Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Every eight or nine months or so, the Spider-Man film franchise is rebooted from scratch to the absolute delight of everyone everywhere, without exception. Spider-Man: Homecoming is the latest installment, and wow does it look spectacular. If you’re anything like me, and we’ll assume you are so we can keep talking about Spider-Man, all the recent buzz has given you an insatiable itch for all things Webhead. But you don’t want one of those boring stories with just one Spider-Man; moderation is for Ant-Man fans. You want to indulge. We feel the same way, dear reader, and with that in mind we’ve put together a list of some of the most indulgent Spider-Man books in recent memory.
Spider-Island: There have been many, many crescendos during Dan Slott’s tenure on Amazing Spider-Man, but this book was the first. In it, the entire population of Manhattan is infected with a virus that grants them spider powers, giving them the perfect simulation of what it’s like to be Spider-Man. And by that, I mean things go great, and then they go terrible and life becomes a dumpster fire. Slott uses this premise as an opportunity to examine Spidey’s value as hero. What makes Peter Parker unique in a world full of people just like him? It’s a great dissection of the character’s relationship with the city he serves, and at times it becomes less of a Spider-Man story and more of a New York story. It takes full advantage of all Manhattan has to offer in terms of backdrop, and uses several major landmarks as prominent set pieces. One sequence features nearly every New York superhero charging into a colossal battle that tears its way through our very own Union Square Park, which I kind of remember now that I think about it. But perhaps the most compelling selling point I can present you with for this book is that starting in the first issue, Spider-Man learns and practices martial arts. If Spider-Man doing karate isn’t everything you’ve been waiting your entire life for, then you are lying, because yes it is, liar.
You’ve probably already gathered as much, but this book has a pretty blatant recurring motif, and that motif is spiders. Spidey has spawned a number of offshoot spider-themed allies over the years: Venom, Madame Webb, Araña, and the like. There’s a whole catalogue of characters to pull from, and just about all of them make an appearance here. And I haven’t even mentioned all the human-spider hybrid monsters! If you are at all arachnophobic, you might want to sit this one out. Also, that spider on your leg is huge.
Longtime readers will be interested to learn that Spider-Island technically serves as a belated follow-up to a story from Paul Jenkins’ stint on the character in the early 2000’s. But if you’ve been out of the loop, rest assured; it’s greatly rewarding for some, safe to read for all.
Spider-Men: When Spider-Man accidentally fell through a hole in time and space to the Ultimate Universe, I bet he was dreading the inevitable confrontation he would have to have with his alternate, Ultimate self. Those are always so awkward. Luckily, that universe’s Peter Parker died tragically in the prime of his young life. Phew! Instead, he bumped into the new kid. Enter Miles Morales, the plucky young man who stepped into the tight, webbed booties when the world needed him most. Miles has become a Marvel mainstay in recent years, with a close relationship to Peter Parker, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was a fresh-faced newcomer still learning to swing the proverbial ropes. This was not only the first ever crossover between the main and Ultimate Marvel universes, but it also saw Miles meet his hero and role model for the very first time. Spoiler: he handled it way better than I would have.
Drawn to stylish perfection by Sara Pichelli, Spider-Men is a genuine blast from beginning to end, and is guaranteed to give any fan of the Ultimate Universe a huge kick. That goes especially for fans of the original Ultimate Spider-Man who were heartbroken to see him go. This mini-series offers a lot touching and cathartic moments, as Peter is confronted by a cast of his supporting characters from a world that lost him too soon. Web yourself a hanky, kids–this one’s a tear-jerker.
Spider-Verse: Which alternate universe Spider-Man do you enjoy the most? Is it Spider-Girl of MC2? Spider-Man 2099? Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham? There’s a lot, so it’s always been hard for fans to agree on which is best. But it’ll probably be a little easier now, considering your favorite one was just eaten alive. Yes, you are right to gasp. Someone is traversing the multiverse in search of sweet, delicious Spider-Mans, and they are not picky. It’s going to take the combined might of every Spider-Man in existence to put an end to this sinister smorgasbord. Every. Single. One.
