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.
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).