Fan-favourite writer Chip Zdarsky returns to Spider-Man to present a What If? style story that revisits the original Alien Costume saga in Spider-Man: The Spider’s Shadow. Spider-Man once donned an alien suit that nearly destroyed his life… but what if he never took it off? In this shocking new version of the story, Peter ignores every warning… and embraces his dark symbiote! Now, haunted by terrible nightmares and exhausted by an endless barrage of villains, he is at the end of his rope… and when Hobgoblin attacks, Spider-Man isn’t so friendly anymore. The rules of engagement are about to change — permanently! Wilson Fisk wants to put an end to this deadly new Spidey once and for all. But with Peter haunted by his past and present more and more each day, can anyone save him from his own mind?
Zdarsky has had great success with his previous Spider-Man outings. He had a highly eventful run on a new volume of Spectacular Spider-Man which wrapped up with an Eisner Award winning story in issue 310, and his real-time chronological history of the character in Spider-Man: Lifestory has been one of the best regarded Spider-Man stories of the modern era. Zdarsky’s strong understanding of Spidey’s character and history really shine through on all the projects he has worked on, and The Spider’s Shadow is no exception.
All the storylines that were running around the Alien Costume saga are picked up on including the Hobgoblin mystery, Spider-Man’s complicated relationship with Black Cat, Mary Jane’s struggle with her knowledge of Peter Parker’s double life and the discovery that the costume Spider-Man has been wearing is alive. It has been established that the symbiote brings out negative qualities of the person wearing it and Zdarsky uses this plot point to create a brilliant horror style story where Spider-Man surrenders to his dark side.
This leads to some very shocking moments to say the least, and really drives home the danger someone with Spider-Man’s powers would be if he lost his moral compass. The inner struggle between Peter and the symbiote never comes across as forced with Zdarsky again demonstrating his strong handle on the character. The latter chapters in particular where Peter has to reconcile with the actions he took whilst under the symbiote’s influence play in great to the theme of responsibility which has always been the key theme of the Spider-Man mythos. We also get some great moments with the supporting cast, in particular Mary Jane – where we see the level of her bond with Peter – and the Kingpin – who must deal with the prospect of a Spider-Man that is crossing lines he never would have previously.
Pasqual Ferry delivers some tremendous art, which is key in showing Spider-Man slow descent under the influence of the suit. The action scenes are top notch and he excels in the horror driven moments, with a symbiote influenced Spider-Man’s clash with the Hobgoblin and later with the Sinister Six being particularly memorable. I’d be remiss not to mention Phil Noto’s stunning covers which terrifically showcase the horror driven aspect of the series and key scenes of the series.
This is a brilliant parallel universe story that plays well in a much-loved period of Spider-Man history. Zdarsky and Ferry are both on top of their game and this series more than demonstrates that. Fans of Venom or 80s Marvel will particularly enjoy this one.
Spider-Man: The Spider’s Shadow is out 2 November from Marvel (9781302920913, p/b, £14.99)
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