Superior Spider-Man #33

"Edge of Spider-Verse" continues in "Superior Spider-Man" #33, which continues despite the relaunch of "Amazing Spider-Man" several months ago. Christos Gage gets an assist from series writer Dan Slott and puts the Otto Octavius incarnation of Spidey alongside several other manifestations of the webslinger from across the multiverse, all of which are energetically illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli and John Dell. The story is about as thin as a gossamer thread, as these Spider-folk unite to oppose a dimension-crossing foe who seeks to squash them all under the guise of an equally-thin motive, but that oddly doesn't really seem to matter as Gage manages to throw a fun-filled Spider-fest that is just too hard for Spider-fans not to like.

The lineup looks like the latest wave of Spidey action figures on the racks at Toys-'R-Us, and that's just fine. There's Cyborg Spider-Man, Monkey Spider-Man and even an Assassin Spider-Man, not to mention a few more that make up this diverse array of Earth's Spidey-est Heroes. Some of them are more familiar than others, and much of this familiarity depends on how good readers' memories are; Pavitr Prabhakar isn't a new character, although for his few past appearances he might as well be. Gage establishes a tense dynamic between many of these Spider-beings, not all of whom are Peter Parker, and that's the strength of the issue that keeps it from feeling like nothing more than an excuse to actually justify a new wave of action figures.

From the very first page, Gage almost deliberately makes it seem like this is going to be just another what-if scenario where variant versions of iconic characters are wantonly getting snuffed in a cliched and well-worn attempt at shock value. But on the second page, he quickly dispels this idea, and immediately attaches a cool factor to the very first Spidey seen in this issue. The next two pages are a spread that introduces the remaining players and serves as the web that will snag readers from this point on. There's no over-reaching plot or subtle nuances to look for; instead it's just plain old fanboy fun.

Camuncoli takes a traditional approach with all of the characters, eschewing any kind of stylish enhancement and instead making sure readers can tell exactly what every member of this Spider-team is supposed to look like. The designs are all clear, and Camuncoli ensures that each version has some kind of telltale characteristic, whether it's an element as simple as a costume variation or something far more significant. Dell inks everything accordingly, undoubtedly spending many a long night precisely delineating every single web line on every piece of Spidey-spandex that has them. This kind of detail draws attention to the very thing that this comic is about, successfully executing the final look of a very fun idea.

The issue contains a weaker but nicely drawn backup story by Gage and artist M.A. Sepulveda featuring the origin of Karn, the main story's spider-slaying villain. This is the story where Gage tries to give Karn some semblance of a reason for becoming a multiversal spider squasher, but it's a somewhat shallow motive that uses all-too familiar themes of exile and redemption. The only thing that keeps this notion from stretching to the breaking point is the revelation that Karn is related to a more recent Spidey foe who many thought would never return until recently. Sepulveda has a little bit softer touch than Camuncoli, but instills the same amount of detail that keeps this second story looking consistent with the first.

"Superior Spider-Man" #33 is the kind of popcorn comic that's best consumed for what it is, rather than criticized for what it isn't. There's enough characterization and tension to make readers not really care that these normally earthbound and friendly (and not-so-friendly) neighborhood Spider-Men really don't belong swinging around through the multiverse.

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