The first Spidey-centric crossover of the current Amazing Spider-Man series remains hellish, humorous, and heartbreaking to the very end in Dark Web Finale #1. Weaving together storylines from about five different titles is the creative team of Zeb Wells, Adam Kubert, Francesco Mortarino, Scott Hanna, VC’s Joe Caramagna, and Nick Lowe. Though the issue is titled “In The Bleak Midwinter”, a more apt name might be “In The Bizarre Midwinter”, as Spider-Man swings his way through clones, magic, mutants, symbiotes, and more as the mayhem reaches its conclusion.
Dark Web is tied together by a central narrative, but the event plays many different roles in the stories of those involved. For Kamala Khan, it was an average Ms. Marvel adventure, but for Black Cat and Mary Jane Watson, the crossover ignited a comedic team-up as Felicia and MJ work a heist in Limbo. Similarly, Venom and the X-Men’s arcs were more focused on familial drama, but the absurdity in Spider-Man’s storyline could hardly feel more removed from the grim psychological drama that Norman Osborn has embroiled himself in as Gold Goblin. For the most part, Dark Web Finale #1 manages to bring these threads together as well as spark new hijinks.
For reading order sticklers, the issue’s opening couple of scenes occur just before and/or concurrently with the end of Venom #16, but the story as a whole picks up seamlessly from where things left off in Amazing Spider-Man #18. Chasm and Hallow’s Eve have nearly completed annexing NYC under their infernal rule, but the X-Men, Madelyne Pryor, Gold Goblin, Bedlam, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, and most importantly Rek-Rap all converge for their final assault. The battle itself stretches across three-quarters of the book, with the last several pages establishing the new status quo for Peter, Maddie, Ben, and the X-Men.
Despite a massive cast around her, Madelyne Pryor stands out from the crowd as the central player. Facing down a demon horde to reclaim her title as the Goblin Queen of Limbo, Pryor claims a gorgeous two-page spread drenched in demonic flame. Even the X-Men, who could have stolen the show just due to their numbers, play a supporting role to Madelyne as she seeks to bring Ben Reilly to justice and lead Limbo in a new direction.
The book sings as Wells’ writing weaves from purposely goofy to gravity-laden, but Kubert, Mortarino, and Hanna’s art makes the issue a feast for the eyes. Bedlam’s chainsaw arm is even more gruesome when translated from Bryan Hitch’s Venom, and they perfectly capture the cartoonish comedy that Ed McGuinness imbued within Rek-Rap. On top of maintaining visual continuity with those tie-in elements, the Limbo-possessed skyline brings all new meaning to the phrase “New York City is its own character”.
Insomuch as this finale is a conclusion, in other ways it also acts as a jumping-off point for new arcs and leaves others unresolved. Bedlam is mystically shunted off to wherever Venom #17 takes him, and Ben’s move to save Janine is basically a backdoor pilot for the upcoming Hallow’s Eve series. Meanwhile, Dark Web only exacerbates Norman Osborn’s current problems, and no one knows that MJ and Felicia got sucked into Limbo, let alone that they’re still there. Also, Rek-Rap is missing, and who knows what glorious nonsense will result from that.
While arguably not a flaw, the various tones at play in the finale will coalesce into a satisfying whole for some but may prove too uneven for others. Similarly, despite Ben and Peter’s final conversation, it’s quite conspicuous that neither Jean Grey nor Madelyne Pryor offers the obvious memory-sharing solution that Chasm has been hungering for. If Ben Reilly is truly meant to remain a tragic villain for Spider-Man going forward, it may be helpful to see him lose his desire to reclaim his core Peter memories.
In the end, Madelyne Pryor has shown that she’s here to stay and her new Limbo embassy ensures that her realm can no longer be ignored by the larger Marvel Universe. This fiery and fun finish to the Spider-Man/X-Men crossover brings the action, the team-ups, and the reveals that are sure to satisfy fans of either franchise. Dark Web Finale #1 is weird and yet still solid superhero storytelling that can be enjoyed over and over again.
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