So I’m just gonna spoil things straight out the gate and say that “Edge of Spider-Verse” #2 is the best comic I have read this year. Yeah, I know I spoiled the reveal of what I think about the issue but the rest of this review is going to be me talking excitedly about how good this issue is with nary a trace of vinegar so my position is a bit obvious from the onset. So let’s postulate that “Edge of Spider-Verse” is gold plated chocolate jet pack good and work backwards from there. What makes it so good, what did it do right? (Everything). What does this say about comics? (Not a lot but I can extrapolate). And how does this compare to “Invincible”?
You know what comics should really do away with? Origin stories. A lot of it is very much the same and doesn’t give us anything new or useful. Which is why “Edge of Spider-Verse” #2 comes out the gate swinging. In this story, Gwen Stacy was the one to get bit by that radioactive spider and it causes a tumultuous jealousy between her and Peter Parker which causes him to become The Lizard and he dies in battle, tragically. That was all in the recap page! Yeah, one spread that laid out all you needed to know about Gwen Stacy and bring you up to speed. Do you remember in the movie “Up” that there was an entire story before the actual story? Sure it was only ten minutes long and jumped through time like the DeLorean was having transmission trouble but it was immensely effective and set up the characters in an emotional space that we could understand. That’s what this recap page is and it is perfect and brilliant and why aren’t you buying this book yet?
Let’s talk about Gwen Stacy, a Spider-Fan favorite. When initial solicitations of this book started popping up I can say I was thoroughly intrigued and here’s why: Peter Parker is getting tired. Don’t get me wrong, I love Peter Parker and he was the first thing to get me into comics. But clearly, Marvel has no idea what to do with him. That’s why Miles Morales has taken off so well and why when they announced Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman everyone was so gung ho about the idea. First of all, her costume is immediately iconic, the stark white costume with the hood stands out and the whole art style of Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi really lends to this darker landscape they have created. Everything is at once cartoony and yet noir and it is the perfect style for a Spider-book. Plus Gwen Stacy’s personality has all the sass of Peter Parker while still being emotionally hefty. After all, her father is the police chief tasked with capturing the Spider-Vigilante. How’s that for drama? But more than that, Gwen just feels incredibly real. Her struggle as a young twenty year old burdened with tragedy is something that is immediately compelling. We as the reader see her unbridled glee in the Spider-Woman role juxtaposed with her father asking her to find a direction for her life. Oh and did I mention she plays drums in a kickass girl band? Yeah, it’s like the Runaways but with former Peter Parker flames. It’s such a great nod to the fandom.
All in all it isn’t the story that caries this book. It’s a pretty simple tale: hero struggles with duality. But everything that fills in the tale makes this absolutely incredible. There’s so much love shown to Spider-fans. There was an appearance by Rhino (contracted by Wilson Fisk) and Daredevil. J. Jonah Jameson is there to call Spider-Woman a menace and for Stan Lee’s sake Peter Parker became the Lizard. For those of you concerned that without Peter Parker this story couldn’t possibly have the feel of a Spider-Man story, let me set you at ease and say this entire universe has been lovingly hand crafted with you in mind, indulging all of your sentiments. The hero gets powers, she abuses them, loses a loved one in tragedy, is burdened by the guilt, evades Jameson and the law, and fights a baddie in public after struggling with her costume. This is the essence of Spider-Man distilled down to the best it could possibly be.
Now here’s the part where I compare the book to “Invincible” and let me say it’s a pretty even comparison. Both started the game as super powered teens and both had to deal early on with the repercussion of a loved one being hurt. For Gwen, Peter became incensed when she kept having to save him from bullies and sought out science to toughen up making himself the Lizard. For Mark many of his friends and classmates were subjected to experiments, one being hardwired to a bomb for the rest of his life and another being made a robot against his will. They also both had trouble with their fathers, Gwen hiding secrets from her’s and Mark fighting against his. At the end of the day though “Edge of Spider-Verse” issue two is a perfect story that brings a new life to the Spider-Universe… but it’s only a one shot. After this, Spider-Gwen is never coming back no matter how good this was.