With the destruction of the Spider-Men’s “safe zone” in Amazing Spider-Man #11, the future of “Spider-Verse” seemed uncertain. Peter had abandoned his teammates in a universe that he thought was safe only to have his absence exploited and the rules of “Spider-Verse” turned on their heads. If the power of Captain Universe couldn’t stop the heavy boot of Solus, what hope would remain for our heroes’ safety?
It was a stunning cliffhanger that I thought would force the story to develop in new ways. I was excited for the story to put an apocalyptic pressure on Peter and his band to make some tough decisions and more solid plans about their attacks against the Inheritors. Amazing Spider-Man #12 certainly deals with the repercussions of Solus’ attack but fails to move the overall story of “Spider-Verse” forward in any meaningful way.
After four issues of the main story, “Spider-Verse” still seems to be struggling to find its thematic purpose. If Dan Slott’s intentions with this story were just to have a battle royale between the Inheritors and all the Spider-Men I would say that his story has been an enormous success. Every issue continues to reveal versions of Spider-Man, both new and old, from every corner of every universe. Want to see Takuya Yamashiro from the Spider-Man Toei television series? This issue won’t disappoint. The hilariously famous Spider-Man character makes his grand debut, transforming robot in tow, to assist the gathered Spider-totems.
However, a series of fight sequences between various Spider-Men and an unstoppable force does not make for thrilling dramatics. Ideally, the best Spider-Man stories challenge Peter and in the process reveal something about his character. Fittingly, the most dramatic and satisfying enemy that Peter has ever faced in his years as a crime-fighter was several tons of metal and water crushing him from above (see Amazing Spider-Man #33). Initially I figured this story would be a showdown between the conflicting ideologies of Peter Parker and Otto Octavius but by this point that issue seems to have been settled. I am now waiting to see what this story is actually supposed to be about and hope that it isn’t too late to mean something dramatically and emotionally to the world of Spider-Man.
Beyond that point, Peter Parker has again become a background character in his own book. As the appointed leader of team Spider-Man, Parker’s role in this story has been solely reactionary and self-critical. When the impossible happens and Captain Universe Spider-man is killed, Peter blames his death on himself despite have literally no control over that outcome. It is one thing to have Peter lament the death of one of his peers but to repeatedly write a protagonist as reactionary and self-loathing does not inspire an intense desire to keep reading.
For the past two issues I bemoaned that so many pages were spent checking in on the actions of the characters in the supporting “Spider-Verse” titles. I understand that the actions that are occurring in these books are important to the main story but these constant diversions from the main story in Amazing Spider-Man break the flow of action and feel like retreads. The previous issues of Amazing Spider-Man were still successful because of the interesting developments that surrounded these sequences, but this late into the story Amazing Spider-Man #12 isn’t quite as successful.
In Amazing Spider-Man #11 there were some strange time inconsistencies between the books, perhaps scrambled by a jam-packed release schedule, but in Amazing Spider-Man #12 there are inconsistencies that are flat out wrong. In this issue, we see Spider-Man 2099 operating on Daemos in his timeline and discovering the genetic history of the Inheritors, a potentially interesting reveal. However, this sequence is missing from the parallel Spider-Man 2099 title released on the very same day.
The main thrust of Amazing Spider-Man #12 is the Spider-Men’s flight from their destroyed “safe-zone” to several other universes that might shield them from the Inheritors. This quest is punctuated by the reveals of several new Spider-Men, including a last page meant to shock, and several developments about how the Inheritors work and their secret master plan.
The most intriguing parts of this story are the yet-revealed information about the roles of the Inheritors, Scion, Other, and Bride but these sequences operate merely as a tease for later issues. While I will admit that it is neat to see some of these new Spider-totems, I must also admit to how boring it has become to read about them. With so much of the build-up to “Spider-Verse” spent on the introductions of new characters, I’ve grown numb to the trick. When the book’s cliffhanger is the reveal of another totem, no matter who it is, I’m left yawning instead of gripping my seat.
My boredom with the story’s plot aside, moving from one “safe zone” to another “safe zone,” this issue is filled with wonderful art from team-players Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Justin Ponsor. While I will miss Olivier Coipel’s artwork, the artistic team here doesn’t miss a beat. Several full-page spreads from Camuncoli lay out wonderful fight sequences that are jam-packed with delightful details and terrific physical drama. In the end, if “Spider-Verse” doesn’t deliver on story it will surely have been a wonderful excuse to have talented artists portray dozens of unforgettable characters.
With two issues remaining and so many story developments to reveal/unfold, Dan Slott has a herculean task to end “Spider-Verse” in a satisfying way. Amazing Spider-Man #12 has so many characters battling for the full attention of the narrative yet it has lost its focus on the most interesting ones. Will Peter, Karn, Otto, and Morlun’s stories dovetail in a dramatic and satisfying way in the final two issues of “Spider-Verse?” I’m hopeful but unsure.