The following post contains several 42-related spoilers for the Spider-Verse movies.
There were 42s all over Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. There was a 42 written on the back of the spider that bit Miles Morales and gave him the powers of the ultimate Spider-Man. There were 42s hidden in backgrounds of numerous scenes. When Miles fell off a building and banged into a sign on the way down, the numbers “4” and “2” fell precisely so they made a 42 on the ground.
42s were everywhere in that movie. But Into the Spider-Verse never fully explained what all those 42s meant. The viewer could guess, but the filmmakers never made their intentions explicit — until the sequel.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse finally reveals the truth about the mystery of the 42s. It’s not just a random number, it’s not just an homage to baseball great Jackie Robinson, it’s not a reference to a specific issue of a Spider-Man comic meant as an Easter egg. It’s actually the number of one of the many Earths that make up the Spider-Verse. And for Miles Morales, it’s probably the most important Earth other than this own.
That’s because Earth-42 is the alternate reality where the spider that bit him came from. The spider was plucked from its home dimension by the scientists at Alchemax, using the supercollider that was the focal point of Into the Spider-Verse. In that movie, the Kingpin is using this experimental machine to try to find an alternate reality where his wife and daughter are still alive. When Peter Parker gets shoved into the collider, it inadvertently drags the other Spider-Heroes like Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, and Spider-Ham out of their home dimensions and into Miles’.
When you think about it, that explanation was always the most obvious one. In Marvel Comics, alternate realities are differentiated with numeric designations. The home of Marvel‘s original Spider-Man — along with Marvel Comics’ classic Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Avengers — is known as Earth-616. The world where Tom Holland’s Peter Parker hangs out with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is called Earth-199999. Spider-Gwen hails from Earth-65. Miles Morales calls Earth-1610 home. So having the spider with a giant 42 written on its back originate on Earth-42 makes a lot of sense.
At the end of Across the Spider-Verse, when Miles tries to return to his home dimension from the realm of Spider-Man 2099, he’s accidentally sent to Earth-42 by mistake. It turns out to be a bleak reality where there is no Spider-Man — because its radioactive spider wound up biting Miles instead. On Earth-42, Miles’ dad is dead and his Uncle Aaron is still alive, and he works for that dimension’s version of the Prowler: Miles Morales.
As for how Miles will get home, that’s the big mystery that Across the Spider-Verse leaves for the next movie, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, to resolve. It’s scheduled to open in theaters on March 29, 2024.
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