21st Apr2021

‘Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Chip Zdarsky | Art by Pasqual Ferry | Published By Marvel Comics

This is a book that has launched at the perfect time. Why? Firstly, it’s essentially a ‘What If?’ story, just one extended over 4 issues. Nothing wrong with that if there’s enough story in there. Secondly, Marvel are fast catching up with DC with their focus on multiverses and alternate versions of characters. They’ve always had a little nibble at that aspect of comics mythology, the Ultimate line for one, but with upcoming film projects going in that direction synergy is in the air. So, it makes sense for the first in a series of these stories to start with everybody’s favourite everyman, Spider-Man, and popular villain Venom. Let’s go all the way back to 1985….

When I first saw Peter Parker’s new black and white costume, way back in its first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #252 (1984), it was a game changer. I loved Spider-Man, and when I saw the cover to that issue it absolutely blew me away. At first all seemed peachy keen, but as time went on we learned the black costume was actually an alien symbiote ‘feeding’ off Peter, and he rid himself of it. Eddie Brock was next to wear it, and of course Venom was born. So, what if Peter never managed to get rid of the symbiote? What would have happened? This story takes place around the events, in our continuity, of Amazing Spider-Man #258, one of the high points in the Spidey books.

Let’s take a look.

Peter’s been having nightmares. Bad ones. To make things worse he’s dropped out of school and Aunt May is not talking to him, he’s on the outs with Mary Jane and Black Cat and his life’s generally a mess. Classic Parker. His only pleasure? Letting the alien suit slip on and going out and fighting crime. He’s only happy these days wearing the suit. Which is lucky, as Hobgoblin himself has popped around for a visit. Only, Peter hasn’t got the patience these days and gets quite brutal on Hobgoblin. He’s had enough of these villains coming after him time after time, so maybe it’s time for more permanent solutions. Obviously, unbeknown to Peter, the symbiote has been feeding his fears, influencing his behaviour, and giving him those nightmares.

Still, Peter’s not stupid, and he swings by Reed Richards place to see if he can give him some insight on the suit. Reed’s checks confirm what he thought, and what Peter suspected. The suit is actually alive. It both responds to Peter’s thoughts, and Peter in turn is affected by it. Reed urges Peter to take it off as it could be damaging him. He refuses. Forcibly. Peter’s on a dangerous downward spiral, and you know it’ll only take one bad day to tip him over the edge. I guess that’s why the Hobgoblin is back saying ‘hold my beer’. He blows up Aunt May’s house, the fire from which stops the symbiote letting Peter save May. That was the trigger , the final stop on Peter’s journey. Hobgoblin doesn’t walk away this time. Venom has arrived.

I’m not sure I could have enjoyed this anymore. I obviously read this era of Spider-Man first time round, and still have all the issues, and this issue was absolutely pitch perfect. Chip Zdarsky has gone to great pains to make this feel authentic, sympathetic to this era of Spidey, and it works beautifully. The descent of a good man into bad through his actions is a universal staple of storytelling, but you feel Peter’s sadness and fears here. He knows he’s struggling, he’s at his lowest ebb, but temptation is a powerful thing. If the suit can solve your problems, make you feel better, then why not? The reasoning of an alcoholic or drug addict of course. Very mistaken but also very human. The art by Pasqual Ferry is beautifully done, some lovely flowing layouts and wonderful individual panels. Although more slick than the art back in those mid-1980’s books, it still has that feel to it. Great work by the creative team all round.

Funnily enough, I’ve never liked Venom. Love Spider-Man, loved the black costume era, but never the Eddie Brock villain/ anti-hero. This version of Venom, though, I can get behind. It’s organic, it makes sense, and makes Venom both tragic and frightening.

If you love some Marvel nostalgia, or just great storytelling, you’ll love this.

***** 5/5

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