There’s a scene early on in Amazing Spider-Man #14 that speaks volumes as to why I’ve had so many problems with “Spider-Verse,” not only in terms of its construction and execution, but also its theme and its message. Peter Parker’s “plan,” which was apparently to just show up at the door of the Inheritor’s home and fight them, is underway and Miles Morales and a cavalry of Spiders (one of about three instances where this issue features a “here comes the cavalry” sequence) shows up to save the day. Spider Ock, always the pragmatist and cynic asks Peter if they are to team up with this band of “misfits” and Peter responds “we’re all misfits.”
I don’t know if in my vocabulary of words I would use to characterize Spider-Man if I’ve ever thought to pull out the word “misfit.” I guess it’s kinda close thematically to a few other words I would prefer to use – outcast, loner, outsider, social pariah – but not exactly. Either way, I think Dan Slott’s choice of words here speaks volumes as to why I’ve had such a difficult time connecting to “Spider-Verse” and its myriad moving parts, tie-ins, etc. How can I be engaged in a storyline that’s a celebration of all things Spider-Man (who, I still maintain, is my favorite superhero of all time) when its central thesis is one that I don’t identity with the central character? “We’re all misfits” at least explains why the story has moved so far from the “Peter Parker is the one true Spider-Man” idea that was first put forward when “Spider-Verse” began, but it doesn’t mean I think Slott has his fingers on the pulse of the character as much as he says he does – or at all really. For 14 issues, Slott has written a comic book series about Spider-Man, but it sure as hell ain’t MY Spider-Man, and that’s where the current state of this comic book series really concerns me.
But beyond any existential crisis I’m currently undergoing related to Amazing Spider-Man, ASM #14 is yet another problematic entry in this very problematic storyline because it marks yet another instance where, in a final chapter, Slott completely fails to stick the landing. Heck, we’re not even talking about a little stumble upon the dismount. We’re talking about a full on faceplant akin to what Slott did in the final chapter of “Goblin Nation” last year.
Granted, based on my opinions regarding “Spider-Verse’s” five preceding chapters, it was going to take the miracle of all miracles to reach a conclusion in this story that I found to be satisfying. But there have been a few instances in the past where Slott has somewhat salvaged things in the final chapter, like with last year’s “Learning to Crawl” miniseries, which I still found to be a dud, but at least had an ending filled with heart and sincerity. In ASM #14, Slott seems to just double down on all the things I found to be absurd and incoherent about “Spider-Verse” – so much so that even some of the folks that were praising the storyline a month or two ago have come around on the fact that its ending fell flat.
There are just things about this story that are fundamentally wrong in terms of how to successfully construct a narrative. You don’t put forward a storyline that consists of what seems like 20 different installments if you count the tie-ins, and then have a major plot point like Silk – the “bride” that the Inheritors need to perform their silly ritual – be kidnapped OFF PANEL. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why something of that magnitude couldn’t have been shown in ASM #13, or even one of the tie-in books where other major plot points that sorta/kinda paid off in this issue were introduced (i.e. Karn’s betrayal of his brothers and sisters and the survival of the Japanese Spider-Man’s robot). Has Spider-book editor Nick Lowe been on vacation the past few months while this story has unfolded or is he just that careless with his oversight (or does he just not care).
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems of this comic book. Honestly, in putting words on a page, I’m having the damndest time coming up with my own cohesive narrative that illustrates all the various issues I had with ASM #14 because the comic itself was so haphazard in its construction.
Let’s touch on some big issues first and see if I have the energy to delve deeper with the small nit-picky stuff.
In a comic book storyline that promised big, Multiverse-bending changes, we once again got something that’s resolved far too neatly, with a bunch of characters doing things without consequence or emotional reflection/consideration because … well, I guess because “Spider-Verse” was to take up six issues and ASM #14 was the sixth one so now it’s time to go. I realized that we’re going to get a special “epilogue” issue in two weeks where “big changes” are being touted again, but fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice … I won’t get fooled again.
