This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on July 11, 2016.
When you talk about Marvel Comics, you often talk about franchises. You don’t just discuss the Avengers or X-Menbook, but the Avengers or X-Men line as a whole. It’s how the publisher has organized their IP in order to better manage and sell it. This year, Comics Bulletin Co-Managing Editor Chase Magnett has been diving down the rabbit hole of these franchises in review series. So far he has tackled classic teams like The Avengers and X-Men as well as Marvel’s push to make the Inhumans happen. Now he’s looking at a franchise based not on a team, but a single character: Spider-Man. Is the massive proliferation of Spider-books resulting in quality or just quantity? Let’s find out.
Web Warriors #8
Written by Mike Costa
Art by David Baldeon, Walden Wong, and Roberto Poggi
Colors by Matt Yackey and Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Have you ever revisited a cartoon you watched on Saturday mornings during your early childhood? You remember how much fun it was, but upon returning find only a lot of noise and confusion that you wonder how even a child managed to enjoy. It’s a disappointing experience and succinctly summarizes how it feels to read Web Warriors #8.
There is a difference between simple fun and banality, and this comic rests clearly in the latter category. Characters are not so much characters as they are action figures in this story. Designs for all of the various Spider-people may look like a lot of fun, but credit for that must be post-dated for the “Spider-Verse” event. Here they are defined by one-aspect each, if any at all. Spider-Pig and Spider-Punk are differentiated by being a cartoon and being a “bad boy”. Almost every other Spider-person speaks with the same voices and acts in a similar manner. This is even more disappointing when you consider the possibilities of characters like “Mayday” Parker and Spider-Gwen.
The dumping of this toy chest onto a page of comics is driven by a set of plot mechanics that exist for their own sake. An odd-couple of Spider-villains explain the story, but fail to add anything resembling tension or amusement. Instead, they merely provide a narrative cause for things to be the way they are until they are not. The manner in which the issue functions is so superficial that it is possible to imagine the story being created by a boardroom of folks asking what kids like to see on the TV these days. The concepts of superheroism, inter-dimensional travel, and variations of a core theme are all valuable, but their execution is so meaningless as to rob them of any value.
Even if a superhero comic is as vapid as the genre’s most severe critics make them out to be, it’s still possible to deliver high-impact visuals and invigorating action. Do not look for either of these things in Web Warriors #8. The issue is centered on a massive set piece between two mechs (one Spider and the other octopus-themed) that ought to be exciting. However, it is never clear what is happening in any of the sequences featuring them. The two robots essentially act like the background in a side scrolling fight game, nice to look at, but inconsequential.
There is no consequence to the actions of any character in this or any other fight. They exist in the states delivered at the start of the issue until outside forces (either an accident or another accident) alter them at the end. There is no resolution to the fight or even a noticeable ebb and flow. Characters are simply flung elsewhere by happenstance at the end, to new places where we can only assume they will continue to be entirely unimportant in regards to their own fate. The lack of storytelling within the artwork is bad enough, but when coupled with a general lack of story it becomes unbearable.
If there is a lesson to be found in Web Warriors #8, it is this: There is such a thing as enough Spider-Man. With 8 total ongoing series at Marvel Comics, the majority pass the bar of tolerability (excluding this and Spider-Man 2099), while some surpass it in surprising and delightful ways (Spider-Woman). At a certain point the fuel runs out though, and this particular series is running on fumes. While the designs of so many characters may look intriguing, there are no ideas or artistry left to make it worthwhile. It’s best to leave Web Warriors on the shelf and search for a solo Spider-person whose adventures actually contain some thought.