Vault of Spiders #1was a bit of a mixed, but largely fun, bag — offering up fantastic ideas with flawed execution in the pursuit of adding more worthwhile spider soldiers to the war playing out in Spider-Geddon. Unfortunately, the follow up issue offers neither compelling ideas nor execution in the same pursuit.
What’s it about? Marvel’s preview reads:
We’re way past first blood-the Spider-Army needs new recruits! No one’s too weird to die for — er — serve the cause! Ryan North joins the cause with an incredible story starring SPIDER-MA’AM, a spider-powered Aunt May with Dave Williams (UNCANNY X-FORCE) on art! CULLEN BUNN (X-MEN BLUE) and TBA bring you a tale of a nightmare world where monsters roam the streets and a SPIDER-MAN strange enough to call it home! You will NEVER guess who’s under the mask! Geoffrey Thorne brings an all new Spider-Character to the table, with a Spider-Powered Captain Stacy! Police Officer by day, vigilante by night in a way you’ve never seen before!
So right off the bat, not as inherently interesting as a cowboy spider, Tarzan spider, or Supaidaman story as offered up in the first issue. But that’s okay! After all, Spiders-Man is one of the funniest, most unexpected characters currently featured over in Spider-Geddon (as penned by Christos Gage to great effect) and Spider-Ma’am sounds like kooky fun at the very least. So, what’s the issue? Largely, execution of these ideas.
Spider-Ma’am fares the best here, where poorly detailed, rushed looking art is buoyed by some fantastically funny and earnest character-first writing and a touching message. A spider powered May is a funny enough visual, and this story could’ve been carried entirely by that, but the simple arc here gives her character the most room to shine and North really leans into it. The simple, short story ends up hitting all the right notes in a way that makes this spider feel different not only in looks but demeanor — a fitting, unique addition to a growing cast desperate for uniqueness.
Captain Stacy’s story, titled ‘The Spider: Shock the Spider’ falls somewhere in the middle, not really establishing enough character or voice to be particularly endearing or offensive. The effort here is sleek and subtle at the very least, and The Spider’s design is a cool, spy(der) inspired take but where these stories are meant to succeed is in introducing or re-introducing characters we can care about in a larger context (in this case a whole spider war). And, unfortunately, the narrative relies totally on readers already knowing Captain Stacy well enough to be surprised by this turn with little other pay off in a kind of lackluster way.
Lastly, Spiders-Man, my (and the internet’s at large, now that word of this guy has hit mainstream) beloved self-contained army of thousands of spiders under the impression that they’re Peter Parker, has the most disappointing story here. While the visuals are undeniably the best of the bunch, really leaning into a spooky, Halloween vibe that throws a whole cast of Goblins at us to great effect, the narrative is entirely lacking in character and consistency. This take on Spiders-Man, penned by Cullen Bunn, reads much broodier and dismissive than the darkly funny take readers were introduced to in Spider-Geddon — a tonal shift that doesn’t fare well — and dismisses a lot of what endeared readers to the character in favor of serving a melodramatic narrative that’s in keeping with the cool, gothic art but also no more than there, moving along to a predictable conclusion. It’s a disappointing take on a character with a lot more potential than a star-(or spiders-) crossed lovers’ story like it falls into.
Ultimately, Vault of Spiders #2 lacks the cohesive energy that its predecessor had in at least ideas and fails to make up for that lackluster offering with any truly compelling execution aside from a wonderful, funny and endearing Aunt May story that I fear won’t fold into Spider-Geddon well at all in the end anyways. A disappointing tie-in falling pretty short of its potential.