Spider-Verse has already gotten a great deal of mileage out of cramming as many versions of Spider-Man onto the page as possible and watching the chaos that unfolds as a result. There’s plenty more of that in this third chapter. However, more compelling than Spider-mania is the long-awaited confrontation between Peter Parker and the man who stole his body and calls himself the Superior Spider-Man. That confrontation is the highlight of another memorable chapter in the Spider-Verse saga.
Dan Slott picks up from the chaos of issue #10 as multiple factions of Spider-Men have no scattered throughout the multiverse and Peter and Otto are left to fight for leadership of the rest. Slott never really had the opportunity to have the two interact in Superior Spider-Man, as no sooner did Peter’s mind resurface than Otto gave up his new body for the greater good. This Otto, however, has yet to experience the powerful lessons learned in “Goblin Nation.” So sure is Otto of his infallibility that it never occurs to him that Peter might be hailing from a later timeline, not an earlier one. Needless to say, their interaction is a great deal of fun to read. But even beyond the entertainment value, Slott takes the opportunity to remind readers why Peter really is the better hero of the two.
From there, Slott continues escalating the threat of the Inheritors, proving that no place in the multiverse is truly safe from these all-powerful vampires. That means more tragic, gruesome deaths and more hardship for our many heroes. The stakes are even higher thanks to this issue. Luckily, Slott doesn’t paint all of the Inheritors as one-dimensional monsters. While they are an unrepentantly evil bunch for the most part, certain Inheritors show some depth and complexity. Karn continues to be the most intriguing thanks to his fruitless quest for respect, while Morlun’s lingering fear of confronting the Spider-Man who twice killed him distinguishes that villain.
There’s also plenty of fun to be had as Slott spotlights more alternate Spider-Men and alternate worlds. This issue delivers a terrific new pairing as Miles Morales and the Peter Parker from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon join forces and venture into the world of the 1960’s Spider-Man cartoon. It’s hilarious to see Miles react to Peter’s fondness for cutaway jokes and the two poke fun at the cheaply rendered, psychedelic landscape of Ralph Bakshi’s Marvel Universe. J. Jonah Jameson calling out for “Pictures of Spider-Men!!!” as Peter and Miles stare into his office has to be one of the greatest panels of the year.
Unfortunately, Spider-Verse is still trapped in a pattern where it spends at least as much time setting up other tie-ins as it does furthering its story. There are too many editor’s captions pointing readers to read this comic or that comic, and too many subplots (the Miles/Peter team-up included) that just cut off mid-stream. It’s great that the various Spider-Verse tie-ins have been great reads on their own, but the main event could do with a bit more focus.
Olivier Coipel remains in top form in this issue, with the expected trade-off that multiple inkers are now called upon to ink his pages. There is a pretty noticeable difference in the quality and clarity of the line-work from section to section. The opening Peter/Otto clash is especially rough in that regard. But when paired with the right inkers, Coipel’s art sparkles and gives Spider-Verse all the intensity and drama it demands. This issue allows Coipel to stretch his talents further, especially with the scene set in the Bakshi Marvel U. He does a great job of capturing the crude look of that show, or the softer lines of Ultimate Spider-Man’s art style, or anything else Slott’s script demands of him.
Spider-Verse is rapidly shaping up to be Marvel’s best event comic of 2014. Even though it occasionally gets bogged down in setting up tie-in books, ASM #10 is a tremendously fun read that delivers the Peter Parker/Otto Octavius showdown we’ve been waiting for. It also looks great and further builds up the threat of the Inheritors. It’s nice to have an event that actually lives up to the hype. By Jesse Schedeen