The long-teased "Spider-Verse" crossover opens in Dan Slott and Olivier Coipel's "Amazing Spider-Man" #9 with the murder of a Spider-Man who looks like a Pete and talks like a Pete but isn't our Pete. It continues the bloodshed for another 30 pages, detailing the lust for spider essence that fuels Morlun and his family in their dimension and beyond, pondering over existential quandaries like the meaning of the universe, the web of existence that connects every living being, and which Spider-Man is worth more points in the race to catch 'em all. It's illustrated with dark, gorgeous brilliance by Olivier Coipel and though it's well done readers should be prepared for a stark tonal departure from what the book has been since the relaunch.
No dimension is safe from the vampiric tendencies of Morlun and his ilk as they traipse from dimension to dimension consuming Spider-Men in their quest to destroy them all. Morlun's proprietary feelings about the 616 universe are put to the test when his brother invades Peter's earth to find out what is so special about everybody's favorite Parker. The Spider-Brigade arrives and leads Pete to the Gathering of the Spiders. In the backup Morlun's family waits to eat their Amazing Spider-Dinners as their father ponders each of their roles in the coming consumption.
Dan Slott is very excited about this crossover, as evidenced by his social media hype throughout 2014. One chapter in, it feels very bleak and unlike "Spider-Island," heavy and extremely dangerous. This is definitely aided by Coipel's moody linework. His thin lines feel like they are etched on old paper and he is channeling his inner Travis Charest throughout. The layouts are dynamic and prove that he is approaching master levels of composition. The double page spreads are full of rich details and expressive character emotion. Body language is important when conveying emotion in fully masked characters and Coipel has that on lock. Our introduction to 616 Pete is naked and sleeping, which may be conveyed as cheese, but is a choice that gives us Parker at his most vulnerable, opening a story that is all about just that. Justin Ponsor pulls all the light out of his color palette further spotlighting the shift in visuals here. The candy colors of the last eight issues are gone, replaced with ominous tones that feel like danger lurking in from the panel gutters.
There's inherent silliness in the action, especially with Spider-Ham lurking about, and Slott lets Peter call that out, which is important in a story like this.Â The table is set nicely, but this just feels so strange for "Amazing Spider-Man." Our street-level hero has been part of cosmic conflict before but this all feels so much further out of his depth. It's the type of story that, were it in another title, would not seem as strange. But it's an odd scenario to see playing out in "ASM." This has always been a dynamic title, able to go light to dark to silly to tragic as needed, but the playing field on which this story takes place feels huge. Even Morlun's previous appearances, with all the totemic references and vague mysticism, were rooted on the ground level. In this issue Peter walks through a portal with a pig version of himself like it's a revolving door at Macy's. I hope Slott's intention is to address this juxtaposition. It's not necessary to stop the action every page and say, "This is crazy," but it's a definite shift in the type of science fiction explored in this book.
The checklist in the back of the book shows several titles that are designed to feed in to this crossover specifically and I'm hopeful that this is structured well enough that reading only "Amazing" will allow readers a full enough view of the action to remain satisfied. Slott has pulled crazier stunts with Parker and stuck the landing, so let's see where this leads.