Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

While “In to the Spider-Verse” demonstrated Stan Lee’s philosophy that anyone can be Spider-Man, and anyone could be a hero, “Across the Spider-Verse” is an exploration of the hero’s biggest mantra. “Spider-Man’s” core philosophy has always been that with great power, comes great responsibility, and with the follow up to the immensely successful “In to the Spider-Verse” we garner a look at the fallout from the abuse of massive power, and how it can corrupt even the best of us.

Years after his big multiverse adventure, Miles Morales has established himself as New York’s Spider-Man. Meanwhile in another universe Gwen Stacey is struggling to fit in, but is called upon by other dimensional Spider-People. Led by the vicious Miguel O’Hara (Spider-Man 2099), they’re called upon to track down and stop the dimension hopping criminal “The Spot” as he threatens to consume all realities. When Miles stows away with Gwen, his presence poses a risk to the mission. Now a fugitive, he also has to figure out how to stop “The Spot” and make it home.

Although “Across the Spider-Verse” delves in the sequel formula of offering more and bigger scopes (and a stacked cast of respective heavyweights like Issa Rae, Daniel Kaluuya, Oscar Isaac, and so many, many more), it thankfully never loses sight of its heart. Deep down it’s a great tale of coming of age, and trying to deal with massive power. With Lord and Miller’s depiction of the Spider-Universe, there are really no good guys or bad guys. There are just spider-people that are trying to figure out how to cope with their huge responsibility. This comes at the sacrifice of a lot in their personal lives, including complex relationships, deep friendships, and worse, family members.

Everyone in the Spider-verse has either lost someone or has a lot to lose. Miles has his parents and his uncle, Gwen has her father, Peter B. Parker has his new daughter May Day, and Spider-Woman is on the verge of giving birth to a child. They’re all working toward the same goal, but as with all Spider-people, personal loss is inevitable. With “The Spot” (Jason Schwartzman) although he is traditionally a villain, he is also a tragic character given a humongous power, but he’s just misusing it as a means of getting revenge on Miles. Much of the stakes revolve around what Miles could be, what he’s perceived as, and ultimately what he could be.

His decisions, no matter how minute, decide his fate as Spider-Man and when we re-join him, he’s not so sure how to deal with it. The writers place extra focus on Spider-Gwen who you could argue is given equal screen time for the follow up. Her conflict mirrors Miles to the tee, from dealing with an authority figure who asks a lot of her, and the potential that she may be shunned if they ever found out who or what she really is. Miller and Lord’s follow up is just as dynamic and artistically rich as ever, with amazing animation, wonderful amalgamations of art styles, and even including live action in some instances. The writers place a lot of importance on Spider-Man the concept, but they’re also never afraid to have fun with the concept either.

Like its predecessor, “Across the Spider-Verse” speaks so much to the ideas about identity, obligation, growing up, and the collective mix of joy and terror that comes with loving someone. I anxiously await the completion of Miles’ journey as it’s been a remarkable, and stellar epic that I’m sure Stan Lee would be proud of.

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