Recently, Marvel has been all-symbiotes-all-the-time. But maybe make room on your pull list for one more symbiote story.
Writer Chip Zdarsky returns to the world of “What If?” in Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #1, this time joined by artist Pasqual Ferry. The miniseries considers a simple question: What if Peter Parker had kept the alien costume?
It’s easy to imagine a cheap version of this concept, another action-stuffed ’80s throwback. However, while fans of the Symbiote Saga will definitely get some nostalgic vibes, that’s not the focus of this book. This one is about Peter Parker.
Zdarsky’s last spider-tale, Spider-Man: Life Story, dug deep into what makes Spider-Man tick. It asked: What if Spider-Man had been allowed to move on? What if he had found freedom from the guilt of Uncle Ben’s death? What if he had fulfilled his purpose?
But Spider’s Shadow asks the opposite questions: What if Peter had never moved on? What if he sank deeper into the brooding turmoil between Gwen’s death and his marriage to Mary Jane? What if the very values that drove him to heroism stagnated into something darker?
We all know the classic Spider-Man credo: “With great power comes great responsibility.” But what do those two words really mean?
When Uncle Ben spoke of “power,” he meant the power we’re given. Peter never asked for a radioactive spider-bite; he found himself gifted with power. But the symbiote suit gives Peter access to another sort of power—a power that isn’t given, but taken. We hear the symbiote in Peter’s mind urging him to attain power through fear.
And what about “responsibility”? Uncle Ben meant duty—a responsibility to do what we can. But in Spider’s Shadow, we watch Peter twist this sense of duty into an anxious, guilt-ridden thing. It’s no longer a responsibility to do something positive, but a responsibility for something negative. It’s the difference between feeling responsible to help others—duty—and feeling responsible for the harm that befalls them—guilt.
“With great power comes great responsibility” should mean “If you’ve been given the ability to help others, you should help others.” And that’s not a bad creed to live by, whether you’re an arachnid-themed crimefighter or an ordinary comic fan.
But “With great power comes great responsibility” can easily twist into “If you don’t attain and exercise power, you’re responsible for bad things.” And that’s the sort of creed that cycles into violence and hatred.
If there’s one critique of this book, it’s that Matt Hollingsworth’s coloring sometimes detracts from Ferry’s subtler, grittier pencil work. The colors sometimes feel too smooth and modern for the tone and setting of the story, even though the art itself packs a great emotional punch.
So I hope you’re not too sick of symbiotes, because Zdarsky and the team spinning what might be a classic Spider-Man tale. Grab a copy of Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #1 at your local shop this week.