Sunday, March 27, 2016

Reader's Diary #1283- Various writers and artists: Spider-Verse

There are a lot of Spider-People in Marvel's Spider-Verse. And if you take on the collected version, as I did, it can become a bit overwhelming. I kid you not, I dreamed about Spider-People one night while tackling this book.

If you've read my posts recently about the fun they've having over at Marvel, playing the what if game with their characters, and then mashing all of their what-if alternate universes together, then you'll also get the premise behind Spider-Verse. Basically, it takes the assumption that any Spider-Person that's ever been created (we're talking comics, animated TV shows, movies, manga, steampunk, parodies, even the Broadway Turn off the Dark Spider-Man) had been real and existing in their own universes. But now they're all in jeopardy as a group of vampires known as the Inheritors are jumping from dimension to dimension to hunt the Spiders down and feast on them. So the Spider-Folk jump as well, teaming up with one another to survive.

Considering how long Spider-Man's been around and how popular the character has been, you'd have to admire the ambition of Spider-Verse even if the final product didn't work. Fortunately, I'd say it did work.

It worked largely because the various writers and artists had fun with the idea. This is most evident in the scenes when Miles Morales, a recently created comic book Spider-Man, and the current animated Spider-Man, visit the old 60s TV cartoon Spider-Man. The art is remarkably in keeping with those times and it's hysterical. A few comments are made about skyscrapers that are only 6 windows wide, and about going past the same buildings over and over again. And yet, no one's legacy is really crapped on, jokes are all made with a loving respect and there's a sense that they all took the time to understand these various worlds and characters. Spider-Ham especially gets a surprisingly large amount of airtime and plays a more important role than I would have guessed. Why not? If Howard the Duck and Rocket Racoon can have their moment, why not Peter Porker? (Note to self: email new all-animal Battle-World concept to Marvel).

This collection was way more successful than the recent Secret Wars collection. Not that the stories are necessarily stronger, it's just that this collection is way more complete. Whereas with the Secret Wars collection, some stories didn't really make a lot of sense because pieces were missing, having appeared in individual issues that weren't included in the collection, Spider-Verse is wonderfully complete. If any Spider-Verse plotline was as much as whispered at in an individual issue comic it was thrown in. The result is massive. I read the paperback version and it weighed a tonne. My wrists seriously hurt trying to read it in bed. Sometimes as well, the flow had to be sacrificed, and to get around that the editors told the straightforward arc and then included issues at the end that filled in any questions.

I don't know that it's perfect for newcomers because as I said, it's a bit overwhelming. But then again, there are so many Spider-People here, I don't know what sort of super-fan you'd need to be that you'd have been familiar with all of these, so to some extent everyone's a newcomer. I would say a passing interest in Spider-Man should suffice. One issue, just as with Secret Wars, is that it's all about the superheroes saving themselves. If you're interested in superheroes saving us regular folk, you'll be sorely disappointed.

With so many artists, it's hard to pass too much comment on the individual art and to be honest the only times it stood out was when it was remarkably good or bad. I've already commented on the stellar job Dave Williams did capturing the 60s cartoon show. Also fantastic was Sheldon Vella's pink and purple "Anarchic Spider-Man" which blended the Sex Pistols with Tank Girl with Mad Max. On the bad end of the spectrum were the ridiculously sinewy bodies drawn by Paco Diaz. You'd expect superheros to be muscular, of course, but his characters looked like someone spray painted a Body Works exhibit.

Still, overall a fun and epic ride.

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