Spider-Verse Team-Up #3

Posted by Donovan McComish 26 February 2015

Hello everybody and welcome to my review of Spider-Verse Team-Up #3. Yes, as much as we'd all love to see more and more team-ups between the infinite variations of the Marvel Universe's web-headed, wall crawling super hero, we've come to the end of this tie-in series. Once again, Christos Gage pens the first story (which is strangely titled "Too Many Spider-Men" like the previous story), featuring the biggest team-up so far as a total of five Spiders take on the outcast Inheritor Karn. The final story in this series features a Spider-Girl, with Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema returning to add another chapter to the story of May "Mayday" Parker, aka Spider-Girl, as an alternate, spider-powered Uncle Ben attempts to calm the raging storm of vengeance that burns inside her.

Synopsis:

Too Many Spider-Men II:

On Earth-3145, in the Spider-Army's newly-acquired bunker, Otto Octavius, the Superior Spider-Man, is arguing with Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, over his latest plan to tip the scales in their favour against their Inheritors. The plan involves Karn, the exile who has also been killing and consuming Spiders to win favour back with his family after they blamed him for the death of their mother. Otto considers the plan a suicide mission as he has witnessed Karn in action, calling him "unstoppable". Spidey points out however that they now possess new information thanks to the scrolls Spider-Woman sent them after obtaining them from the Master Weaver on Loomworld in Spider-Woman #3. Anya Corazon, the Spider-Girl of Earth-616, agrees with Peter, saying that Karn's family hate him and he hates them, particularly his father, Solus. As he harbours similar feelings towards his own father, Otto is convinced that there is a chance that the plan will work.

On another earth, Earth-3123 to be precise, the Uncle Ben of that dimension shields his version of Peter Parker from Karn, who states that he has no interest in either of them, seeking only the Spider-Totem of this world. Step forward Aunt May, the Spectacular Spider-Ma'am! Ben & Peter are shocked to learn of May's secret identity, but she says that she kept it a secret for their own good. She senses immediately that Karn is too powerful to fight, telling him that if he wants to kill her, he should go ahead, asking that he not hurt her husband and nephew. Touched by her bravery and selflessness, Karn promises to make her death quick, as he still desires to "earn" his way back to his family. He is interrupted from killing the Spider-Maam however by the arrival of Anya, Hobie Brown, aka the authority-defying Spider-Punk from Earth-138, Ashley Barton, the Spider-Woman of Earth 807128 (though on that world she has another nickname), Pavitr Prabhakar, the Indian Spider-Man of Earth-50101 and Billy Braddock, aka Spider-UK, member of the Captain Britain Corps and resident of Earth-833.

Anya instructs Pavitr to get the Parkers to safety whilst Spider-Punk breaks his guitar over Karn's head. Karn sends Hobie careening back with a single punch, declaring his weariness of the endless conflict. Anya seizes upon that, telling Karn she is aware of his weariness and that he kills to survive, not for pleasure  as well as his banishment from his family and his quest for redemption in their eyes. Karn assumes that the Spiders mean to use this information to defeat him, but Spider-UK assures him he has it all wrong. They are in fact here to ask Karn to join them. Karn scoffs at this as he sends Spider-UK & Spider-Punk flying with a sonic clap, mockingly asking "does the tiger ally itself with the gazelle?" Spider-Man India replies that he knows about obligation to family better that most, but his family betrayed those obligations long ago. While they claimed to be punishing him for his mothers death, the truth is they sent him away because he questioned them. Karn says that it doesn't matter since he must feed on animal totems to live, but Ashley Barton points out, while stabbing Karn with his own forked spear, that he was told this by the same family who said he could come back to them if he killed enough spider totems, which was hundreds of years ago. Though he grabs Barton by the throat, Karn asks if there is another way to satiate his hunger and if the Spiders have the means. Anya replies that they don't, but if he helps them beat his family, they can use the Inheritors tech to find other means.

Hurling Ashley into Anya, Karn declares that his family can't be defeated as he pulls his spear from his chest. Spider-Punk charges into Karn, stabbing him with his horns as he says that the power structure want them to think there is no hope, but that's when you need to stand up and fight. Karn protests that it's useless to defy "the natural order", but Spider-UK asks "who says there's only one natural order", reminding Karn of the multitude of worlds they've both visited and how beautiful and different they are, and that according to the scroll, he wanted to explore, record and celebrate their beauty rather than bringing death and destruction. And as for the fate side of it, Anya says that no one knows it like the Master Weaver, before revealing to Karn that the Weaver gave them the scrolls. The Spiders point out that they've taken a big risk telling Karn that, as he could use the information to undermine their efforts and get his family to take him back, but even if they did, they'd probably still be laughing at him behind his back. Spider-Man India offers Karn the chance to join their side again.

