When I opened this month’s Comic Bento box I was excited to see this book among those inside. I’ve had my eye on Marvel’s major Spider-verse event (how could I not be intrigued by the concept of nearly every version of the character ever in one multiversal story?) and the Gwen Stacy version of Spider-Woman had also caught my eye as something I needed to check out.
Unfortunately this book is a very hit or miss affair, in fact largely more miss than hit in my opinion.
Contained in its pages are five separate stories of various Spider-Folk, which is one of the books greatest strengths as well as one of its more damning weaknesses.
The first story is a Spider-Man Noir tale, a universe I’ve long been aware of but have never read. Set in the 1930s, it deals with the all-in-black version of the character as he fights against a 30s version of Mysterio and Kingpin. I quite liked these takes on the characters and would have loved to spend more time with them. Towards the end of the book the multiversal concept of the main event piece comes into play, something that will be a part of each of the following books to a greater or lesser degree.
The second story is also pretty strong as it is the proper introduction of Spider-Woman (or Spider-Gwen as she is popularly known). This isn’t an origin story as we are thrown into a world where Gwen has been operating as a hero for long enough to have caught the eye of both J. Jonah Jameson and her police captain father. We see in a montage sequence the history of the character from the moment she’s bitten to her defending Peter Parker from bullies, to Peter becoming that universe’s Lizard and on but otherwise no real origin material occurs. I at once enjoyed this and was dismayed by it, I like not having to drudge through an origin sequence but I also felt there was some really interesting stuff being glossed over. This story also shows us more Marvel mainstays in different positions from Mary Jane as the front woman of the band Gwen plays in to Matt Murdock in a surprising role.
The third story is about Dr. Aaron Aikman a brilliant scientist in Atlas City who transforms himself into Spider-man after giving himself a treatment that resequenced his DNA. He has many of the standard Spider-man abilities but also has his suit outfitted with a variety of technological “improvements” from scanners in his helmet to propulsion boots. I found this story to be very weak and felt the only saving grace was the brief glimpse of one of the villains of the greater Spider-verse story.
The fourth entry was an interesting take on the Spider-Man mythos as it takes place in a universe where Peter Parker is named Patton Parnel. Patton is a strange young boy, the sort of boy who enjoys experimenting on insects and animals in gruesome ways and views other people with the sort of detached perspective of a scientist looking through a microscope (or in the case of his neighbor Sarah Jane a pair of binoculars. On a trip to a Alcorp Industries, young Mr. Parnel meets the fate we are familiar with as a radioactive spider bites his arm leading to an inevitable change, but not the one we expect. This story was straight forward body-horror and while I appreciate it on the basis of that genre I didn’t care for it over all. Once again the story makes the slight contribution of introducing the motives of the Spider-verse villains but before that is strictly a one-off story that deserves points for the genre-tale it is, fails to be truly satisfying. Plus I more or less check out the moment you start discussing spiders that lay eggs under the skin of living hosts.
The final entry is about the unit designated SP//dr and is the one piece I outright hated. Reading it felt like a poorly done anime and given that the anime vibe is what they were reaching for I feel my impression is not far off the mark. In the opening moments we see the titular unit die and we are quickly introduced to the young daughter of the man operating the suit. The discussion between the young girl, Peni Parker, and her scientist aunt and uncle, May and Ben, quickly reveal that Peni is eligible for the SP//dr program. In fact the SP//dr has been let into the room and it is established that if it chooses her she will suffer a painful bite inducting her into the program. Flash forward five years and we see Peni operating the SP//dr (I really hate typing that) suit and battling this universe’s Mysterio. Later on a very brief sequence shows her and Daredevil battling some thugs while discussing whether or not her father would have liked her if he had ever known her. The story closes with her encountering two versions of Spider-man (one of whom was an anthropomorphic pig called Spider-Ham) on a train telling her of the plight of the Spider-men (and women and dogs and things) across the multiverse.
I really wish this book could have kept its momentum from the opening stories or better yet not have stretched itself so thin with the five one-shot comics. I would have loved for it to be a more congruous story, maybe following one or two Spider-persons as they jumped from universe to universe, introducing the new versions of the character that way. Or failing that I would have been happy with just a Spider-man Noir or Spider-Gwen story.
Final Verdict: 4 out of 10.
I want to heap high praise upon the first two stories and highly suggest you read them someway but given the very weak third and fifth entires and middling at best fourth entry I just can’t go higher on this book.