For both Marvel and DC, “event books” are seen as a staple of their publishing catalog. Bringing together their biggest and brightest heroes to face impossible odds too big for their everyday series’, these crossover events usually have the weight of huge expectations on them. Many times, these books fail to meet said expectations due to countless factors surrounding their execution.
Despite the hard work of some of the industry’s top talents, these event books usually come across as bloated and (ironically) uneventful. Fans have come to gripe over many of the points that define these major comic book events, such as too many tie-in books, not enough characterization, or questionable reasoning behind certain actions taken by characters. It’s true that many events fail in this regard. While the latest major event from Marvel, Spider-Verse, falls into several of the same traps that other event books have hit, it also manages to produce a fun and engaging read for fans of Spider-Man.
The premise of the event is enough to make any fan of comics (not just fans of Spider-Man) intrigued. Morlun, one of Spider-Man’s most fearsome foes, returns to plague Spidey’s life once again. Only this time, he brings his entire family of “Inheritors” along to help him take down the web-head. Travelling along what they call the “great web,” each of the Inheritors hunts Spider-Men and Women of different universes, feeding on their life force as a “Spider-Totem.” This leads to the greatest team-up of Spideys in the history of the character, as thousands of different iterations of the hero come together to stop Morlun from exterminating their kind once and for all.
Despite having an intriguing premise, the story does fail in certain aspects. Like other event books published by both Marvel and DC, the main story (told in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man) is very action-heavy, with huge set pieces and bombastic fight scenes. Smaller character moments are relegated to the tie-in books, which can be hit-or-miss for many readers.
In many cases, the tie-ins fail to tell cohesive and engaging stories on their own. A perfect example of this is Spider-Woman, who began her own ongoing series serving as a tie-in to the main Spider-Verse event. While this wouldn’t have been a problem in it of itself, the character played an integral role in the pages of the main narrative. The Spider-Woman tie-in issues only served to fill in the pieces from the main series, leaving huge gaps in plot throughout these books.
On top of this, some of the tie-ins have strange, disconnected voices from the main series. Dan Slott, the writer of Amazing Spider-Man, writes with a style that feels very at home in a traditional comic book. The pacing, dialogue, and inner-monologue boxes all feel natural to a book like Amazing Spider-Man. Other writers attached to this event bring in styles that feel different from this and lack the same finesse Slott brings to his books. The obvious example of this would be the tie-in Scarlet Spiders, written by Mike Costa. That tie-in series follows a strange narrative that switches who the focal character is in each issue and brings in references that feel oddly misplaced for a book like Spider-Verse (such as an odd connection to Chaucer one of the villains muses on).
But despite these flaws, the main narrative weaved by Slott in Amazing Spider-Man is fun and adventurous. It feels like a summer blockbuster taking place on the page in front of you, and leaves the reader in amazement at the story. There may not be huge, character-defining moments happening here, but the love Slott has for Spidey is clear on every page and in every panel. This is the kind of story a kid dreams of, and Slott has finally brought it to fans. Children playing with their countless Spider-Man action figures couldn’t ask for a better story.
In regards to the collection of the event itself, Marvel both succeeded and failed in two very big areas. They managed to succeed by bringing in all the tie-ins under one cover, meaning fans who waited for the collection only have to pick up one book to get the whole story (as opposed to having to pick up multiple trades to get all the tie-ins connected to the main series). It is pricey, coming in at a whopping seventy-five dollars for this oversized hardcover. But for twenty-eight issues of story, accounting for several hundred pages of Spider-Action, that’s well worth the cover price.
However, Marvel dropped the ball when it came to arranging the order of the books in this collection. Instead of ordering them in the proper reading order, they arranged them by the order of the series. Meaning you have all of the Amazing Spider-Man issues collected together, then all of the Spider-Woman issues, and so and so forth. This is a huge disappointment, as it takes away from the reading experience to have to flip around throughout the book to read the entire event the way it was meant to be read. It’s even more of a disappointment when compared to the collection Marvel put out for another one of their major event books, the Avengers-focused Infinity, which had all the issues arranged in their proper reading order.
It will be interesting to see if Marvel hears or heeds any complaints about this, and changes the layout of the collection when the softcover collection finally hits stands. Some could make the argument that this kind of arrangement of issues allows them to read the books they want without having to wade through “useless” tie-ins. To that, I only say that if you’re putting down the money this collection costs, why wouldn’t you want to read every issue there is to get your money’s worth?
But in regards to the other aspects of the collection, Marvel sticks to their typical safe bets. The only bonus materials to speak of are a collection of variant covers done for some of the books. It’s interesting to note however, that these covers are scattered throughout the collection (usually placed in a break between series) and not all at the end. An interesting change, but one that does little for fans expecting more goodies inside.
One can’t help but wonder why Marvel wouldn’t want more bonus material in this book, especially considering the cover price. Dozens of new characters were created for this event, including the now fan-favorite sensation Spider-Gwen. For seventy-five dollars, why not include some concept art of these new Spider-Characters, or at least have Slott’s original pitch for the event? Something, anything, to make this massive tome a bit cooler and worth it for trade-waiters.
Ultimately, event books can be hit or miss when it comes to meeting expectations. Sometimes the hype machine works too hard and the anticipation of a book fails to meet what fans are expecting. There are also times when the very structure of an event fails to engage the reader and is deemed a flop by critics. While the structure of the story and the brand-new collection Marvel put out has its flaws, ultimately Spider-Verse brings fans a fun and exciting story that’s worthy enough to be considered a fan-favorite Spidey story for years to come.