Spider-Man’s not a mutant, but he has hung out with them enough times over the years to warrant another SuperiorSpiderTalk.com list! This countdown will take a look at some of the very best stories involving Spidey and a mutant — including team-ups, battles and everything in-between!
For entry No. 2 we look at Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert:
It’s very fitting the final two entries in my Spider-Man/Mutant series will highlight some of the weirdest Spidey stories to ever be published. Similar to my thoughts on AvX #9 (coincidentally, another Jason Aaron/Adam Kubert collaboration), Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine was one of those books that I was lukewarm at best towards when it first came out in 2011, but as time and subsequent rereads went on, I completely changed course and found myself loving it.
ASM&W is another one of those comics that highlights the Spider-Man/Wolverine “odd couple” dynamic, but does it in such a unique and creative manner. It’s become incredibly clichéd to say a work of serialized art, such as a comic book, can find ways to “surprise” a reader, but ASM&W is very truly one of those instances where the creators craft an “anything goes” vibe. Even after reading it a handful of times, I still find myself noticing new details and being shocked by certain twists and turns in the story.
Perhaps I was initially turned off by ASM&W because it’s not a straightforward narrative. The two main characters jump between alternative world and timelines with reckless abandon and often without much build and warning. The primary antagonists are a hideous-looking blob of goo, a giant eyeball, and a drug dealer with a diamond-studded baseball bat (as opposed to a classic rogue of either Spidey or Logan). There’s even a romance forced on Spider-Man with hardly any build (which is just as quickly short circuited by the end of the series – remember kids, in modern Marvel-world, Spidey doesn’t find love). And yet ASM&W works.
That’s because ASM&W is an example of two creators seemingly getting unlimited latitude for a story (likely because it was a sidebar miniseries and the status quo would ultimately be restored by the very end) and using that freedom to just tell a fun story that doesn’t always make sense, but doesn’t have to either. Seriously, when did Peter Parker develop Reed Richards-type genius to resurrect Wolverine (who was killed off by the deadly Phoenix Force) while remaining clueless as to how he could return himself and his Canadian companion to their original timeline? And how can a guy with a baseball bat continually outwit/outfox two of Marvel’s most popular heroes in Spider-Man and Wolverine?
I know I asked these questions a lot after reading this series for the first time — desperately trying to determine where the hype for ASM&W was coming from? I know I didn’t read much of the Brian Michael Bendis Avengers/New Avengers run, which starred Spider-Man and Wolverine and thereby featured their love/hate dynamic a bunch, until way after the fact, so maybe that’s why this other book was whooshing over my head?
No, instead it’s worth looking at Aaron’s wonderful character work and Kubert’s inspiring designs of Wild West/bearded Peter (among others). Sure a giant killing planet that looks like the mask of Doctor Doom is not something one expects to find in a Spider-Man comic, but the scene where Peter is resigned to his fate to destroy himself AND the planet, only to have his sacrifice co-oped by Wolverine, who doesn’t believe Spider-Man has the stones to use the Phoenix Force to kill the Doom-Planet pays off the scene wonderfully.
Then there’s an issue where Peter and Logan find themselves transported to each other’s origin stories. It’s impossible not to smile at Wolverine being completely flabbergasted by the ego/myopia of teenaged Peter only for him to discover how his frenemies life would tragically soon change forever with the death of his uncle. At the same time, Peter, who spends the bulk of the comic carping about Logan’s surliness, realizes exactly how the mutant would eventually morph into Wolverine.
Beyond servicing both characters in spectacular fashion, Aaron also surprises me by making the comic’s love interest, Sara Bailey, interesting. In the lead-up to the big reveal, Peter keeps talking about his fixation on a woman from a bank at the start of the miniseries. He’s almost haunted by her, but is also captivated by her beauty. We never really meet her until ASM&W #6, the last issue in the series, and yet Aaron’s script does such a great job building her up via Peter’s dreams, I’m able to almost instantly accept this character as a major player in Spidey’s world. Beyond that, the two characters ooze romantic chemistry when they’re on the page together. As a result, one of the final images of the book, which shows Peter mournfully sitting by a tree that has his and Sara’s initials carved into, lands with its intended impact. I actually want to see more of this character that I knew nothing about until only a few issues earlier.
There are some structural flaws to ASM&W that prevent the story from achieving all-time classic status – namely the creators have a habit of building towards various apocalyptic scenarios, only to bait and switch the reader and resolve the crisis off-panel in the next issue. This is especially true between issues #5 and #6 when Wolverine has been consumed by the dark Phoenix force and everything is hunky dory and about three years into the future at the beginning of the very next issue.
Still, these problematic sequences don’t change just how much fun this comic book ends up being. Readers who manage to hang with some of the herky-jerky storytelling are justly rewarded by the end of the book. It’s unquestionably the very best Spider-Man/Wolverine team-up story (and we’ve seen a few of them in this list) and probably ranks among the most creative and sophisticated team-ups in Spidey’s history.