morales recruiting Cowboy Spiders, or sequences of Japanese Spider-Man triumphantly showing up only to get his rear end handed to him by Solus, we couldn’t have gotten some actual instances of character development with Karn?
What a complete and utter waste of a potentially interesting character. And that’s why I can’t just “go with it” and unclench my sphincter and “enjoy” “Spider-Verse” anymore. The writing and construction of this entire thing has become so clumsy, so awkward, so sloppy, and so lazy that a part of me wants to go into a corner with my old copies of “Maximum Carnage” and say, “well that’s more like it” (BTW – in case you’re a newer reader, “Maximum Carnage” might be one of my least favorite Spidey storylines ever).
And for those who picked up a copy of Spider-Verse Team-Up #3 because of its second story involving Mayday Parker, aka, Spider-Girl, I’m afraid I got some bad news. As much as I love Mayday’s creators, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, and as much as it would be great to see them get a chance to write a new ongoing featuring the character, I just don’t see there being a groundswell of support for a Spider-Girl series after her story in SV Team-Up #3.
Like many of the other stories that have been featured in SV Team-Up, the Mayday story felt so tonally disconnected from the larger narrative, probably because such an eclectic assortment of writers from pat and present who have no connection themselves to the current Slott-driven product were recruited to write it. I appreciate that DeFalco and Frenz were trying to tell a more serious story about character that was suffering with the deaths of her parents and the abduction of her baby brother. But at the same time, there was something almost churlish and impetuous about Mayday’s characterization that missed the mark for me. The way she badgered Spider-Totem Uncle Ben, and generally just carried on about all the phonies and fakes in the world made the character resemble more like a caricature Holden Caufield than Mayday Parker, star of the charmingly affable Spider-Girl series.
The story gets definite points for clarifying one of the biggest misconceptions in Spider-Man history regarding a certain phrase outlining how one must use great power responsibly (something Frenz has commented on during his multiple visits to the Superior/Amazing Spider-Talk podcast), but this issue was hardly the hook for Mayday that Edge of Spider-Verse #2 ended up being for Spider-Gwen.
I had pretty much the same feelings about Karn’s role in this crossover after reading this comic. I’m also reminded of another character I thought was a Chekhov’s Gun — Naamurah from Edge of Spider-Man #3. I thought that character’s powers would come into play somehow during Spider-Verse, but here we are, almost finished and no further signs of her. Makes me wonder why Aaron Aikman’s story in particular was worth a whole issue.