Full disclosure: I fully went into this issue expecting to be disappointed. Although I enjoyed the initial two parts of this story line, the following three issues seemed to meander and repeat earlier story beats, with little in the way of story advancement or character insight. Essentially, I was looking forward to just getting through this issue and letting the characters move on.
And then this issue happened, and was completely awesome, and now I don’t know what to make of this whole event.
What I’d thought was a huge misstep in storyline pacing in the previous part of this storyline, (your penultimate issue is not the time for sightseeing multiverse gags) turned out to be the key to the resolution of the entire conflict, but that resolution introduces so many great concepts that the issue can’t explore. At the onset of romantic feelings between Gwen and Miles, Gwen is shown a potential reality where their union leads to a golden heroic age, and meets their potential children.
This is an incredibly interesting concept to introduce into a burgeoning relationship, and it’s an idea that only fantastical stories can play with. Unfortunately, by introducing this in the twelfth hour, the implications and dilemmas presented by this knowledge don’t have time to be fully explored. Gwen still has to find Miles, Miles still has to find his dad, and they both have to stop S.I.L.K. and the Scorpion from their vaguely-defined plot.
The threat S.I.L.K. poses is also undermined due to being fully sprung in the last issue. It seems the Scorpion was plotting to use the dimension-jumping technology to link up with their counterpart S.I.L.K. cells across all realities, forming an interdimensional terrorist cell that no single world could stand against. That’s a great concept in theory: it brings to mind the Battery from Web Warriors, but in a more subtle and threatening manner.
The problems with its execution are two-fold: like Earth-8, this is introduced too late in the game to allow the idea to breathe. Further, the actual visualization of the threat is lacking: the S.I.L.K. onslaught is the same shot of a half-dozen masked goons we’ve seen our heroes thrashing easily for the past several issues. The only indication that their threat has escalated is the Scorpion losing his composure and delving into a psychopathic rant. Sorry, evil Jefferson, but you’re no Cindy Moon of Earth-65.
(Now, there’s another concept worth coming back to: If there are enough alternate universe incarnations of S.I.L.K. to make the Scorpion’s plan feasible, does that mean that the Cindy Moon we follow in Earth-616 is unique in not being evil? Silk is ending shortly, but I’d really like someone to return to that idea.)
However, the sins of the larger story arc don’t hamper the manic fun of this issue, which crams the best parts of the entire “Spider-Verse” arc into a single issue, complete with a splash page of alternate Spider-Peeps dropping by to save the day. Robbi Rodriguez does a great job giving each of the background Spideys distinct designs to communicate their schtick in a single image (I’m particularly fond of Kraven-Spidey). We also get unique costume designs for Gwen and Miles’ alternate universe Spider-Kids, characters endearing enough to make me overcome my aversion to alternate-dimension future kids. Thanks, 90’s X-Men!
The “Sitting in a Tree” story started out with promise and great character building, then meandered through a bloated second act before throwing all of these great themes and ideas into the mix at that last minute, resulting in a very uneven read. I’d be hard pressed to call it a bad crossover, because there are several pieces of it which work, and they work really well. But the sag in the middle chapters kills a lot of momentum, and brings the whole thing down to average. All that said, it’s definitely worth sticking with for the killer finale.