Spider-Man is back in black! Again!
This week, writer Peter David and artist Greg Land return to spin another untold Spidey tale in Symbiote Spider-Man: Crossroads #1.
As in the previous issues of Symbiote Spider-Man, we find ourselves in Peter Parker’s past, somewhere between Secret Wars and the birth of Venom. Spider-Man is still sporting his alien costume, completely unaware that it’s a sentient symbiote from a planet of symbiotes that’s actually a giant cage containing the god of darkness. But who could’ve guessed that?
Once again, Peter David does a great job weaving extra darkness into the character without going full-on Spider’s Shadow. This is still the quipping, thwipping web-slinger we love. It’s just that this version of Spider-Man throws in the occasional threat of violent murder alongside the fun quips–as one does when being slowly possessed by an alien symbiote.
Overall, this is a fun, classic, straightforward Spider-Man adventure. We get a few laugh-out-loud moments and some great action. Some moments don’t quite land (for example, if the secret service really thought Spider-Man was attacking the President, I doubt they would simply stand there with guns pointed). And if you’re here for the big green guy on the cover, you might want to wait for issue two. In the end, however, it’s just plain fun.
But here’s the thing: If you’re looking for fun, classic, and straightforward, then this is your book. But if you want something more—if you want a book that gets into Spider-Man’s psyche, or explores deeper themes, or pushes the boundaries with art—this isn’t for you.
I can’t judge this book too harshly, because it never promised to be more than a fun romp. But it’s hard not to sense a missed opportunity. This time in Spider-Man’s life—this grittier, morally ambiguous moment where Peter wore the symbiote—provides a perfect opportunity to explore the stories other Spider-Man books can’t explore. To use this premise for a boilerplate Spidey adventure feels like a waste.
There’s no real reason for this to be a symbiote Spider-Man story. The story is fine, but it could take place in any Spider-Man book. Likewise, the art is fine, but it could belong to any Spider-Man book.
If you’re going to set a story in this dark chapter of Spider-Man’s life, give us darkness. Give us that 1980s grit. Give us art that reflects that difference. Give us something we can’t get anywhere else.
Again, this is a fun adventure. If you’re a Spider-Man completist or a Marvel Unlimited subscriber, give this one a read. But if you’re trying to budget your pull box, you can find better Marvel books for your buck.