Seriously, whatever Slott has up his sleeve is just not going to land with me because nothing about what comes next is going to feel organically “earned” – i.e. properly developed and paid off in a way that is satisfying. Bringing up certain plot points only to abandon them for 5, 10 or 15 issues is not playing “the long game” as Slott likes to boast about himself. It’s lazy storytelling, especially when there’s no real build when Slott impetuously decides NOW is the time for the payoff. So, if this “epilogue” issue is just an excuse to work Spider Ock back into the mainstream universe, I honestly don’t give a hoot because I haven’t been given a reason to care about Spider Ock since the very first chapter of “Goblin Nation” a year ago. His return will neither be triumphant or rage inducing to me, because Slott effectively neutered the character last year when he had him relinquish control of Peter’s body back to him without any real build or reason to do it outside of, “holy crap, it’s Superior Spider-Man issue #30 and we need Peter back in time for his reboot and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in a month. Hurry!!!!”
Besides, over the past few issues, Slott has failed to expand upon a number of interesting moments involving Otto’s character, such as the revelation the character learned about his future self in ASM #13, and the ramifications for him murdering the Master Weaver (which was not part of the “plan” per Peter) in ASM #14. Again, you can’t just narratively carpet-bomb a comic with random moments, walk away for a month or more, and then come back expecting you have something to build upon. I mean, I guess you can, but I don’t think it’s a successful way to go about telling a story.
The same could be said about the Peter/Silk dynamic which Slott chooses to end this story on. Sure, Peter unlocking Cindy from Ezekial’s vault is in effect, what kicked off “Spider-Verse” by alerting the Inheritors to the “bride’s existence.” But after a few issues of Peter and Cindy being all over each other because PHEREMONES, the storyline was put on ice in favor of sending Silk on some wacky adventures with Jessica Drew (and remember, Silk, the comic comes out in a few weeks!). You can tell that Slott is trying to develop a tender moment here with Peter and Silk, but I haven’t been given reason to care about how these two characters interact with each other in months. And it still doesn’t solve the issue I’m having connecting to Silk because there’s still nothing much to her character beyond “Hey kids, she’s linked to Spider-Man and because of PHEREMONES these two just want to have sex all the time. Isn’t that COOL?” Who is she? Who were her parents? Is there anyone else out there who might care about her? What are her powers beyond “everything better than Peter?” How is she adjusting to life out of her vault? I know, I know, these are just trifles, but they’re also not usually things you attempt to answer AFTER a supporting character randomly gets her own solo book after just being introduced a few months ago.
As I anticipated, I already feel myself running out of steam here. Let me just quickly hit upon a few other things: magic crystals which contain the “essence” of the Inheritors has now replaced “secret scrolls” as a plot device I find to be needlessly insipid; it’s majorly disappointing that after being built up for months as this unstoppable force, the Inheritors were treated like a couple of chumps by the Spiders; and doing the old “switcheroo” with baby Benji and Spider-Ham HAD to be all about making Peter cracking a “pig in a blanket” joke (by the way, does Geico get a portion of the profits from this comic for that joke?).
Lastly, what do we make of Peter in this story? The character has been sorely misused and abused since returning last April and this storyline did very little to redeem him. He gets to have his “moment,” sorta, where he teleports himself and Morlun out of Loomworld to the toxic radiation world. Of course, I have some really serious problems with the idea that Peter and the Spiders, who are allegedly above that whole killing thing, have exiled the Inheritors to a planet where there is no source of life for them to feed on. But, I guess because there’s a shelter, and if I learned anything from watching apocalypse movies, shelters always have a supply of canned beans and corn for people to sustain on. Still, can’t help but think that Slott wrote himself into a corner here by making a point of Peter’s “nobody dies” mantra while simultaneously not thinking of a better way for the Spiders to dispatch of the Inheritors. Or is it, “nobody dies … by my hands physically?”
