After four issues of exploring the life and times of various alternate universe Spider-Men (and women), the interesting mini-series Edge of Spider-Verse wraps up with this Japanese mech inspired story from the mind of Gerard Way. Way may be most famous for fronting the rock band My Chemical Romance but he's no stranger to scripting comic books. In 2008 his Dark Horse series The Umbrella Academy received lots of positive praise and even earned an Eisner Award. This stand alone issue about a young girl who is thrown into the life of a superhero is his first foray into the Marvel Universe though. Bringing to mind sci-fi, manga and cult classics such as Evangelion, this is the story of Peni Parker.
The mech-suited guardian of an unnamed city in an unknown alternate universe dies in battle. The spider (or SP//dr) that is apparently the source of his power survives though. In order to continue to have a mech guardian, two scientists (Aunt May and Uncle Ben) allow the spider to bite the young daughter of the deceased hero. In doing so, Peni Parker has become the bearer of the SP//dr armor.
Five years later, Peni is the hero of the city. After a battle with an alternate Mysterio (who happens to be nothing more than a music loving fan of Peni's), Peni teams up with an armor wearing Daredevil to take down an entire gang. This is where we get the little bit of insight into Peni's character that Way allows. Daredevil knew the young hero's father and Peni wastes no time asking questions about her father. "Do you think he would have liked me?" asks a mech-clad Peni. "Yes," says Daredevil "I think he would have liked you very much."
While on the subway home, Peni is surprisingly confronted by two other alternate Spider-Men. The Spectacular Spider-Ham and "poor decision" Spider-Man (from Amazing Spider-Man #500 and Amazing Spider-Man #637) meet with Peni to let her know that everyone in the multi-verse with spider powers is being hunted down. Seeing as how the SP//dr trusts these interesting characters, Peni decides its within her best interest to trust them too. After retrieving her mech suit, the three spider powered heroes jump into the multi-verse portal to prepare for their upcoming battle.
The Edge of Spider-Verse mini-series ends with this issue and it appears to be a good issue to finish with. Unlike some of the other installments in the series, this one ends with a little bit of hope. Peni is able to escape her universe before Karn, Morlun or any of the other spider-eaters even show up, thus making her appearance in upcoming Spider-Verse stories assured.
There are a few missteps in Gerard Way's first stab at a Marvel story though. As interesting as the tale of Peni Parker is, we really don't get to know her nearly as well as I would have liked to. Her motivations and personality are left largely a mystery. She seems to be a fairly normal child who just so happens to have the genetic history to be able to possess a power giving spider and a giant mech-suit. Other than that, we know very little about this girl, which is a shame. She definitely has potential to be an interesting character. I would have much preferred to dive into Peni's character more than to see the overly long and rather confusing battle with Mysterio.
Way and artist Jake Wyatt do capture the feel and atmosphere that they were going for though. No doubt heavily influenced by Japanese manga, Wyatt's layouts and sketchy drawing style help make this book look a lot like an Americanized version of Japenese comics. As a nod to the anime and manga that influenced this particular story, we actually see some famous characters from those genres make guest appearances as background characters.
While the story as a whole lacks substance, I still hope Peni's appearances in future Spider-Verse stories don't result in her immediate death and consumption at the hands of Morlun's dysfunctional family. I feel as if there is still a lot to learn about this young hero.
Gerard Way creates an interesting world and an intriguing character but fails to really delve into the hero's motivations. Edge of Spider-Verse has been a fun mini-series though and it opens up a lot of possibilities as we go deeper into the Spider-Verse in the coming months.