The Spiderversity

"Spider-Verse #1"

by Gregory L. Reece

17 November 2014

The Spider-Verse has no one author, no omnipotent guiding hand. It is organic, connecting and reconnecting like the strands of a web, like the strands of life.
 
cover art

Spider-Verse

(Marvel)
US: Jan 2015

Oh, the blooming bloody spider went up the spider web
The blooming bloody rain came down and washed the spider out
The blooming bloody sun came out and dried up all the rain
And the blooming bloody spider came up the web again.

There is a crisis in the Multiverse. The Inheritors are hunting spiders: itsy bitsy spiders, incy wincy spiders, blooming bloody spiders.

Morlun and his kin control the Master Weaver, the spider-thing at the heart of all reality, and use that power to climb from Earth to Earth along the thin web of the worlds, use that power to hunt for spider-kind, for spider-essence, for spider-blood.

One Spider-Man dies. Then another. And another. It is a blooming, bloody rain.

There is a crisis in the Multiverse. The Gentry are coming to destroy it all, coming to impose order. They are coming on bat-wings. They are coming in the pages of comicbooks. Nix Uotan is the Judge of Worlds and he is coming.

One Superman stands against it. Then another. And another. A blooming, bloody rain.

It is not unusual for both major comicbook companies to concurrently run story arcs in which each respective multiverse is threatened, where alternative versions of alternative versions of established characters are paraded across the pages as the multiverse threatens to collapse around them. The multiverse-at-risk genre is hardly something new. It has been almost thirty years since DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths first brought worlds together in such a cataclysmic cross-title fashion, and its themes and plot lines have been repeated regularly ever since.

But all these stories are not the same.

Over at DC, Grant Morrison is telling such a story. The Multiversity is grim and serious and dark and fearsome. Not even Captain Carrot lightens the mood for long. Even a world of superhero celebrities is haunted. There is too much at stake for it to be otherwise, and Morrison is too intense a creator to let the fun show through for long. His story, so far, reads like serious literature. Allusion piles on top of allusion.  Ambiguity is the order of the day. Morrison is the source, the creator of the multiverse that unfolds under his omnipotent eye. Readers watch in amazement at what he can do.

While at Marvel, Dan Slott tells the story of the Spider-Verse. There is darkness here too, and real threats, especially in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #9. Spiders die in blooming bloody ways, but not before their broken bodies are spread out on a table for a terrible feast at the hands of Morlun and his dark family. This is serious. Slott is not playing around.  “Here we go again,” I thought to myself as I lay that issue aside. Darkness falls. The Inheritors, like the Gentry, are ominous and mean. This story is going to sting.

Then I read Spider-Verse #1 and realized that something different was happening here, realized that, unlike Morrison in The Multiversity, Slott is not so much engaged in the creation of a multiverse as in the exploration of one that already exists, both in the rich heritage of Marvel Comics’ storytelling past and in the promising future that its rich source of new creators portend.

In Spider-Verse #1 Slott turns over the reins of his story to others, he shares the wonder of the worlds, and produces something serious, important – and fun.

Skottie Young and Jake Parker begin the book with a story set in the already established Marvel Mangaverse, where Peter Parker, last member of the Spider Clan of ninjas, must battle his way past Venom to reach the doorway to the multiverse and join the true Spider Clan.  Robbie Thompson and Denis Medri tell the tale of Steampunk Lady Spider who battles steampunk villains in a steampunk New York City in steampunk 1895; they create a new universe and a new hero to save it. And Katie Cook, of IDW’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, tells the original story of Penelope Parker who is bitten by a radioactive spider and discovers anew that with great power comes great responsibility.

Most fun of all, however, are the tales that Slott himself tells, brief though they may be. They are tales embedded deep in the Marvel multiverse, tales that draw upon the multitude of stories and genres and media in which the character of Spider-Man has thrived, stories that draw upon the work of creators both credited and anonymous. One story takes place in the universe of the Hostess Twinkie ads that were ubiquitous in both Marvel and DC Comics in the 70’s. The other unfolds in the daily Spider-Man comic strip. Both are true to their source, lovingly so.

Slott does not feel like the creator of this. He feels like the chronicler. This multiverse has no one author, no omnipotent guiding hand. It is organic, connecting and reconnecting like the strands of a web, like the strands of life. Some of it is serious and dark and scary. Some of it is joyous and fun. All of this and more, Slott proclaims, is a part of this grand story I’m telling, a part of this grand story that we’ve been telling. All of this is the world of Spider-Man.

Don’t ask me to choose between Morrison and Slott. I can’t do it. Morrison I admire, I study, I respect. Slott I embrace, I relish, I enjoy. 

Next week I may pick Morrison. This week I pick Slott.

This week he told me a story, he told me a lot of stories, about that blooming bloody spider, about all the blooming bloody spiders, on all the blooming bloody webs under all the blooming bloody suns who may fall under the blooming bloody rain but always climb up the web again.

Spider-Verse

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