Taking every Spider-Man you’ve ever heard of (and some you haven’t) and squeezing them all onto the same page is obviously impossible, and you will giggle like a child when you see this book do it anyway. Spider-Verse is as big and grand a Spidey story as we will ever get, and when “grand” and “Spider-Man” are your two descriptors, there’s only one hero you can turn to: Olivier Coipel. If there’s anyone out there that still thinks Coipel could manage to draw an image of this character that isn’t gorgeous, this book will put that suspicion in its grave like the twitching carcass of your favorite Spider-Man. He can’t. It’s the one thing he’s unable to do, and believe me, here he is given every opportunity to try — Pig Spider-Man! Wolf Spider-Man! Vampire! Zombie! British! Skip’s wandering eye, that’s a lot of Spider-Mans. Dan Slott is back at the helm for this one, and for anyone who enjoyed his Superior Spider-Man run, there’s a character whose prominent inclusion here you are sure to appreciate. Not possible? I’ll say it again: Every. Single. One.
Renew Your Vows: It’s been ten years, and many of us are still giving the side glance at Marvel’s decision to have Peter Parker pawn off his and Mary Jane’s marriage like a baseball card. To Satan. Really it was just Mephisto, but I couldn’t type that name and pinch the bridge of my nose at the same time. It was kind of criminal, but I think we would all do well to just let it go at this point. Or not; if Spider-Man has taught us anything, it’s what can happen when we let criminals go. Wait–Uncle Lance! NOOOO!
In response to a decade’s worth of quivering lower lips, Marvel has released an ongoing title that answers the question: what if Peter and Mary Jane had stayed together? And had a child? And all three of them fought crime together as an Amazing Spider-Family? The more observant among you will note that that was three questions, but I assure you, genius reader, that the answers to all of them are incredibly endearing. Seeing Spidey embrace his role as a full-fledged family man presents a dynamic that writers have been afraid to tackle for decades, but now we finally know it’s a formula that can work. Vows is such a fun world to play in, and considering it’s basically a “what-if” story, the Marvel Universe it inhabits is surprisingly conventional and free from all the more recent convolutions that have been plaguing the main Marvel U. Volume one is out now, and all it will cost you are your cherished memories of a loved one.
No, it’s $15.99.
The Complete Clone Saga Epic: Mullets! Mullets! Mullets! You didn’t need to use your spider-sense to see this one coming, and even if you had, it wouldn’t have saved you. Read by many and beloved by one (me), the (very) 90’s Clone Saga is a thrilling, winding epic the likes of which has never been matched, before or since! I kid you not, there is no tale in all of fiction as elaborate and convoluted as this one. It’s such a long, involved portion of the character’s history that I get to genuinely say that no Spider-Man collection is complete without it. For years, an editorial battle for Spider-Man’s soul raged on behind the scenes, the bloody results of which are now being lovingly republished into these comprehensive collections.
Peter Parker’s life is collapsing all around him. All his loved ones have either died or revealed themselves to be killer robots, which is always a shame. And then his wife left him, presumably just to see the look on his face. At this, his lowest point, he finds himself face-to-face with the absolute last people he wants to see–Peter Parker, Peter Parker and Peter Parker! This was either the work of someone who hates Spider-Man, or someone who really, really likes him. But no one disliked superheroes in the 90’s more than themselves, so when our hero is confronted with a book club’s worth of himself, it doesn’t take long for things to get ugly.
Clone Saga was a story that more than once pushed the limits of Spider-Man’s sanity, as it will yours, and I can guarantee that you will never, ever predict what the next issue holds. Unless your prediction was ‘more clones,’ in which case you just spoiled the beginning, middle, and end. It was a constant revolving door for all his greatest rogues, and saw the introductions of fan-favorites like Ben Reilly and Kaine, characters that endure to this day (specifically in the pages of Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy and Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider)! Peter Parker may not quite be one of a kind anymore, but The Clone Saga most certainly is.
Read and see for yourself, true believers