When the original “Spider-Verse” was announced, my mind immediately went back to the scenes of the Galactic Alliance of Spider-Men from Marvel Comics Presents v2 #1. What I expected was a coalition of weird and creative Spider-Men variations going on a series of misadventures through the multiverse. What we got was well… not exactly that. Spider-Verse Team-Up approached what I was expecting, but ultimately didn’t deliver enough of the light-heartedness that I was hoping for. Enter Joe Caramagna’s adaptation of television’s “Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors, The Spider-Verse: Part 1” (Say that five times fast!).
The similarities between Dan Slott’s Spider-Verse and the one depicted in Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors Spider-Verse #1 start at the name and end not much past that. Yes, there are multiple Spider-(Wo)Men. Gone from this comic, however, is the cast of vampric villains and their politics that populated Slott’s version. Instead, we get a quick setup. Here’s Norman Osborn’s hide out (he’s back by the way). He’s made a device to travel the multiverse. Why? He needs Spider-Man DNA and lots of it. Also, let’s backstab Electro for good measure to show how dastardly Norman is. One page, boom! And we’re off!
The pace for the set up is blistering. In one page we recap, establish the main villain, make the call to adventure, and throw in a little characterization for Norman. Norman’s exact plans remain a mystery, but pretty soon we’re already diving head first through his “Siege Perilous” and traveling the multiverse. If there is a single way to grab my attention with a comic, it’s to hit the ground running like Caramagna did.
2099 is the first stop in our multiverse hopping and for a neat effect, everything is rendered in 3D! While it is quite clearly cheap television CGI, it’s still an engaging visual distinction that separates our regular world of Ultimate Spider-Man Web Warriors and its 2099 version. The new visuals aren’t going to wow anyone, it’s a fun change of pace for the book and lends a futuristic look to everything. As we move from 2099 to a different universe, we move back to the traditional 2D animation. This next world is a gender swapped world inhabited by folks such as J. Joanna Jameson, Norma Osborn, and of course, Spider-Girl — not the DeFalco version that we all know and love, though (you know and love her, right?). This particular Spider-Girl, Petra, has a smack of ’90s girl power to her but ultimately comes off as a one-to-one copy of Peter, which I’m sure is intentional. The issue ends with a visual callback to the famous “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” from Amazing Spider-Man #121, which is fun for those of us who are familiar with the sight.
This particular segment contains the ever-popular “girls vs boys” found in one episode in virtually every cartoon produced from 1990 and on. It’s a bit tired by this point and reinforces an “otherness” of the opposite gender which I feel plants seeds for a life-long acceptance of “girls/boys are just different” or perhaps the more toxic “you think this way because you’re a boy/girl.” Is it a huge deal that there are three lines of dialogue that support a gender-based antagonism between Spider-Man and Spider-Girl? Absolutely not, but I feel it is something that needs to be addressed. It by no means breaks the issue, but its important to decompress and examine these tropes when they appear.
Carmagna’s plotting is spot on, with stills from the television series selected that convey as much animation as possible. Gone are the problems with shading that plagued the previous issue. The action scenes unfold clearly and the dialogue is spot-on to be both kid-friendly and engaging. Both conflicts are solved through the power of team-work in a slightly hammy way, but that’s what you expect from a cartoon, especially one featuring team-ups as its lead concept.
Serving as a backup is a short story by writer Jim Zub and artist Mario Del Pennino, with Sotocolor providing the colors and VC’s Clayton Cowles lettering. It’s a short little 11-page B-story, but it’s an entertaining read with fantastic art. Spider-Man rushes to stop a bank robbery in progress only to find himself over his head when none other than the Wrecking Crew emerge with bags of cash. Cue some chuckle-worthy one-liners from Zub and some impressive and dynamic inks from Del Pennino, not to mentions colors from Sotocolor that really pop right off the page. I personally think this is my favorite artistic rendition of the Hulk. There’s a particular panel of him screaming that really sells the scariness of a foul-tempered Hulk landing right in front of you. The set up and execution of this story reminded me of the Marvel Adventures imprint, the line of children’s comics Marvel put out before switching their kid’s line to cartoon adaptations. If you were a fan of those, I’d highly recommend you pick up Ultimate Spider-Man Spider-Verse #1 just for that.
Overall, this is an issue that exceeded expectations. A solid main story with a great back up makes for a good read for both children and the children at heart. Looking ahead we see Miles Morales, Spider-Man Noir, and what looks like a Spider-Man wearing Ends of the Earth inspired armor on the upcoming covers. Can’t wait to see what happens next!