The Spider-Verse is a magical concept that’s the purest distillation of delightful superhero comic book bullshit. It dares to ask: What if Spider-Man was British? What about a punk? A Neon Genesis Evangelion protagonist? A Disney princess? What if all kinds of writers and artists took a simple story about great power and great responsibility and applied it to an infinite spectrum of universes and characters?
The honest truth is that these Spider-Verse stories are often uneven, but their reimaginings of Spidey and his foes are rarely ever boring. That seems to be the case with the latest issue of Edge of Spider-Verse; I can’t really say that it’s a particularly good comic, but it has a Spider-Man who’s a motherfucking T. Rex, and that’s some enormously fun shit.
The first of this issue’s two stories sees the return of Spider-Rex and his home universe of Earth-66, a reality where everyone is a prehistoric creature (mostly dinosaurs). Both were introduced in Edge of Spider-Verse #1 (the one from 2022, not this one), where mild-mannered pterodactyl Pter Ptarker was hit by a meteorite full of spiders that caused him to switch bodies with tyrannosaurus Norrannosaurman and gain spider powers. Yeah, there’s always a lot happening in these Spider-Rex stories, and sometimes it seems overly cluttered while other times the chaos adds to the comedy. Creative duo Carla Pacheco (the writer) and Pere Pérez (the artist) both return for this second Spider-Rex tale, “Enter: Kravertooth the Hunter” (however, this time the colors are done by Antonio Fabela, not Brian Reber).
As the title of the story suggests, we get more primeval versions of classic Spider-Man characters: Kravertooth the Hunter (Kraven the Hunter), Eddie Brockiosaurus/Venomsaurus (Eddie Brock/Venom), Jingshan Jingshanosaurus (J. Jonah Jameson), and Mary Jane Watsaur (Mary Jane Watson). The humor is a bit all over the place. You’ve got some fun visual gags like Kravertooth wearing a vest made from a gorilla’s face- a silly reversal of Kraven’s signature lion vest. Spider-Rex and Kraven’s puns are purposely unfunny, though the bit overstays its welcome a little bit. I laughed out loud at a part involving Uncle Bten, but then it’s followed up by a weird joke where this universe’s version of Jessica Drew appears. She’s an actual spider with the colors of the classic Spider-Woman costume, and Spider-Rex remarks “Is cousin Jess even related to us?” Uncle Bten replies “Not really. It’s a long story.” Then… it’s dropped, and the weird moment has you asking questions like “Why does Pter think of her as a cousin?” and “Does Jessica have a prehistoric-themed surname, or does her being a spider override that?” Then Jessica quickly disappears after the comic moves on to its next joke.
The story is supposed to be goofy, obviously, but it just has these weird moments where things feel weirdly confusing, and not just in a cartoon logic sort of way. Venomsaurus undergoes his transformation when he falls into a tar pit, and he plans to drop MJ into a volcano to make her like him. However, it’s unclear why he thinks this will give her superpowers instead of burning her alive. Then again, every time a character in this universe has been in a situation that would kill them, it not only gives them superpowers, but it also transforms them into a different species of dinosaur. So… I guess this isn’t a completely random conclusion for Venomsaurus to reach, perhaps?
Still, I can’t help but wonder… why is his name “Pter Ptarker”? If it’s supposed to be a play on the silent “p” in “pterodactyl”, wouldn’t “Pepter Parker” make more sense? Why have him originally be a pterodactyl if the pun name is flimsy at best and he’s just going to turn into a T. Rex anyways? How does “Uncle Bten” fit into it all? I feel like my entire perspective on logic is being put into question by Spider-Rex. It’s like I’m somehow being gaslit by this comic about funny talking dinosaurs.
That said, as bumpy as some of the writing is, Pérez and Fabela’s art is very well-suited for this goofy sort of story. I don’t imagine drawing dinosaurs is easy, and drawing them swinging and leaping around like Spider-Man is probably even more difficult, but Pérez pulls it off flawlessly. Also, the combination of drawings and coloring make it easy to identify which dinosaur is supposed to be an analogue for which character. Mary Jane Watsaur is a raptor with a crest of red feathers atop her head, and Jingshan Jingshanosaurus’ mustache-like nose pattern and ever-present scowl make it clearer who he’s supposed to be than his name does. Pérez transplants just the right amount of humanity into these creatures’ expressions.
The second story, “Curse of the Spider-Killer”, is odd in how it tries to be a noir-style Spider-Verse story without Spider-Man Noir. It’s difficult to tell what writer Zander Cannon was cooking here, because it partially seems like he was going for a “grittier, more grounded” version of Spider-Man with a version of Scorpion that’s just a thug in a green mask and a Curt Connors who has a slightly scaly patch of skin instead of being a giant lizard. But then the titular Spider-Killer is a giant mutated spider that stops the bad guys with some kind of karmic luck powers… after they instantly shoot him to death. The story just kind of ends as quickly as it begins, and you’re left unsure how you’re supposed to feel about it.
Like with the first story, the strongest part of “Curse of the Spider-Killer” is the art. The combination of artist Guillermo Sanna’s heavy shadows and colorist Rico Renzi’s sour palette results in a very moody, spooky style that’s very reminiscent of Mike Mignola. There’s a lot of bold contrasts with stark blocks of blackness against warm oranges, cool purples, and acidic lime greens. You can practically feel that October chill in every panel.
Edge of Spider-Verse (2023) #1 is admittedly a very mixed bag, and whether or not I recommend it is based on what you want going into this comic. If you’re looking for coherent narratives, this one isn’t for you, but if you want some raw, unfiltered creativity that’s really pretty to look at, then you’ll want to check it out.