Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 12, originally released January 7th, 2015.
Drew: Last week, Patrick and I spent a good ten minutes laughing about The Comic Archive’s “Marvel Movie Omnibus” — that is, all of the Marvel Studios films leading up to and through the end of The Avengers compiled into one mega-movie. Never mind that the thing weighs in at an ungainly 12-hour play-time, what really amused us was the steamrolling of narrative cohesion in favor of what the video description calls “correct story order.” I’ve always been a bit peeved when fans are more concerned with how stories fit together than whether they’re emotionally satisfying, and this struck me as the ultimate manifestation of those priorities. Indeed, flashbacks from Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy are included, even though Malekith and Peter Quill don’t otherwise appear in the movie (remember, this only carries through the end of The Avengers), passing over Chekhov’s gun in favor of boneheaded reportage. The result is a work that is so focused on its whole (however unwatchably long it may be) that it fails to offer satisfying servings, such that any movie-sized chunk of it wouldn’t be a satisfying chapter so much as an arbitrary slice of an indivisible monolith. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I feel about Amazing Spider-Man 12, a slice of “Spider-Verse” that ends up being mostly connective tissue.
Honestly, the issue is so focused on the blow-by-blow, any attempt at summary would be pointless. Any themes to be gleaned feel more like the narrative repeats that so annoyed us before “Spider-Verse” began in earnest, namely: the Inheritors wreck everything. It puts the Spiders back on the run, but by the end of the issue, they’ve found a new safe-zone, effectively nullifying the whole “we lost the safe-zone!” event that drove the action of the issue. Which is to say, this issue seems to exist mostly to lead up to its final page reveal that an Uncle Ben of at least one universe is still alive.
Which, maybe I’m jaded by this whole multiverse thing, but isn’t that kind of a given? Shouldn’t their be infinitely many universes where Uncle Ben is alive? Shouldn’t the thought of meeting an alternate universe’s Ben Parker (a person Peter has actually met) be less Earth-shattering than the thought of meeting a version of himself that is also a cartoon pig? My point is, I’m not sure this twist is big enough to justify an otherwise pointless issue. Wouldn’t it have been just as easy for the last two issues to have basically not happened, with Ben being brought to the first safe zone by one of the numerous recruiting missions Peter had sent out?
I’ll accept that I don’t know where this is going — I suspect Ben’s having been heretofore hidden from the Inheritors may be an important plot point — but without something else to hang my hat on in this issue, I can’t help but lament all this wasted space.
I suppose my biggest problem is that, unlike the previous issues, this installment doesn’t hold together on its own. This series’ relationship to the other “Spider-Verse” tie-ins has always been a bit lumpy, but at worst, our complaints were that it was serving as a catalog for other comics you might want to read. Here, the issue barely works without at least some familiarity with those other series. I happened to have read (and enjoy) Spider-Woman 2, but if I hadn’t, I’m not sure I’d have any idea what was going on, let alone why I should care. Indeed, without time to digest the coincidences required to allow Jessica to pose as a servant for the Inheritors, the Weaver’s reveal that these were his own machinations feels more like an admission from Slott than any kind of explanation — we get a hearty “because.” long before we even understand the question. That same narrative convenience rears its head when Jennix suddenly decides to block all communications between the Spiders. They could do it when it made the storytelling easier, but now they can’t because because.
I don’t know, Patrick. This event had won me over, but this issue struck me as a total mess. The promise of fated answers written on sacred scrolls doesn’t give me much hope for this thing ever escaping the realm of narrative convenience. Maybe I’m missing some important meta-text about a writer’s inherent relationship to his characters, but this mostly just feels like a lazy pile. What say you?
Patrick: I think the meta-text is more important and more subtle than you might be willing to grant this issue. The revelation of Weaver’s meddling in the history of this event is paying off that idea that was seeded in Spider-Verse 1, when he rescued Comic Strip Spider-Man from a hilariously repetitive death. I won’t argue against claims of “narrative convenience,” but that’s just an example of Slott using the tools at his disposal to join his brother Spiders in the fight. I think we can agree that Slott is the Weaver and the Weaver is Slott (or at least so similar constructors of narrative as to render their difference meaningless), and we’ve argued a couple times that the Inheritors are stand-in for shitty fans (or possibly all fans) that ravenously gobble up Spider-Man, complain about it, and then beg for more.
The thing is: Slott and the Spider-Verse crew are delivering more. I totally get Drew’s aversion to the copious editorial notes, especially when they read more like purchasing recommendations. I’m a little bit of a purist, and I don’t like that any story I’m being told is the story of me buying something from the storyteller. That’s a boring story. But while I’m going to take an opportunity to steal away and re-read (or read: I don’t always remember) Spider-Woman 2, Scarlet Spiders 2 and Spider-Man 2099 7, Slott has actually saved the most interesting story for my imagination. Or, your imagination, or whatever.
I’m talking about Miles Morales and his adventures in the Multiverse. I know Spider-Ham has made his cartoon presence known fighting alongside our main-hero Spiders, but Miles has plunged the depths of weirdness on his Spider-recruiting mission. The dueling cartoon Spider-Men from the last team-up issue was one of my favorite parts of this event, and it seems like just a tease to the kind of mania store up in Slott’s gonzo imagination.
Giuseppe Camuncoli does a great job of delivering subtle variations on Peter here – I particularly like that big-headed one hanging on by one hand (correct me if I’m wrong, but he’s wearing the Superior costume, yes?). But there’s also a Spider-Cowboy and some kind of Spider-Jeep. That’s not just a vehicle, it’s a motherfucking talking car. And there are no editors notes to help you navigate your future purchases here. I might be wrong — and the next Spider-supplement will feature a story with this cast, and we will have to pay four bucks to experience it — but for right now, this is hype for a story that doesn’t exist. Which means we get to play it out in our imaginations.
Ultimately, I think that’s Slott’s goal with Spider-Man: to create a character and a world so rich and wonderful that it demands participation. And the thing I appreciate about Spider-Verse is that we have options as to how to participate. Wanna just read Amazing Spider-Man? You can do that. Wanna follow every editor’s note? You can do that do! Want to follow some notes, but promised yourself you weren’t going to buy another book drawn by Will Sliney ever ever ever ever again? Fine! Skip Spider-Man 2099 all you want! There’s another option though — one that’s not characterized by what we purchase: we can go into the background and identify the Spider-Men. Readers can research Spider-Man Noir, or the Ultimate Universe or Spider-Ham. Further, we can just play with the idea that there’s a Universe with some kind of Spider-Herbie. DREW — I LOVE THAT UNIVERSE.
As a result, I’m kind of okay with letting the coincidence-a-rama off the hook. (I mean, come on, Silk stumbles upon the one universe that has a condition that the Inheritors can’t survive in? That implies that everyone’s able to breathe cartoon air or survive cartoon physics or whatever.) If that’s what it takes to get three different anime Spider-Men and one giant Spider-Zord — and then hilariously cutting it off mid-Anime-ism — then SO BE IT!
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