Written by: Mike Costa
Art by: Andre Araujo
I really, really, REALLY loved Spider-Verse. I felt it was one of the strongest Marvel events in a long time and is probably the peak of Slott’s tenure on Spider-Man. Due to this I was very excited for a chance to revisit these characters in Secret Wars, even if Slott himself would not be writing, Costa had handled part of the event so would surely know what he was doing. After reading the first issue I feel the potential is there to be a great follow up to Spider-Verse, however the story goes instead into some weird and unexpected directions, not all of which I liked.
Starting with the positives, the story features a lot of the witty banter you would expect from a Spider-Man comic. The story opens with the fan favourite Spider-Gwen which leads to a lot of fun dialogue showing how well Costa grasps the dialogue, it also starts the story with a pretty great twist. Without spoiling it, it perfectly shows off the twisted continuity of Battleworld and gives a great sense of intrigue to propel the story forward. After this we get right into what I loved best about the original Spider-Verse, lots of fun action and interaction between various Spider-Men. The events not only seemed to pick up right where the original left off but also placed the events with those of Secret Wars in very interesting ways. It felt like a natural continuation of everything I loved and was exactly what I wanted from this series. The issue contained some nice references to both Spider-Verse and Secret Wars meaning there was some pretty good stuff for fans of both series.
Unfortunately, the story decides to pull the focus away from the different Spider-Men and instead focus exclusively on Gwen and her life on Battleworld. It’s not really that bad or anything, there are some really neat nods to Spider-Man lore and, as stated, Costa really nails Gwen’s voice. She’s very much the funny, well rounded character we’ve come to expect from her solo series, but therein lies the problem; we already have a solo series featuring Gwen which makes her prominence in this issue feel unnecessary. Costa does a great job handling the multiple Spider-Men and offers great banter between them, so I’d rather they had been the main focus as their interaction was what drew me to the series. What makes the focus on Gwen weirder is that there are some odd continuity issues that gel with both the current Spider-Gwen series and the previous crossover. I’m sure these issues are just part of the over-arching mystery, and I admit I’m excited to see some of the answers as they already have my mind racing, however this early it’s too hard to tell whether or not the mysteries will be worth it. As of right now it’s a little disorientating, even for someone following all the series like myself, so I imagine a new comer might be very confused unless they wait for trade so they can read the whole story at once.
Equally mixed is the art by Araujo; for the most part his art is a great fit, with each of the Spider-Men’s designs looking really cool and unique. Similarly, the art looks really dynamic and captures the joy and energy of seeing multiple spider-men in action all over again. At times however the faces can look very wonky and distract from the main story. It’s just a little disorientating and can occasionally be hard to tell what some of the emotions being portrayed are.
Aside from the main story there is a back-up story staring everyone’s favourite Spider-Ham. The backup story is a lot of fun with a very pleasing cartoon art style by Steven Sanders that leads to a lot of good visual humour as well as the witty quips. Like the main series though, there’s a bit of a lack of context which leads to a bit of a disorientating read, but it’s a lot of fun and makes up for the higher price tag on the book.
Overall, there’s a lot of potential for this series, though I think I came in with the wrong expectations. This issue seems more interested in setting up Gwen’s status quo in the context of Battleworld than having fun with more Spider-Man team-up antics. At the same time though, the series seems to feature exactly what I wanted from more Spider-Verse so seems to suffer from a weird identity crisis. If some of the lingering questions and confusing elements of the series can be cleared up in later issues then this could be a great mini-series that incorporates a lot of classic spider-man continuity as well as some of the more recent modern additions. Right now however, I would cautiously recommend it Spider-Man fans as I feel there’s some stuff here they will enjoy and hopefully lead to more good stuff in the long run.