I think it’s important to begin a review of Amazing Spider-Man #14, the final chapter of “Spider-Verse”, by acknowledging the event itself. The event is every bit as integral to this one issue as the issue is significant to the event. It is the culmination and conceit of 20 comics (even more if you count prequels). “Spider-Verse” was a big story, both in terms of page count and scope, and it managed to deliver on that size. It was one of the best large-scale events to come out of comics in the past couple of years. Dan Slott has proven time and again (see: “Ends of the Earth” and “Spider-Island”) that he can plot events that function well both as crossovers and within the scope of a single ongoing series, and this was no exception. “Spider-Verse” is everything a superhero comics event should be: fun, dynamic, big, and impactful.
That is important to note because while Amazing Spider-Man #14 is not a great individual issue of comics, it is still part of something much better that shouldn’t be judged by this one chapter. In fact, the positioning of this issue is one of its biggest flaws. This is the grand finale of something that has been very satisfying thus far, and it does not live up to the expectations set upon it by the rest of “Spider-Verse”.
Amazing Spider-Man #14 is an effective conclusion in regards to plotting. All of the heroes and villains reach a clear ending. There are no dangling plot threads or holes that will leave readers questioning what occurred. Everything that happens follows a clear structure, resolving threats that have been laid out and thoroughly explained in the preceding issues of “Spider-Verse”. This is all to say that “Spider-Verse” has an ending. That doesn’t mean it was an effective or gratifying one though.
The action of a plot, following a very standard model of storytelling, should continue to mount until the climax of a story. This is the same three-act model that is shown in so many scriptwriting manuals where action is described by an ever-rising line that quickly plummets back to normalcy at the end. The events of “Spider-Verse” follow this model. Amazing Spider-Man #14 is the climactic event including all of the surviving heroes and villains, and the highest stakes of the entire story. Concluding a story and providing catharsis are two very different outcomes though (once again revealing why the three-act model is overly simplistic and almost entirely useless). Slott has no problems with the former, but he struggles with the latter.
Big moments in this issue never feel very big. Whether it is the rescue of baby Ben Parker, the return of Karn, or the defeat of The Inheritors. Part of this stems from the fast-pacing of the Amazing Spider-Man #14. A lot occurs very quickly, compressing significant events into a single page with no opportunity to breathe or provide reactions. Otto Octavius makes a “superior” decision at one point that seems like it will have significant, ongoing repercussions. Yet the only response is a quick rebuke from the Peter Parker of Earth-616 before the moment is forgotten entirely. There’s very little emotion invested in many of these twists and turns. They function on a surface level, but no more deeply than that.
This may be, in part, due to the continuation of the “Spider-Verse” event in an epilogue next issue. That doesn’t excuse the lack of catharsis or impact here though. The big emotional beats, specifically the quest to save Ben Parker and Silk, are given little weight and the former is played off primarily as a joke. These were the plot lines within which Slott had created the most emotional investment, with tension being built over many issues. What ought to be noted by a sigh of relief and surge of joy feels more like the checking of a box on a long list. Rather than tying emotional catharsis into the conclusion of each plot thread, Slott appears to have saved it for a separate chapter. In doing so, he has denied Amazing Spider-Man #14 much of its impact.
It is not the first time that Slott has failed to craft a satisfying ending to an epic Spider-Man story. His run on various Spider-Man titles ranging from Amazing Spider-Man to Superior Spider-Man and back again is the greatest of the past couple of decades, and this is the most consistent flaw within it. The build and structure of all 31 issues of Superior Spider-Man made for one of the most surprising and enjoyable twists in the history of Spider-Man comics at Marvel. Yet the conclusion of the series, the death of Otto Octavius and return of Peter Parker, never paid off the incredible rise that led to those moments. This flaw by no means ruins Superior Spider-Man or “Spider-Verse”, but it does leave these very strong stories weaker than they ought to be.
That is not to say that there are no excellent moments within Amazing Spider-Man #14. Slott, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Olivier Coipel present an excellent piece of catharsis between Peter and Spider-Gwen in the first few pages of the issue. It’s simple, but builds on decades of history to be exceedingly effective. More importantly it establishes that all of these Spider-people, no matter their race or gender, are equals in their heroism. That ethos has defined all of “Spider-Verse”, and this serves as a clear distillation of the iconic character that has been portrayed in so many forms throughout “Spider-Verse”.
Camuncoli and Coipel’s art is every bit as clear as Slott’s plotting. They rotate from wide establishing panels of the pandemonium and focused sequences on small selections of characters. As a result Amazing Spider-Man #14 strikes a nice balance between the broad scope of the event and the specifics necessary to tell a story. Even more impressive is the balance struck between two pencilers and three inkers (Wade Von Grawbadger, Cam Smith, and Livesay). This sort of artistic combination has rendered recent comics like New Suicide Squad and Secret Six almost unreadable, but here the work is blended together almost seamlessly.
Amazing Spider-Man #14 is loaded with plenty of big visuals to match the size of the story. The delight that comes from seeing each team of Spider-people popping into action cannot be understated. Whether it’s new creations like Spider-Gwen and Spider-Punk or offbeat classics like Spider-Ham and Tokusatsu Spider-Man, they all look great and are given opportunities to shine. The proliferation of Spider-people in splash pages may be fan service, but it’s too much fun to be denied.
The only points where this becomes a problem is in panels that constrict the scope of vision. Early in the issue there is a short, wide angled panel showing multiple speakers. Unfortunately many of the speakers wear identical masks making visual distinctions almost impossible. This isn’t a common issue with the diverse costume designs, but when it is a problem, it’s impossible to ignore.
Amazing Spider-Man #14 is a perfectly competent comic taken on its own. It tells a story clearly, but doesn’t manage to do much beyond that very basic standard. However, “Spider-Verse” still stands out as a great event in a period where those are few and far between. The inability to infuse this conclusion with the emotional investment found in previous (and most likely later issues) is a flaw, but it doesn’t ruin the overall effect of this story. It is only a misstep in an otherwise greatly enjoyable Spider-event.
Grade (Issue): C
Grade (Event): B+