Karn is still hesitant though, saying that his hunger can be intense and uncontrollable, so to solve this, all of the Spiders (except Ashley) allow him to absorb a small amount of energy from each of them in order to keep himself going. He is saddened by the realisation that all of the suffering he experienced and caused never had to happen, remarking that his family told one truth, that there is no greater wretch then him. Spider-Punk tells him that no-one is beyond redemption however, and that they will help him take the first step on the long journey towards it. Their objective accomplished, the Spiders exit this world through the portal with Karn, leaving the Spider-Maam behind with her version of Uncle Ben & Peter, who simply says "Well, that was weird."

Bugged:

Taking place before the first story, in the bunker on Earth-3145, May "Mayday" Parker, the Spider-Girl of Earth-982, demands that they all go to "Loomworld" (Earth-001) now in order to save her brother, Benjy, from the Inheritors. Spider-Man India tries to calm her down, saying that only death waits for them on Loomworld, but Mayday refuses to listen, branding all the Spider-Men present phonies and claiming that her dad was the only real Spider-Man, saying that she'll go to Loomworld herself if someone will give her a teleporter. Anya  and the Spider-Man of Earth-3145, none other than Uncle Ben, say that it would be a suicide mission and she won't survive. Mayday remains angry, calling Ben the biggest coward of them all and that while her father looked up to his Uncle Ben, he'd be ashamed of this one. She leaps away and Ben follows after her, not noticing the "skritch skritch" noise coming from the wall nearby.

May leaps from one wall to the other, tears streaming from her face, as she further decries her teammates, thinking that none of them understand what it means to be a hero. Heroes save people, protect the innocent and defend the helpless. She then believes she's kidding herself, saying it's her fault Benny was kidnapped by Morlun and it's her fault her parents were killed, punctuating that last thought by smashing the wall with her fist.

Dangling from the ceiling, Uncle Ben interrupts her self-deprecation, trying to sympathise by asking about her family, particularly her version of Peter. Mayday isn't in the mood for bonding and lashes out at Ben, telling him to go to hell! Ben dodges her attacks as she continues to mock him, saying that her dad's Uncle Ben taught him to stand up, saying "does the phrase "with great power comes great responsibility" ring any bells?" Ben corrects her, replying ""must also come." a subtle, yet profound, difference." adding that there's no guaranteed link between power and responsibility. He admits that he gave up when his versions of Peter & Aunt May died, but that doesn't give Mayday the right to judge him. Meanwhile the "skritch skritch" sound builds as a crack appears in the wall. Mayday maintains that her dad would be ashamed of Ben, who refuses to believe that she could be so egocentric to say that as his Peter was just as real as hers. Just as Mayday shows off her impact webbing (a gift from her own "Uncle Ben", Ben Reilly), both her and Ben's Spider Sense start tingling (though Ben calls it his "Danger Sense" *facepalm*).

An army of mutant spiders suddenly burst through the wall, having thrived on the radiation from the nuclear holocaust that ravaged Ben's world (courtesy of his version of Otto "I'm so Superior" Octavius). Mayday uses her stingers to try and destroy them, but there are too many. She claims that the mutant spiders prove her point - they aren't safe anywhere - as she covers both the spiders and the floor with her webbing. She continues that Daemos (the hulking brute of an Inheritor that killed her father) and his siblings are unrelenting and the only way they will win if they take the fight to the Inheritors first and destroy them all. She orders Ben to get off the floor so she can magnetise the webbing, freezing the spiders in their place. Ben asks why she is the only Spider-Person who has that power, to which May responds "who says I am?" Working together, she and Ben force the spiders out of the bunker and seal the breach using their webbing.  Ben points out that Mayday caused the spider attack with her "temper tantrum". He tells her that she needs to get her emotions under control and forget Loomworld (guess you threw sympathy out of the window huh?), as she can be safe here in the bunker. Mayday walks away from Ben, saying he doesn't understand. She can't have a life without Benjy, as he all that she has left. She hopes there are an infinite number of realities, maybe even one where her family is still alive. Whatever the case, she says she'll be fighting for them when she rescues her brother from Loomworld and kills Daemos...

Thoughts:

As you can probably tell from my intro, I wouldn't have minded this series continuing for a while longer. The lack of a series like this on Marvel's current list of series has been more than noticeable (though we'll soon have Guardians of the Galaxy Team-Up to fill the void), especially since the end of Avenging Spider-Man. Spider-Man is one of those characters who just seems to go hand in hand with the phrase "team-up", which is no-doubt why he was a regular feature in Marvel Team-Up. His keen scientific mind, coupled with his sense of humour and strong moral compass are huge parts of why he works so well when paired with other heroes or anti-heroes. As this series exclusively features alternate versions of Spider-Man, part of the fun has been finding the small details that make them different from one another as well as the common "thread" that links them all and I honestly think that series has done this very well.

