It has to be said: Marvel hasn’t done a great job of defining precisely what SPIDER-VERSE is exactly going to be as an event besides something involving every single Spider-Man incarnation that Marvel currently has the rights to in comics. Most of the significant buildup happens in SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN and most of the significant plot happens in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, so what exactly is left for the title itself? It turns out plenty. We Enter the Spider-Verse with a gorgeous two-page spread from the ruler of the Web of Destiny and that sets up this issue, much like a What-If?... story. Only this one’s got a bit more establishment behind it, lending the tales a sense of gravitas. There are longer-form stories in here and there are tales that only take one or two pages but most of them are provided by Dan Slott who is at his absolute best in either the multiple page spreads or the absolutely sublime Hostess pie parody or even the surprisingly uplifting Spider-Man newspaper comedic interludes. Yes, Morlun is in both of those and yes, they are apparently both canonical. And much like the supposedly tired trope of zombies that always comes back into favor with a great story, we get a steampunk tale of a Victorian May Reilly at the hands of Robbie Thompson and Denis Medri, with Paolo Francescutto on colors but we also get more kid-friendly fare with MY LITTLE PONY’S own Katie Cook. It’s an odd interlude to feature in a book that generally skews fairly dark, but it’s absolutely welcome and cuts its own path.
We also get Skottie Young in a writing role with Jeff Parker and Andrew Crossley in a tale reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender that revisits the Mangaverse version of Spidey and that, along with the Steampunk Spider-Woman and Katie Cook’s take on the character are some of the most enjoyable entries in the series particularly because they’re not really tied into the overall Spider-Verse tale. One of them DOES end with the Spider of its story recruited into the ranks of the anti-Morlun brigade, but it’s only at the very end, and more importantly, every one of the stories listed creates a world that deserves to be explored. I’m very much hoping for a steampunk spin-off personally.
There’s not really enough time to tell any one particular story. The tales only get a few pages at most and while some of them are more goofy than others, there’s not a lot of room to develop a great storyline or characters. Sometimes this is fine, like with Newspaper Spidey, but sometimes, as with the Steampunk Spider, it feels like the story’s just getting started as it comes to an end.
If you want storyline and character development, this may not be the book for you. However, if you want a bizarre concoction of storylines and characters all based around everyone’s favorite wall-crawler, this truly is the book for you. There's an incredible level of creativity and imagination on-display here and it shows the many, many different directions a character can go while still having a strong, central theme. Clearly the book is constructed around having this many creators on it, but it's still admirable that with so many creators, the core of the issue is as strong as it is.