Spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse below
Despite a lot of rumors and speculation ahead of time, there was no cameo appearance from Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse to officially connect the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the Spider-Verse as a whole - but that doesn't mean that there aren’t strong arguments to be made to connect the two… but are they convincing arguments? Read on and be the judge for yourself, dear reader.
The most obvious connective tissue between the two universes is the appearance of Donald Glover as a Prowler in Across the Spider-Verse. It wasn't explicitly stated, but this is almost certainly Glover reprising his Spider-Man: Homecoming role of Aaron Davis - a low level criminal counterpart to the Marvel comics Aaron Davis, who would go on to become the Prowler. (And was, like the animated version, the uncle to Miles Morales; the MCU Aaron Davis referred to a nephew, but he was never named.)
Short of an explicit confirmation that this Prowler is the same one who worked with Adrian Toomes and interacted with a Spider-Man who also worked with the Avengers - something that might, admittedly, be somewhat difficult given rights situations - there's always the wiggle room that this Donald Glover character is entirely different from the one in Spider-Man: Homecoming. (Yeah, I know; but still...)
If nothing else, it's a hell of an Easter Egg for fans who know their Spider-Man mythology, and a nice surprise that no-one knew of ahead of time. (My audience audibly gasped when he appeared on the screen.)
Two Degrees of Peter Parker
While the Spot (Jason Schwartzman) doesn't get to visit the MCU proper in Across the Spider-Verse, he gets relatively close. After all, while discovering his multiversal powers, he visits a live-action reality where he meets Mrs. Chen (Peggy Lu), the bodega owner who’s appeared in both of Sony’s Venom movies to date. Sure, Venom doesn’t take place inside the MCU — instead, it’s part of Sony’s undefined sub-Spider-Verse that includes Venom, Morbius, and the upcoming Kraven the Hunter movie, but no actual Spider-Man of any sort — but the character did visit there, in a stealth crossover between the two universes via the post-credit sequences of both Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Spider-Man: No Way Home in 2021.
That crossover, which didn’t even see Venom come anywhere close to meeting any of the Spider-Men in the latter movie, established that Venom and the MCU were part of the same multiverse. It only follows, then, that if the Spider-Verse movies share a multiverse with the Venom movies, then they have to share a multiverse with the MCU… right…?
Maybe that’s too tenuous for some people, though. After all, like the Glover cameo, it’s possible that Peggy Lu was playing an entirely different character that wasn’t Venom’s Mrs. Chen at all, and it was just a fun Easter Egg with no deeper meaning. If only there was, like, something in the dialogue to connect the two or something. But how likely would that be…?
Miguel O’Hara might have visited, or is at least aware of, the MCU
If you want an actual, textual, direct connection between Across the Spider-Verse and the MCU, it’s right there in the dialogue of the movie... although you might have to be aware of the weird classifications of Marvel’s multiverse in multiple forms to catch it.
In dialogue that was shared as part of a trailer for the movie, Miguel O’Hara rants about the damage inflicted across the multiverse in recent years, and he says, “Don’t even get me started on Doctor Strange and that little nerd back on Earth 199999!”
The placement of the “main” MCU Earth in the multiverse is a somewhat confusing topic. It was defined as being Earth 616 by Mysterio in 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, but he was revealed to be a fake… except that he was, somehow, correct about “Earth 616,” because that number was repeated by a multiverses version of Christine Palmer in 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness when talking to the “regular” MCU version of Doctor Strange. (The designation has also been used outside of the movies by producers from Marvel, as if to double-down on the idea.)
There’s only one problem with this: there already is an Earth 616 in Marvel canon… and it’s the Earth on which the majority of Marvel’s comic book stories take place.
This is only really a problem if you are of the opinion that all of Marvel’s stories co-exist in the same multiverse. If there are multiple multiverses, then it’s completely fine that there are multiple “Earth 616”s, after all. Except… Marvel does like to imply that all of its stories co-exist in the same multiverse. And, in fact, Marvel has already given the MCU Earth a designation, all the way back in 2008 — the same year that the MCU got started with the release of the first Iron Man movie. That number, as revealed in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: A-Z #5 is… Earth 199999.
Of course, the clue was in O’Hara’s mention of “Doctor Strange and that little nerd.” The MCU versions of Strange and Spider-Man were responsible for fracturing reality and allowing characters from across the multiverse to visit the MCU Earth in that movie; no wonder O’Hara was mad at them.
And then there's the background details
Do you need more convincing? Check out the scene where Miguel O'Hara is explaining canon events to Miles, and specifically the examples of necessary deaths: amongst the scenes showing up are the deaths of Uncle Ben from both 2002's Spider-Man and 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man, firmly establishing that those movies are part of the Spider-Verse... which, given that those heroes both show up in 2021's Spider-Man: No Way Home, means that the MCU is once again grandfathered in to the wider Spider-Verse as a whole, just as the inclusion of the Venom-verse establishes.
So, is the MCU part of the Spider-Verse?
As things currently stand, fans are faced with Schrödinger’s Spider-Verse: there are certainly a lot of reasons to assume that the MCU is part of the larger Spider-Verse, as detailed above - most convincingly, perhaps, Donald Glover's appearance - but in the absence of it being further established as incontrovertable in-universe fact inside one of the two fictional universes, we can’t definitively say that it’s true, either.
(But it is, let's be honest about it.)
Right now, whether or not the Marvel Cinematic Universe sits inside the Spider-Verse depends entirely on how much you, personally, want that to be the case… which, really, might be the best answer of all.
We're certainly excited about Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. So much so that we've already reviewed the film as well as written about Miles swinging into Fortnite, covered the Spider-Verse Burger King takeover, looked into the new Spider-Jordans, and even eaten a Spider-Whopper. If that isn't enough Spider-writing for you, check out Five Spider-hero comics to read that aren’t about Peter Parker's Spider-Man.