Spencer: Obviously, the major draw of Spider-Verse is getting to see so many Spider-Men together in one place. It’s easy to think of them all as one homogenous whole — they’re all Spiders, after all — but this group is actually quite diverse, with each alternate Spider holding their own opinions and viewpoints. The readers no doubt want to see these heroes all work together, but what happens when their ideals begin to clash? This is the bread-and-butter of Dan Slott and Olivier Coipel’s Amazing Spider-Man 10; from Silk chafing at her strict handlers to the science vs. magic debates of Otto and Old Man Spider, this issue is all about the conflicts that threaten to tear the spiders apart when they need to join together the most.
So it turns out there’s two different groups of Spider-Men banding together across the multiverse. Old Man Spider and the Universal Spider-Man of Earth-13 have gathered a group that includes Mayday Parker, Spider-Gwen, and “our” Spider-Men from Earth-616, while the “Superior Spider-Man” — Otto Octavius in Peter’s body, from a time before Peter’s revival — has assembled a team that includes Miles Morales, Lady Spider and Spider-Man Noir, and my new personal favorite, Spider-Punk!
Old Man Spider and Peter teleport a team to Otto’s base in an attempt to unite the two groups and bring them to the sanctuary on Earth-13, but Otto will have none of it; he had a specific plan of how he wanted to approach the other group, and this wasn’t how things were supposed to go down. As is often the case, Otto isn’t entirely wrong — gathering so many spiders in one place overwhelms Otto’s shielding and attracts the attention of the Inheritors. Old Man Spider — who turns out to be a version of Ezekiel — is killed, and the rest of the team is scattered into the various Spider-Verse tie-ins. Otto and Peter make it back to Earth-13, though, where Otto immediately, and unsurprisingly, tries to take control of the group.
I mention the tie-ins because it’s obvious that the purpose of this issue is to split the Spiders up into smaller groups so that we can follow them into as many tie-in titles as possible; this comes across as a bit crass, but with a group of characters this large, it’s probably necessary. Again, with so many characters in play there’s a lot of place-setting going on in this issue, and while it may be necessary, it’s not always elegant.
Take, for example, the scene where the group from Earth-13 jumps over to Otto’s world.
It took me a while to figure out who the ninth Spider going on this mission was — the one who took Gwen’s spot — and I literally had to scour the rest of the issue and continually compare it to these panels to realize that it’s Kaine. It’s not the biggest complaint, and I don’t mind putting a little work into my reading, but Slott and Coipel aren’t very clear here at all.
The real reason I cite this scene, though, is because I still haven’t figured out why three different teams — nine Spiders in all — were needed to recruit Otto’s group. The “real” reason is because all of these Spiders need to be present for plot reasons — either to kill them off or send them off into other titles — but Slott never gives us an in-universe reason why Ezekiel needs so many Spiders just to convince Otto to come with him. It seems like a job two or three Spiders could do easily; after all, the mission’s more about persuasion than manpower.
Like I said, it’s far from the most elegant place-setting I’ve ever seen, but fortunately, other scenes pull this off with much more panache. The conflict between Old Man Spider and Superior Spider-Man, for example, works because its justified both by the plot and the personalities of each character. Ezekiel’s folklore and Otto’s science are obviously at odds, but these two ultimately clash because they’re just too similar; both want to lead, are 100% convinced that they’re always right, and refuse to listen to anybody else. It’s their inability to cooperate or properly communicate that leads to much of the trouble that follows, and the fact that this conflict originates from such a logical place makes it that much easier to accept the consequences that arise.
Falling somewhere in the middle of this spectrum is Silk, a character who I’m still not quite sure how I feel about.
I can completely understand where Cindy’s coming from here. She spent most of her life locked away, so of course she’s eager to seek out new connections, both platonic and romantic. It’s just as understandable that she might be distracted by so many good looking men in spandex, even in the middle of such a dangerous assignment. Even when Silk sneaks through Peter’s teleportation field despite knowing better I can at least understand why — after spending a decade following Ezekiel’s orders to stay shut she’s tired of being ordered around, and Old Man Spider was frustratingly unforthcoming about the reasons why she should stay.