Like the previous two stories written by Gage, Too Many Spider-Men Part II has an upbeat, fun tone with an emphasis on action. I cracked up at the appearance of the Spider-Maam, especially after learning that she was actually a pre-existing character created in the pages of Marvel What-If?. If there's been any missed opportunity in having members of Spidey's supporting cast as the web-slinger, it's that we've not seen a J. Jonah Jameson Spider-Man (the jokes would write themselves). Some people might criticise this story by saying it focuses on Karn more than it does the five Spiders that he tussles with, but there is actually another layer to the narrative that gives it some depth.

Each of the stories that Gage has written for this book have been partly devoted to examining an aspect of Spider-Man's personality and showing why it's part of what makes him such a great hero, with this one being the most sub-textual of the three. The Power of Positive Thinking was about Spider-Man's indomitable will and optimism, while Too Many Spider-Men Part I showed how, despite often joking around, he completely understands the severity of death. This time, Gage showcases an aspect of Spider-Man that is often overlooked, and that is his compassion. Aside from responsibility (of course), compassion has always seemed to be one of Spidey's biggest motivators for doing what he does, even in the face of intense public scrutiny. It's also played a big part in why several of Spidey's allies have very often been former villains, like Black Cat, Rocket Racer, Sandman & recently Clash from the Learning to Crawl prequel series. A more extreme example perhaps would be Doctor Octopus. While he did take over Peter's body and attempt to erase his personality, he ultimately learned from his mistakes and made the ultimate sacrifice to allow Peter to return, none of which would be possible if Spider-Man had left him to die in Ends of the Earth. That same compassion is what wins the day for the Spiders here. Karn has known nothing but cruelty from his family and has only ever done the things he's done to earn acceptance from them. This doesn't excuse him from his actions and he likely would have wound up dead if he was fighting another hero like Wolverine. Instead, the Spiders give him the opportunity to start what will be a long road to redemption.

Talking of the Spiders, it was good to see Spider-Man India and the 616 Spider-Girl utilised alongside the more prominent variations like Spider-Punk Spider UK (Who should absolutely be played by Andrew Garfield if the worse comes to pass and Spidey is recast for his entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe), as they've been somewhat underutilised up until now. Despite the larger number of Spiders present, each manages to get a moment here and most of them come off as pretty awesome, except for Ashley Barton who is just an arrogant grump, though that shouldn't be surprising given her unsavoury nickname in her home reality.

Bugged has a lot going for it from the start as it features a complete reunion of the Spider-Girl creative team. It must no doubt be weird for Tom Defalco & Ron Frenz to return to the character after Dan Slott introduced such a huge change in status-quo for Mayday Parker, but it doesn't show and they do a great job in conveying her anguish at losing her parents and boyfriend and her fear at losing the only thing she has left: her brother. The problem with this story lies in the pairing of Mayday with the Uncle Ben Spider-Man. While he's an interesting character in his own right, the pairing is just awkward and doesn't quite serve Mayday's story in the way it should. Ben doesn't really have anything to offer in terms of altering her current darker state of mind apart from the moment when he comments on her use of "with great power comes great responsibility", which was the best part of their exchange in my opinion. I honestly think that if the writers had more control over this story then they would have had Spider-Girl exchanging words with the mainstream Spider-Man rather than Uncle Ben, since she begins the story feeling as though all the Spider-Men are pale imitations of her dad. Peter earning her respect and convincing her that revenge is not the answer would have be more emotionally gripping than Ben simply telling her that she should get her emotions under control.

The art this issue is pretty good across the board. There are some parts of Dave Williams' work that are a little rushed, but he provides plenty of fun, dynamic action. The money shot of all five Spiders emerging from the portal is just that. I'll take a moment to comment on the designs of the characters. There's been a great degree of creativity on display where all the Spider-Men, Women and Animals are concerned. Spider-Punk & Spider-UK in particular have very awesome costume designs, with the latter feeling more minimalist in comparison to Punk's full-blown gimmick-look. Karn also has an intimidating presence thanks to the ominous, steampunk-esque look of his helmet, and the fact that it clashes the rest of his outfit highlights his internal conflict. Consistently, Sal Buscema does a stronger job with Bugged. I really like the classic feel his artwork evokes. His version of Spider-Ham even looks closer to the original appearance of the character. There's plenty of detail in both the drawing and Buscema's inks and the colours by Andrew Crossley add to that perfectly, with a nice contrast between the bright colours of Spider-Girl's costume and the muted, darker background of the bunker.

This isn't what you'd call a perfect end to this series (I wouldn't have minded if they'd forgone the second story and extended out the first with maybe a few extra Spider-People added to the line-up), but it's still very entertaining and boasts some great artwork, not to mention that this issue contains a major plot point in the overall story of Spider-Verse. Overall, this has been an entertaining series with the right amount of nostalgia and fun. It's been short, but very sweet...

Score: 3.5/5.0

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