If there's one thing that you need to know about ComicsAlliance, it's that we are very much in favor of Supaidaman, the '70s tokusatsu series where Marvel's Spider-Man was reimagined as Takuya Yamashiro, a dirtbike racer chosen by an alien from Planet Spider to defend the world from Professor Monster with the aid of a giant robot. It's one of my favorite things in the world, and if you asked me to pick one thing that I'd want to see from Marvel, it would be for Yamashiro to return to action in the pages of the modern Marvel Universe.

As a result, it's hard for me to look at this week's Edge of Spider-Verse #5, by Gerard Way, Jake Wyatt, Ian Herring and Clayton Cowles, without just seeing that it's a tokusatsu-inspired take on Spider-Man that simply isn't the one I want it to be. It took a lot of effort to get past that -- effort that was mostly motivated by how great last month's "Spider-Gwen" issue was -- but in the end, I'm glad I made it. It might not be the book I wanted, but it's definitely pretty fantastic in its own right, even if it suffers from a distinct lack of dirtbikes.

 

 

Really, that shouldn't have been surprising. I was one of those dudes a few years ago who clowned Way for making the jump to comics from the world of highly theatrical pop music, and ended up having to stand there dumbstruck when the first issue of Umbrella Academy came out and I had to admit that it was actually really good. He's got a knack for scripting, and more than that, he's almost always paired with phenomenal artists who can make the most of their collaboration, and Jake Wyatt knocks this thing out of the park in this one. The visuals in this book are incredible in pretty much every respect, from the design of the SP//dr robot suit to the little Easter egg cameos of anime characters.

The visuals alone would make this issue engaging, but like the rest of the Edge of Spider-Verse stories, the real success comes from the way that it twists the Spider-Man formula into something that feels familiar and new at the same time.

 

 

Here, our hero is Peni, the rather unfortunately named teenage girl who became the pilot of the SP//dr mech after the previous pilot, her father, was killed defending the city, leaving her the only one with the genetics to do the job. It's a pretty simple story that I think we've all seen before in one way or another, and that simplicity is compounded by bolting it onto Spider-Man, who has been the template for a hundred characters created since he made his debut 50 years ago. But that's what makes it work.

Way and Wyatt are working with elements that are so easy to understand that they're able to do an entire story's worth of character introduction in the span of the first few pages, barreling through it with the confidence of people who are pretty sure their audience knows what they're hinting at when they throw the mopey teens from Evangelion into the background of a classroom scene. The entire book is made up of hints at what Peni and her world are like, delivered with rapid-fire precision to the point where, taken as a whole, you already know her story by the time a talking cartoon pig shows up to tell her that she's needed in a crossover.

 

 

That, I think, is the key to what Marvel's been doing with Spider-Verse, and even beyond that with Superior Spider-Man. We know Peter Parker's story so well at this point that seeing it twisted and applied to other ideas has become exciting and thrilling in a way that very few other characters can really match. That, even more than the characters and ideas that are being explored on the page, is what works in this comic, and it's done with an economy and skill that makes me wish I could read about these characters every month.

Even if that robot could stand to be about 300 feet taller.