Silk’s motivations may be clear, but that doesn’t change how frustrating she is. Silk is so “special” that she has to be protected at all costs, but she’s constantly distracted, disobeying orders, causing catastrophes or needing to be rescued, which is pretty much the ultimate recipe for creating a Scrappy. Cindy has enough personality that I want to care about her, but it’s hard to get invested in a character who only seems to be here to cause conflict.
Despite my complaints I still enjoyed most of this issue — it’s clearly an important part of Spider-Verse, I’m always up for seeing Otto again, and the interaction between the Spiders is still fun — but the seams definitely showed here in ways that they hadn’t previously. Drew, did you have similar problems with this issue, or did it work better for you? Did the Old Man Spider/Ezekiel reveal mean anything to you? Who’s your favorite new Spider so far?
Drew: You know, I would have had a hard time answering that question until this introduced Spider-Monkey the spider monkey. It’s such a stupid non-pun, I was instantly hooked (and who doesn’t love a monkey?), and a quick jump over to his Marvel wiki entry reveals that he is a member of the Ape-Vengers, and that his arch-nemesis is Otto Ooktavius. Peter Porker is arguably the better pun, but I’ve always been a sucker for monkey jokes.
Anyway, as for the more important question of whether I was also distracted by the transparent machinations of this issue, I have to admit that I was. I really wasn’t bothered by the seemingly arbitrary decision to take three teams (though they were suspiciously populated with well-known characters) at the time. Indeed, I was simply along for the ride until Nick Lowe inserts his third editor’s note, cheekishly acknowledging just how many tie-ins are spinning out of this one. It’s not that I begrudge him wanting to advertise the other issues tying into this event, or even having a sense of humor about it, but it encroaches on the narrative just enough to make me aware of why this issue is structured the way it is.
In hindsight, the sending of nine Spiders to recruit Otto’s team isn’t just arbitrary overkill, it’s downright irresponsible. They didn’t suspect that Otto had rigged some kind of shield for his team, and Old Man Spider-Man even acknowledges that the numbers Otto has amassed are bound to attract the attention of the Inheritors. It seems like throwing a large volume of Spiders at the situation — even without Silk — would be fanning the flames. It’s not totally clear how many Spiders Otto has recruited (by my count, his team is 12 including Otto), but nine (or ten, as it turns out) more is obviously a pretty significant increase. Maybe there are limits on how many people can ride one of their transportation thingys (in which case, just sending the three with the transporters would have been objectively better), or maybe Old Man Spider-Man has some bizarre nine-on-one negotiation strategy that he somehow thinks is more, but it really feels like the only explanation is narrative convenience.
Now, I should be clear: I’m not against narrative convenience as a rule. Heck, I’m not sure comics would work without accepting some level of illogical coincidence or unlikely miracle, but to kill off Ezekiel — who this series is elevating as a wizened sage within the Spider-Verse — as the result of a totally foreseeable circumstance that he orchestrated (and has escaped from countless times already, even without the assistance of dozens of other Spiders) strikes me as a little contradictory. I get that Silk’s participation was unexpected, but he also brought Kaine, who he seems to know would also have “abnormally high readings,” and again, he could have brought only two other spiders, or just stayed behind to explain things to Silk in the first place.But, okay, hindsight is 20/20 — some nexus of Ezekiel/Silk screwed up, and the only casualty is Ezekiel (okay, and the Cyborg Spider-Man of Earth-2818), who is unfortunately the only person who understood the deeper mythology of Spider-Man. This is again, a little convenient, and again, relies on him intentionally avoiding explaining these things to his compatriots, but that’s the situation the Spiders now find themselves in. Oh, and now Otto has claimed control over the Spider-Army. How do we think Peter is going to protest that without revealing himself as THE Peter Parker?
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?