The inherent joy in events like Spider-Verse and Spider-Geddon is in seeing a bunch of your favorite characters mashed up with each other. The larger threat doesn’t really matter (The Inheritors aren’t particularly interesting, to be honest), but these characters do — their histories are rich enough on their own, new ones add to the fun, and the chemistry between all the moving pieces usually ends up summing more than its parts. It’s unfortunate, then, that while the first Spider-Force really leaned into the cast of characters at hand to fantastic results, the second fails to follow-up in any compelling way.
What’s it about? Operating in the shadow of one of the scarier Inheritors, Verna, after a tantalizing and horrifying opening scene Priest does a fantastic job of setting the stage for revelations or development, picking up where the previous issue left off with our suicide squad of spider-people fighting themselves and each other to stop the re-birth of Solus on a radioactive future-world. From there, however, the stakes ramp up recursively and nonsensically through some infighting with the newly introduced Astro-Spider with little context or development as the squad constantly comes back to the importance of the larger fight against The Inheritors versus Astro’s wanting to save his human charges.
It’s an attempt at a character-first issue like its predecessor that falls flat because it doesn’t spend any time earning our intrigue — instead jumping too fast into half sentences and snippets of dialogue, which the issue is replete with, and characters fighting, but about the same thing over and over. Especially disappointing given that the radioactive atrophy introduced previously seemed to be a massive cliffhanger left relatively untouched here. Weird references to pedophilia and a total imbalance of darkness and humor further detract, leaving the entire narrative feeling half-baked at best and nowhere close to worthy of the (admittedly cool) cliffhanger ending it offers.
The artistic effort here, however, is fully realized. Fantastically dark, dynamic, and gritty, it may be the best looking Spider-Geddon tie-in issue yet; the panels depicting the full brunt of Verna’s might and fury — gory and shadowy in equal measure — certainly make a compelling case for the argument at the very least. There’re nice parallels, like Verna pouncing on prey in the opening passage and Astro-Spider flying towards his friends or foes in the next, dark and light in balance that play off well and showcase the attention to detail and composition both that this team really revels in throughout the issue’s run. An attention that’s further cemented by some kinetic movement as characters pass around each other in space, expressions read honest, pained, surprised, and more. A nice, although not entirely soothing, balm to the frustrating narrative.
Is this indicative of a simple sophomore slump that’ll even out with the third and final offering? Maybe. It certainly seems that, like a budding band seeking the perfect line between success and experimentation, the narrative tuning of the first issue couldn’t be left behind here and, reinvented for a new purpose, it weighed things down instead of elevating them — hitting all the wrong notes in comparison to their predecessor. The ending hints at a big “what the heck just happened” reveal to come and in my duty to see every issue of Spider-Geddon through, I’ll be here for it. But I’m not particularly eager.
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