Friday, October 2, 2015

'Amazing Spider-Man: Edge of Spider-Verse' review

Consider the five-issue EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE series something close to Marvel Comics' WHAT IF --? approach to Spider-Man. In that sense, each of the stories contain more than enough tragedy.

For this Spidey fan, these tales are actually closer to DC Comics' ELSEWORLD concept in that these incarnations are inspired by Spider-Man, but are placed in vastly different circumstances. In fact, I'd argue that four of these versions are characters named Spider-Man with the name being the only common factor (aside from supporting character shout-outs) in different eras or genres.

Sadly, four of the stories just don't ring true with the spirit of everyone's favorite neighborhood-friendly Spider-Man.

The one incarnation that works is the fun-lovin' and smart-pants Gwen Stacy, whose Spider-Woman has been nicknamed Spider-Gwen and has become the darling of dozens of cutie-patootie cosplayers. She has the same kind of drive and sassiness as Spider-Man and fights crime because she believes in doing the right thing — so there's no doubt why Spider-Gwen has become a runaway hit.

Without further ado, here are my brief thoughts on the five stories in EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE:

"Spider-Man Noir": Set in what could be the late 1800s or early 1900s, the story attempts to capture a noir feel. Aunt May, Mary Jane (who doesn't get a last name here), Felicia Hardy, Mysterio and even the Kingpin all make appearances, but the S&M-looking hero could be any vigilante. Verdict: Fails 

"Gwen Stacy: Spider-Woman": This is by far the best of the bunch.
Told with a lot of heart with art and lettering similar to (but better than) what's going on in the rebooted/reimagined BATGIRL series, the spin here is Stacy gets bitten by the radioactive spider and Peter Parker's Lizard dies in her arms trying to replicate what happened to her. I love the character shout-out here: Stacy is a drummer in an all-girl punk band named The Mary Janes, whose lead singer looks like — you guessed it! — Mary Jane Watson.

Blamed for Parker's death and hunted by the police, Spider-Woman has the same never-give-up attitude as the original Spider-Man, as seen in her underdog fight with an oversized brute. The final scene between Spider-Woman and her armed, police captain father brings all this fan goodness home in style. Verdict: Passes with flying colors 

"Aaron Aikman: The Spider-Man": Essentially following Parker's origin, but making Aikman a molecular biologist in putting him in a Robocop-like Spidey suit, the concept falls short with too many unexplained subplots that might have some, um, legs if they were fleshed out. Verdict: Needs improvement 

"I Walked with a Spider!": There's simply too much horror, too many gross-out moments and nastiness for this to be enjoyable. The story features a literal Spider-Man (a creepy young teen who is abused by his uncle) for the horror and TALES FROM THE CRYPT crowd. Verdict: Fails

"Sp//dr": The thought captions aren't clear enough to be informative of the independent comic-style art (which I've never enjoyed). This faux sci-fi story is all esoteric for the sake of being different — unfufilling material that depends on innuendo too much, something I never "get." There's a Daredevil-like character who has befriended the young girl wearing the Sp//dr armor and apparently knew her late father, but none of it is adequately explained. It's all a hot mess. Verdict: Fails and needs to repeat Fundamentals of Comic Book Storytelling 101.

Overall verdict: Pass — as in pass by this trade paperback. But definitely look for more stories about Spider-Woman/Spider-Gwen (which is what I'm doing).

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