“We don’t have the power of the state. We don’t have the authority on our side, the cops, or the media. What we have are angry hearts. Clenched fists. Love and rage”
If one thing holds true and consistent, even beyond death and taxes it’s that Marvel loves itself an event. Even more so if it’s a bankable follow up to an already proven event. That’s not necessarily as negative as I’ve probably made it sound with the company throwing out surprisingly excellent and enjoyable sequels to a lot of past titles including yet another Secret Wars, another Infinity storyline and two spin offs from the seemingly unstoppable Old Man Logan title that followed Hawkeye and Laura. So it was one hundred and ten percent inevitable that the House of Ideas would get around to revisiting their hugely successful, multiverse spanning Spider-Man epic, Spider-verse with the equally ludicrously titled, Spider-Geddon!
Setting the stage for the event with the defiant punk rock sneer of “With great responsibility, comes no future” is Hobie Brown, the Anarchic Spider-Man of his home reality of Earth-138 where the biggest threat comes from, you guessed it, corrupt politicians and it’s strict authoritarian government. Last time around the Spider-Punk had brought down President Norman Osbourne (who seems to abuse that position in every reality, go figure) and his terrifying V.E.N.O.M program is this time faced with an even bigger and much more nefarious threat, selling out!
Writer Jed Mackay returns this time around on writing duties on this “radioactive suicide machine” version of Spidey in a story that crashes along at the pace and volume of a good punk song, with rebellious energy to spare. Facing off against his universe’s version of Eric Masters, Spider Punk is soon confronted with Kang the Conglomoragor, a new spin of the might future conqueror. His plan not to conquer him, but instead to comodify and sell him to a future audience who want a rebel “edgy, but just enough” and sets up the rebellious wall crawler against an army of chibi-fied versons of himself, spouting well worn “punk” epitaphs and bearing more than a passing resemblance to the popular Tsum Tsum plushies.
“Well…I don’t make much from the comics, but the films! oh the films!” brags Kang , explaining his plan to the Anarchic Spider-Punk reminding us that this is a comic about a punk, and putting a focus on the absurdity that claiming it was a punk comic created for the all consuming and watchful eye of the house of mouse, would be, with a nice little bit comical meta teasing at Marvel’s expense. It’s a neat little issue exploring all the thorny and knotty issues over selling out, and ultimately what comics ask us to do,investing a vast amount of love, time and money into a character owned by a huge multi-national corporation. Kang’s explanation of the eventual fates of both Brown and Captain Anarchy give the comic another layer in asking us to question our ongoing and morbid fascination of young, dead rock stars and the attitude it is still used flippantly to portray that still persists to this day.
The book definitely would have benefited from having the unique, feverish hot hues and rough punk aesthetic that Sheldon Vella brought to Hobie’s Spider-Verse outing. However new artists who has worked in the spider-man sandpit before with Venom still has a very kinetic and vibrant style, utilising double page spreads that add to the books enegergetic, breakneck pace.
With the heavy promotion thrown behind Sp//dr along with the big name draw behind relative comics newcomer and rock star Gerard Way, I’m convinced that Marvel was banking on the anime inspired adventures of Peni Parker being the next big thing and the obvious breakaway hit. That is until it became obvious that ironically the book staring a musician version of a familiar face had swung in and webbed up our hearts,giving us the true breakthrough “character find” of the original event, Spider-Gwen. Unfortunately her fame lead to a lot of the other books, including Way’s Sp//dr being criminally overlooked. Sure,the premise isn’t as simple and elegant as Latour’s contribution, requiring more unpacking and at least a passing knowledge of a handful of Anime staples,it doesn’t make it any less a fascinating world or interesting interpretation of the Spider-mythos.
On Earth 14512, mechs are the order of the day in a universe clearly inspired by Anime, particularly Evangellion with Peni inheriting the huge Spider mech suit from her father which she pilots through a physic symbiosis to her Spider and is tutored by Aunt May and Uncle Ben, who are a lot more distant and clinical then any depiction we’ve seen so far. Naoler & Thompson flesh out the world of Sp//dr with some cute moments that add to Peni’s character such as her and her relationship with the Spider, who is much more a character here as he perches on her shoulder between action scenes looking suitably adorable. Sometimes it feels like there is a lot more story than can be comfortably worked through in a single issue,with Peni’s first encounter with Addy Brock and the subsequent brush off feeling extremely forced and rushed through in the first few pages. It’s a shame Peni and Sp//dr weren’t given the chance at their own ongoing series where the reveal of Addy Brock and her own Ven#m mech could have been given more space to breath and be explored.
As with this mini-series first issue, the original artist Jake Wyatt doesn’t return for Peni’s next big outing beyond contributing a cover that teases how much more special this book would have felt with the distinct anime-esque look and feel that he provided in Edge of Spider-Verse.While I loved Albuquerque and Farrell’s art in this issue, it just feels like Wyatt would have suited this world a lot better and given it a more distinct look from the other Spider-Man books and indeed, Marvel overall.
Both Sp//dr and The Anarchic Spider-man follow the structure set up in Spider-Verse, following these new interpretations of the web-slinger before ultimately whisking them away in preparation for the main event and conflict. The characters worlds are fascinating enough to explore for short done in one stories, and while they could spin off and delve in more in the future, it’s nice to have something to dip into. The titles suffer a little bit from the rule of diminishing returns, not quite having the surprise or shock appeal they had they first time around in 2015, but what they lack in novelty the writers have more than made up for in both the gripping writing and character development, getting across as much of both characters strong hooks and personalities in a very tight few pages. While they might not have the immediate impact of their first outings, the inventive settings and spin on familiar characters and spider-tropes make them breezy, yet endearingly fun and irresistibly silly worlds to explore in the lead up to the big main event next year.