This series, designed to introduce us to some of the many and varied other inhabitants of the Spider-Verse has been one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises to come out of The House of Ideas this year. The main thrust of this five issue series consists of five one-off stories that get our collective reading appetite primed for the big upcoming Spider-Verse event that is to feature these obscure Spider-Men and Women as well as countless others.
However, the series has ended up being much more than the sum of its parts. One of the biggest developments to come out of the series is of course the inclusion of Spider Gwen in the Marvel Universe proper but for me that was secondary to just how good each of these single narratives really were. These stories were diverse in content, tone and style of execution, the one thing they all shared was dynamic storytelling. As good as each of these issues were, it appears that they saved the best for last.
The final issue is written by former My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way. This is Way’s Marvel debut but he has co-created the brilliant Umbrella Academy series as well as The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys for Dark Horse. There is a significant anime influence to Way’s work and that is definitely apparent here as he introduces the young heroine Peni Parker, daughter of the late Peter Parker and genetic heir to SP//dr, a symbiotic combination of an Iron Man-like suit of hi-tech armor and arachnid companion. Way and artist Jake Wyatt present a completely fresh and inventive re-imagining of the Spider-Man mythology; there is just enough of the familiar to provide a connection but from there it is certainly not the same old “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”. Given the limitations of a single issue, Way does a fantastic job of creating fully actualised characters. Sure, we don’t get the luxury of a meticulously detailed back story, but we do get a sense that these characters have some extensive roots in this universe. Take Way’s clever slant on Mysterio – it’s the perfect melding of science fiction and comic book villain but something more than merely an amalgam of the two genres. The same applies to the writer’s take on the extra-dimensional doppelgänger of Daredevil.
These previously unseen versions of characters we have known our whole comic book reading lives serve as anchors that keep this entirely new universe from feeling alien to us. It’s more like seeing a person we love with a completely different hairstyle; all the things we love about them are still there beneath the newly styled coif. Way very accurately captures the feeling and tonal quality of a Spider-Man story right down to the subtle nuances; the quirky sense of humor, the high ideals, especially the “great responsibility that comes with great power”. It’s all there, transcending time, dimension and universe.
Way enters the Marvel Universe like a brilliant, blazing shooting star. This story is engrossing, entertaining and refreshingly dynamic. The only complaint I have is that it is only one issue. I hope that Marvel gives Way another assignment sooner than later. He brings a degree of edginess and, God forgive me for saying this, a certain hipness that is not easy to find. Way is cool without being pretentious possessing an obvious love and respect for the medium of comic books. Much of his intelligent use of metaphor and penchant for obscure references as found in Way’s lyrics, are likewise evident in his scripts.
Jake Wyatt’s art is as unique and brilliant as Way’s writing. He has a style that readily lends itself to Way’s anime infused imagery and brings these images electrically to life. The artist incorporates Peni’s personality with SP//dr extremely effectively, particularly in one panel where we see that the young protagonist has put Hello Kitty-type stickers on the actual armor providing a touching and humorous juxtaposition between the menacing look of SP//dr and the diminutive girl who pilots the heroic symbiotic robot. Wyatt’s art is dynamic and his approach to storytelling is energetic, fueled by his unique use of panel placement and vivacious page composition.
The final Edge of Spider-Verse installment will definitely leave you wanting more. Marvel showed extremely shrewd judgment by closing the series with Way and Wyatt’s electrifying issue. It has all the action, excitement and razor sharp humor that we have come to expect from a Spider-Man related title. I would love to see these two creators return to these characters, this time for an extended stay. Until then I’m sure they will turn up in the big event along with a multitudinous amount of other Spider-Beings like Miguel O’Hara and Peter Parker but I for one will be looking forward to being reunited with Peni Parker and SP//dr. (5/5)