Into the Spider-Verse comes out next month, and it feels like we’re in the midst of a Spider-Renaissance. I, for one, welcome our new Spider-Overlords.
This movie will bring together Spider-People across dimensions, including (but not limited to) Old Man Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy, Spider-Ham, and more! Confused yet? Worry not, let me pull the web from your eyes. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of comics (and a novel!) to read before Into the Spider-Verse comes out, so you too can revel in the band of merry arachnids!
Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1
Words by Brian Michael Bendis | Art by Sara Pichelli | Colors by Justin Ponsor | Lettered by VC's Cory Petit
[Spoilers for the Ultimate Spider-Man universe]
What you need to know: Peter Parker is dead and Miles Morales is now Spider-Man in Marvel’s Ultimate universe. This series marked the launch of Brian Michael Bendis’ wildly successful young Afro-Latinx character. What’s wonderful is that Miles isn’t Peter. He’s a distinct character and has his own roots. Yes, he was also forced into a situation he hadn’t asked for, and yes, he also has to figure out how much responsibility he’s willing to take on. But that’s where the similarities in story end. Miles has a completely unique perspective on being Spider-Man and has to contend with a different sort of grief than Peter had to. He also has to deal with a public that knows that Peter was Spider-Man and that Peter died for them.
It’s the perfect introduction to the character because it’s written as that: an introduction. It was Miles’ debut, and definitely the first thing I’d recommend picking up if you want to learn more about him.
Edge of the Spider-Verse Issues 1, 2, and 5
Spider-Man Noir: Words by David Hine with Fabrice Sapolsky | Art by Richard Isanove | Lettered by VC's Clayton Cowles
Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman: Words by Jason LaTour | Art by Robbi Rodriguez | Colors by Rico Renzi | Lettered by VC's Clayton Cowles
Sp\\dr: Words by Gerard Way | Art by Jake Wyatt | Colors by Ian Herring | Lettered by VC's Clayton Cowles
What you need to know: This is a down and dirty intro to Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Woman (colloquially Spider-Gwen), and Sp//dr. Spider-Man: Noir is Peter Parker’s story but set in the 1930s. It’s atmospheric and stylized, and Peter’s got a little bit of a darker edge to him. In Issue 2, we meet Gwen Stacy, who has taken on the mantle of the Spider after she was bitten by a radioactive spider. In this universe, Peter Parker was killed and that sets Gwen on her way to being a protector. The issue is manic and fraught, much like Gwen herself. Finally, in Issue 5, we meet Penii Parker. Penii’s father died while piloting the Sp//dr suit, and she was the only one with the genetic material to step into his shoes. Doesn’t matter that she’s only a kid — she’s got people to save.
The Amazing Spider-Ham: 25th Anniversary Volume
Words by Tom DeFalco | Art by Jacob Chabot, Adam DeKraker, Robert Capanella | Colors by Emily Warren, Impact Studios' Bruno Hang | Letterer Jared K. Fletcher, Dave Sharpe
What you need to know: It’s Peter Porker, not Peter Parker. Meet his Swinester Six: Mysteriape, Dr. Octopussy, Buzzard, Sandmanatee, Green Gobbler, and Eelectro. Peter Porker is no ordinary pig. He used to be a spider, then he got bit by a pig. And now he’s SPIDER-HAM. It’s fun and silly, and a very kid-friendly superhero story.
Words by Brian Michael Bendis | Art by Sarah Pichelli | Colors by Justin Ponsor | Letterer Cory Petit
What you need to know: In this mini-series, penned by Miles Morales creator Brian Michael Bendis, Earth-616’s Peter Parker and Earth-1610’s Miles Morales meet for the first time. An adult Spidey falls through a mysterious light into a New York he sort of recognizes… but is off. And then he runs smack dab into another Spider-Man. Miles is shocked to find Peter Parker, and Peter is shocked to find that in this world, he never made it past 16. This is the first time we get to see the Amazing Spider-Man we know and love team up with Ultimate Spider-Man, and see them both work through the issues that brings up. Peter dealing with his mortality and Miles finding a mentor he never got to know. It’s an emotional series but gives insight into the two characters and their relationship. (And once you’re finished, you can pick up Spider-Men II!)
Words by Kaare Andrews | Art by Kaare Andrews, Jose Villarrubia | Letterers VC’s Chris Eliopoulos, Rus Wooton
What do you need to know: Now, I don’t think that the old man Peter we’re going to meet in Into the Spider-Verse is going to be the ancient, broken Peter Parker we read about in Reign, but I do think there’s potential for a man who is tired of having to save the day. He’s lived a long time, had a lot of memories, and he is tired. The thing that’s always made Peter Parker such a joy to read wasn’t his spider-powers, it was his perpetual humanity despite those powers. And part of what makes us human is rising above our own self-doubt and pain. In Spider-Man: Reign, that’s the Peter we read about. One who’s seen more loss than he knows what to do with. One who’s lived a long life. One who needs to remember why he does what he does.
Words by Jason Reynolds | Cover by Kadir Nelson
What you need to know: Not a comic, but Jason Reynold’s YA novel is an incredible deep dive into Miles’ world. You won’t find other Spider-People showing up, but instead, you’ll get a well-developed, realistic story of a young brown kid thrust into extraordinary (and ordinary) circumstance. This is a book that shows that just because you’re a superhero doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with systemic bias and outright hatred. This is a book that reminds us of how the truth of our world might impact one of our favorite Spideys.