Either way, the storyline that initially started out to be about Peter’s role as the leader of the “Spider-Verse,” instead ended up being a tone deaf hodgepodge of half-baked ideas, all of which were either intentionally or unintentionally ignorant of the character’s history and legacy. Then again, they’re all just a bunch of “misfits” anyway, so what did I expect?
With “Spider-Verse” being over (save the “epilogue”), I thought this was a pretty good time for a quick state of the union for Chasing Amazing.
I’m sure none of you will be surprised to hear that “Spider-Verse” was not as much fun as it was cracked up to be, and we’re now approaching a solid year since I last found a Spider-Man story to be of the quality we were getting in the early parts of the Superior Spider-Man era. After staunchly defending Slott for years, I do think it’s time for him to move on – let him write Silver Surfer and maybe he can jump on Fantastic Four once Marvel inevitably brings the title back after its through with its hissy fit with Fox – but I also don’t think that change is coming anytime soon, which means I need to start thinking more like a consumer than a fan.
I will always buy Amazing Spider-Man just because that’s the series I’ve collected for 25+ years and I’ve invested far much time, emotion and energy into maintaining that collection. Thus, you’ll continue to see me reflect about the new issues of ASM as they are put out. But after being subjected to so much mediocre Spider-product the past year, I’m going to seriously pare book how much ancillary stuff I buy (and write about) going forward. You’ll already noticed that I stopped writing (and buying) Spider-Man and the X-Men after that one awful first issue. And while I thought the series had some promise, I wasn’t all that sold on Spider-Woman, so that’s been dropped too. I’m disappointed that Spider-Man 2099 is being cancelled as a casualty of Secret Wars, but I will continue to buy and review that series until it’s over. Just based on its premise, I’m not all that into the Secret Wars 2099 story that will replace Spider-Man 2099 but maybe as more details emerge I’ll change my mind and give it a chance.
Of the two new books coming out, I’m buying Spider-Gwen and ignoring Silk. Sorry, I still maintain that Silk is being thrust upon us without cause or reason. The fact that it appears that this book was always in the cards while Spider-Gwen was a happy accident, makes me resent the existence of the series even more. If having me ignore Silk sends a message to Marvel and the Spider-office that they can’t just slap together a new book and expect folks like me to buy it, so be it. If the book ends up being great, I can catch up with it on Marvel Unlimited, but I don’t see it lasting beyond a year unless Marvel digs its heels in and insists that it lasts a year.
I’m truly excited about Spider-Gwen as I think Jason Latour and Robbie Rodriguez hit upon something uniquely special in Edge of Spider-Verse #2. It’s on my pull list and will be a part of the Chasing Amazing lineup.
I’m undecided about if and how I’m going to approach some of these Secret Wars tie-in books. I’ll probably ignore the new Spider-Verse book out of principle, while I’ll take all of the others on a case-by-case basis, and make a determination based on whether or not I like the creative teams, premise, etc.
And of course, I’ll continue to write the old retrospective pieces, because with those, more than anything, I hold all the cards as to whether or not I truly want to talk about a storyline. It’s hard to complain about a story you’re voluntarily picking from the annals of history.
Guys, I’m sorry this site has taken such a negative spin the past few months, but I hope you all understand where I’m coming from. I’m always hopeful that the next Spider-Man story will be a great one, but the current creative powers that be have not given me any reason to expect that going forward. I’m sure Slott is a nice enough guy, who did put together some GREAT Spider-Man stories back in the day, but the longer he stays on this book, the more I think his legacy is being tarnished. And yet there are plenty of people who disagree with me, who think the Spider-books have never been better. I mean, SPIDER-HAM for crying out loud, AmIrite? Anyway, not to be glib, but I sometimes wonder if the current state of comics is passing me by and that for every person who says they’re tired of events and status quo upheavals, there are 10 who think this is what comics should be, character or good storytelling be damned.