Have you been waiting for current “Spider-Man” Miles Morales and “Spider-Gwen” Gwen Stacy to strike up some kind of inter-dimensional, quasi-romantic relationship? Then this is the crossover for you! If you’re like me and you haven’t been waiting for this, then the disjointed crossover that is “Sitting in a Tree” will likely only leave you disappointed.
Each half of the crossover is handled by the respective creative teams for the titles involved. So you have Bendis and Sara Pichelli doing the “Spider-Man” half and Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez delivering “Spider-Gwen.” Bendis starts things off with an attention-getting scene of Miles and Gwen making out before segueing into the first of several scenes which will turn out to best parts of this collection: Miles recounting the events to his buddies Ganke and Fabio. Oh, and the kissing scene? While it seems like a solid idea for the story to work back to, it eventually becomes part of the problem with this crossover.
Anyway, the plot of this series has Miles being informed by his mom that his dad, Jefferson, has disappeared. Before he can get the search underway, Maria Hill shows up to inform Miles that not only has his dad started working for S.H.I.E.L.D. again to protect his son, but Jefferson has also gone missing in another dimension on an off-the-books mission. Maria hooks up Miles with the dimension-jumping tech he needs to go looking for his dad and it promptly sets him down in Spider-Gwen’s Earth-65 where the two quickly meet up. It isn’t long before they find out that Earth-65’s Jefferson is that universe’s version of the Scorpion and is running the spy agency known as S.I.L.K. with plans to hold the multiverse hostage.
If that plan seems crazily ambitious for a six-issue crossover between two street-level superheroes then let me assure you that it’s the least of this story’s problems. Chief of which is the fact that Bendis and Latour aren’t on the same page about how it should be told. While Bendis makes the flashback structure of his issues work, Latour opts to tell everything as if it’s happening in real time. The difference in approach here makes the story feel disjointed as the storytelling style and perspective switch with every issue. It’s clear that Bendis and Latour could agree on the basic details of the plot for these six issues. What’s not clear is why they couldn’t get on the same page as to how it should be told.
There’s also the fact that the “Spider-Gwen” issues bring a lot of baggage to them if you haven’t been reading that series. So if you’re like me then you’re going to have to get up to speed with the fact that Gwen has lost her powers and relies on radioactive isotopes to “power up” at times, that her universe’s Matt Murdock and Doctor Octopus are a blind ninja master running the Hand and prone to using real octopi respectively, and that this whole storyline is a follow-on to the “Spider-Women” crossover with Jessica “Spider-Woman” Drew and Cindy “Silk” Moon. It’s a lot to take in and I can’t say that Latour makes any of it interesting enough for me to want to find more about it all.
Latour also devotes more than half of the final issue not to taking down Scorpion Jefferson, but to delivering the payoff to what is likely the real reason he and Bendis did this crossover in the first place. Everyone knows about how the death of the original Gwen Stacy meant that Peter Parker’s first real love ended in tragedy. Yet here we are in 2017 with a new “Spider-Man” and a Gwen Stacy with spider-powers. I can’t help but think that Bendis and Latour (or maybe someone in Marvel editorial) looked at them and went, “Hey, wouldn’t it be crazy if these two hooked up?” Which is why we have the crossover beginning with Miles kissing Gwen and ending with Gwen finding her way into another universe where she and Miles have been married for twenty years and have had several kids along the way.
I get that whoever thought this up was of the idea that they were being pretty clever. If only it played out as cleverly in the comic itself. Or if Miles and Gwen actually managed to have some kind of chemistry together. They spend most of their time together either puzzling out the plot or talking about the food in their respective universes. Romantic frisson has spawned from weirder places but not in this case. Things also get really awkward when Ms. Marvel shows up. I think there was some kind of plan to have her and Miles get together at some point. Then this happened which is why she shows up to effectively give Gwen her blessing here. Which effectively amounts to nothing because Miles and Gwen agree to remain friends at the end of the volume.
But wait! What about that sequence involving Miles making out with Gwen that kicked off this volume? Yeah, apparently that didn’t happen. While you could chalk that up to Miles exaggerating things to look good in front of Ganke and Fabio, that would make it a very out-of-character move for him. Miles has always been straight with his friends about his superhero activities and aside from this one thing there’s no effort made to have him look like an unreliable narrator in this story. What it looks like is that Latour wasn’t too keen on this idea and just decided to end the story his way. While I can’t say that I was looking forward to seeing Miles and Gwen hook up, it’s disappointing to have the only explanation for that opening scene be that Spider-Man lied to his friends to make himself look good.
Which is too bad because as I mentioned above, the scenes with Ganke and Fabio are the most fun in the volume. The three characters have a nice easy rapport between each other that feels genuine and makes their scenes come off as one big hang-out session between them and the reader. Bendis has also established their respective personalities well enough over the course of this series to the point where a scene of Ganke trying to puzzle things out regarding Scorpion Jefferson comes off as amusing rather than annoying.
Also helping that scene come off as well as it does is the excellent character work of Sara Pichelli. This will be the last regular “Spider-Man” work from her for a while as she’s off to do the “Spider-Men II” miniseries after this, but what’s here is a reminder of how well she handles the character, his friends, and the frenetic action he finds himself in. Rodriguez offers a style that trades detail for the freedom that comes with stylistic exaggeration.. As you might expect it’s not very consistent with Pichelli’s style, but it works well enough on its own terms.
My biggest fear after reading this crossover is that the creators are committed to the idea of a relationship between Miles and Gwen. Which means we’ll likely have to endure another crossover like this in a year if not sooner. Based on what the creators have shown us here, it’s not a relationship that I think has much promise. Moreover, while the “Spider-Man” parts of this story were generally fine, I can’t say I’m interested in reading any more “Spider-Gwen” after what I’ve seen here. This isn’t even close to the definitive “Spider-Man” story I keep hoping to read with Miles Morales. At the very least, it still shows that Bendis has a solid enough grasp on the character and his supporting cast to make their involvement in questionable stories like this not entirely without merit.