The second issue of Ultimate Spider-Man: Spider-Verse, adapted by Joe Caramagna from the cartoon by the same name, establishes the pattern we will most likely see in the back half of this four-parter. Spider-Man will likely chase down the Green Goblin as he hops from world to world, meeting new versions of himself along the way. Each world will have its own unique look (aside from the gender-swapped universe, which was meant to mirror ours), and in each world Spider-Man will remind his counterpart of the importance of teamwork, power, and the need for responsibility.
In this issue we meet a cartoonified version of Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Ham. The two make for a strong and complimentary contrast, both visually and stylistically; Noir and his world is rendered in a black and white chiaroscuro while Ham’s world is in an exaggerated cartoony style reminiscent of Skottie Young’s baby variants.The tale of Spider-Man Noir is one typical to the art form and thus filled with dames, regrets and hauntings from the past. Ham’s features Green Goblin getting poked in the butt with a pitchfork with plenty of WAMs, BIFFs and POWs littering the pages.
I want to take a moment to applaud Caramagna for the visuals in the Spider-Man Noir segment. Those who are following my reviews of this book with fervent devotion will know that I slammed October’s issue for problems with dark shadows obscuring most of the action and characters. Despite invoking the same visual style, this is not the case for the noir segment. The gray scale used for the whites contrast nicely with the shadowy blacks, causing the images on the page to pop visually. The blacks used aren’t as opaque as the Halloween issue, so everything is much easier to see and follow.
There are some other visual flairs used to engage the reader; our Spider-Man and Green Goblin retain their colors in the noir world, albeit a muted palette, and the sound effects and lettering are also in a gray scale (save one panel, which I assume was done in error). This lends to a cohesive visual style that ties well to the setting of zeppelins, radio journalists and a Spider-Man rocking a Philip Marlowe inspired fedora.
After reminding Spider-Man Noir of the importance of friendship and teamwork in the typical Saturday morning style, we turn the page and immediately we’re thrown into the super colorful farm world of Spider-Ham. After a brief overview, we learn that Ham is currently going through a “Spider-Ham no more” period (complete with visual throwback to the cover we all know). After a peptalk from Spider-Man, the Ham decides to get back in the red and blues, right as the Goblin shows up. The book then transitions to a great Looney Toons inspired series of panels complete with teeth flying, tractors being thrown, the aforementioned farming implement being applied to the gluteus maximus, and the old cartoon standby of spinning objects appearing over one’s head. The pacing of the Spider-Ham section of the book is a little quick thanks to its two montages, which leaves the book feeling a little front heavy. Spider-Man Noir’s tale was fairly packed with story beats and exposition which almost made the Ham segment feel like a backup, despite sharing the same page count.
Speaking of backups, there are none to be found this issue. Which is a shame, because the backup from last month’s Ultimate Spider-Man: Spider-Verse #1 was one of the highlights of the issue. That being said, this comic continues to delivers what it set out to accomplish in issue one—to adapt the “Spider-Verse” idea to something a little less glower and more kid friendly. What I’d love to see is something that also appeals to the adults who may be reading this with their young readers so that this title earns the “all ages” that appears on the front cover rather than the “for kids” that is implied by “all ages.” Given the source material for this book however, I’m not sure if that is something in the cards, which is why I was so excited to see the backup last month and disappointed to not see a similar story in this issue. Now that we have gotten some of the big names in alternative Spider-(wo)Men out of the way, it will be interesting to see where issues three and four take us. Until next month, Web Warriors!
Though it was missing the charming backup featured in last month's issue, Ultimate Spider-Man: Spider-Verse #2 delivers exactly what it sets out to do without any frills or pretensions. This remains a good book to give to a young reader showing interest in comics, but something to pass over for those looking for more nuance.