Amazing Spider-Man #9, the first part of the “Spider-Verse” storyline, opens on a familiar scene; Peter Parker lies asleep on his bed before being awoken by J. Jonah Jameson yelling at him through his phone to get downtown to photograph the newest baddie to wreck the city. I had an instantaneous moment of whiplash as I recognized the Peter Parker that I have read over the years reappear on the pages before me only to be told that it was not in-fact that same Parker but the doomed Spider Moon-Man of Earth-449.
For the past several issues of lead up to the beginning of “Spider-Verse,” Morlun has taken a backseat to the actions of his family and as much as this story is Peter Parker’s Amazing Spider-Man #9 is the issue that firmly establishes Morlun’s stake in this story. He’s been humiliated by his defeat by Peter Parker in Earth-616 (in the now classic “Coming Home” and not-so classic “The Other”) and his family won’t let him forget it. Dan Slott’s script for Amazing Spider-Man #9 does a wonderful job finally establishing the distinct personalities of the Inquisitors and how their operation fully works, as well as the intense sibling rivalry between Daemos and Morlun. The only questions that remain are: What’s the urgency for the Inquisitors? Why hunt the “spiders” now? Perhaps more will be revealed when readers find out more about how “The Other,” “The Bride,” and “The Scion” play into things.
The budding, cross-dimensional war is exciting to read again, particularly because of the narrative and visual design of how the Inquisitors operate and manipulate the Master Weaver. When the characters talk about a “war” they mean it, two established armies are assembling and it is finally getting exciting to see things start in earnest.
When the story returns to Peter the visuals draw a direct parallel with the opening sequence, featuring what I thought was a recognizable Peter. While the following scenes with Peter and Silk are filled with genuine warmth and naturalistic banter, Peter is still characterized as unable to handle heroics on his own. Silk even suggests that he leave New York City for her to protect so that he can start over again and figure his life out. The dismissal of the Superior Spider-Man, labelled as “way too complicated,” continues to mar this series but perhaps Slott is building to a moment where Peter is allowed to prove why he’s special enough to have his own series. Right now he still feels like he’s getting pushed around by his “clones” in a book with his name on it.
The remainder of the book serves to introduce all the Spider-Men who will be featured in the book, even randomly commenting on characters whose visuals won’t be revealed yet. The character’s voices are all distinct and fun to read, one of Slott’s strongest features as a writer. The reveal of Cosmic Spider-Man adds a nice twist on the mechanics of the battle and Peter, while still goofy and immature, gets some nice moments to lead the group here. Here’s hoping Peter gets more leadership moments and that he proves himself the best of the Spider-Man for reasons other than being fated. Let’s remember that Peter fought Morlun for days in the “Coming Home” arc and eventually beat him based on his own intellect and internal strength.
Olivier Coipel’s pencils are a welcome addition to the rotating team of Amazing Spider-Man artists. With Justin Ponsor’s immaculate colors, the book is one of the most beautiful comics that I’ve read in years. Coipel’s images find that perfect place between absolute realism and cartoonified iconography and solid inks and the scratchiness of pencils. The fact that he can render Spider-Ham and Spider-Man in the same world and make it feel like neither is compromising in terms of visualization is a minor miracle. Chris Eliopoulos has some fun with the lettering without getting to carried away but misses a huge opportunity to utilize the correct lettering in the Ultimate Universe, typically represented by word balloons featuring both uppercase and lowercase lettering (as seen in Spider-Men).
The backup story, “The Feast,” is another fine character piece that brings all the Inquisitors together. The strongest part of the story is when each character defines what the hunt means to them, clearly setting up some opposing worldviews that are set to implode. Now that everyone has been introduced into this series I know I cannot wait for “Spider-Verse” to step on the accelerator but only if Peter is behind the steering wheel.