Spider-Verse: Spider-Zero TPB – Jed MacKay, Various

2 out of 5

Ratings generally start to dip below the “pretty good!” three outta five range when something about whatever it is (music, book, etc.) prevents me from enjoying it. I’ll try to do some as-impartial-as-possible analysis on whether or not I’m just not interested in the genre or subject matter – for which I really can’t dock something – or if I feel that piece of media is, actually, not a great example of whatever it is. Once that’s established, it’s sort of a sliding scale of how offensive the contents are to determine if something is a onesie or twosie.

The Spider-Verse: Spider-Zero miniseries, headed up by writer Jed MacKay, has the unfortunate taint of coming across as a general makework-style Marvel / DC project: “The kids liked multiple Spider-Man stories, so let’s give ’em another one!” That might be a disservice to MacKay, as it’s always possible he had this idea without that “write more of something popular” motivator, but unfortunately, even from the kickoff issue – which should be grabbing me, as a reader, with some type of hook – the series hardly feels like it has a reason to exist, and that lack is never filled in, up through the conclusion. That was the main hindrance: I felt no enthusiasm towards finishing the story. Doubling down on that is that the somewhat isolated structure of issues 2 – 5 – issue one sets things up, issue six concludes it, and inbetween we get multiversal Spider-Verse stories – can’t really take off to promote solid standalones, because they always have to have a dose of “here’s the over-arching plot” injected that ends up feeling rather unnecessary… because of the whole unnecessity vibe of the project.

So we just finished up some Spider-Verse antics, and then Miles Morales is sucked through a billion dimensions once more (a couple pages of each, with various artists), being summoned by a “Spider-Zero” to fix some vague something or other. When he finally arrives back at the main Spider world, this Spider-Zero – caretaker of the realm – tells him that the web weaver (multiversal May Parker) is missing, and thus the Web of Life is falling apart, and so off to other Spider worlds to a’fix things we must go. This is fine, it’s just kind of the de facto way in to the story, and there’s simply no gravitas to the presentation. The setup is too clearly relying on that whole Spider-Verse fun and its different artistic approaches for its hook, while the concept of Miles Quantum Leaping into each reality to “fix” something has zero page space to be fleshed out; the revelation about May Parker and the Web of Life comes across as a complete afterthought – there are no stakes.

The inbetween issues featuring Spider Ma’am, SP//dr, Spider Noir and Sherriff Stacy fare much better, but they stutter as soon as the various writers (Ryan North; Tarran Killam; Christos Gage) have to find room for justifiably including Miles, as well as a reason for the story to exist as part of the mini-series in the first place, requiring some narrative back-bending that either further undermines the lack of stakes or just creates situations that don’t necessarily feel “organic” to that particular Spider-Verse. This means that some great artists – Pere Perez, Dike Ruan, Juan Gedeon, Juan Ferreyra – end up being mismatched to the content, with Ruan’s and Ferreyra’s more painterly takes on SP//dr’s and Noir’s worlds probably take the bigger hits. There are definitely fun moments struggling to poke out here and there – Killam’s / Gedeon’s issue is great; North’s / Perez’s is charming, before it back itself into a plotty corner – but again, it all rather comes across as feeling like it’s forced to exist.

The trade includes the user-submitted “Spidersona” illustrations which appeared as backups in each individual issue (some of which also get guest appearances in the final book – that’s pretty cool), and a few alternate covers.