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Comic Book / Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow

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What if... Peter Parker never took off the Symbiote?

"This thing... it's alive. It has a right to make choices just as I do. It chooses to be with me, and I... choose to be with it. We're helping each other, I can feel it."
Peter Parker, Issue #1

Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow is a 2021 Marvel Comics five-issue mini-series written by Chip Zdarsky, with art by Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth. The reality this comic is set in has been officially designated as Earth-21619. It is the first in a new line of What If? mini-series, in this case: What if Peter Parker became Venom? The story received a follow-up called "Spider's Eclipse" in Extreme Venomverse.

Peter Parker hasn't been feeling well lately. He's been having issues with MJ and Aunt May and he's also been plagued by persistent nightmares. The only thing that has been going well in his life is his new black costume — no need to change clothes, it never runs out of webbing, and, well, it makes him feel stronger.

After an incident with the Hobgoblin, however, things begin to change: Reed Richards informs Peter that his costume is actually alive and he should probably leave it with the Fantastic Four to investigate further, but Peter doesn't want to do that. The costume chose him and he's choosing it.

But when a visit to Aunt May's house turns tragic, he gives into his darker impulses and does the thing the suit wanted: kill.

Tropes in Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow:

  • Adaptational Badass: Not so much in terms of combat or power feats but in terms of sheer durability, Kingpin really takes the cake on this one. When he taunts Spider-Man about his aunt, Peter in a fit of rage punches him as hard as he can, seemingly killing him. And this is a Spider-Man's who's enraged, who's not holding back, who's wearing the symbiote suit that should have boosted his already-prodigous super strength beyond even normal levels, and who killed Rhino in a single punch. Towards the end, we see Kingpin still alive after what should have been a fatal blow and being given his own symbiote as part of a Sequel Hook.
  • Anti-Hero: Peter dips into this after he kills Hobgoblin, going on to kill at least 19 other criminals, including the Sinister Six.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The symbiote is destroyed thanks to Peter disguising the Human Torch as himself, but not before it kills Reed Richards in an attempt to make sure he can't stop them again. Peter is ultimately found not guilty of his actions under the symbiote's influence thanks to the testimony of other symbiote-infected heroes, and Sue Richards decides to bring Peter into the Fantastic Four so they can heal together as a new family. However, Peter's identity has still gone public, May Parker is dead, and Kingpin is seeking revenge after surviving a brutal attack from the symbiote-infected Spidey, and now has a symbiote of his own.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Operating under the assumption that Spidey is still soft, Shocker and Scorpion go after Spider-Man to see if he really has decided to take off the kiddy gloves. It goes poorly.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Eddie Brock hates Spider-Man for ruining his life, so he murders Doc Ock, steals his tentacles, and joins the Sinister Six for a shot at revenge. He clearly expects Spidey to recognize him when he confronts him. Spidey disabuses him of that notion, quickly and violently.
    Spider-Man: Buddy... [takes him out with a single kick] I don't even know who the $#% you are.
  • Cassandra Truth: Shocker and Scorpion don't believe that Spider-Man's suddenly gone Anti-Hero and confront him on Kingpin's payroll. After Peter kills Scorpion, Shocker realizes that Spidey is willing to kill and can only cower as Peter stands over Scorpion's corpse.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Peter's been having a lot of these lately. At one point, he accidentally shoves MJ against a wall when he wakes up.
  • Composite Character: Spidey's characterization in the comic is a mix of his usual self and Eddie during his early years as the Lethal Protector, being an Anti-Hero who has zero qualms about killing criminals after he murders Hobgoblin.
  • The Corruptible: The Symbiote tries to get Peter to see its way of thinking through nightmares, which leave the web-head with many sleepless nights and exhausted, both physically and mentally due to it taking him for a joyride to fight crime. It finally succeeds in turning him into a Terror Hero when Hobgoblin kills Aunt May and Spider-Man kills him in retaliation.
  • Continuity Nod: There's a lot of references to the storylines that were going on at the time, from MJ revealing that she's knows he's Spider-Man to the Black Cat realizing he cares about her.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • When the Kingpin sends Shocker and Scorpion after Spider-Man, the web-slinger brutally and effortlessly defeats them by suffocating Scorpion with his symbiote's biomass before turning his attention to Shocker and killing him as well.
    • The Sinister Six coordinate a battle plan in an attempt to kill Spider-Man, only for it to backfire spectacularly, with the wall-crawler slaughtering Mysterio, Rhino, and Electro and seriously wounding Eddie Brock. Only Kraven and a Spider-Slayer wielding Jameson are left in the fight and barely manage to get the symbiote off of Spider-Man by forcing him into a burning barn.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Peter goes full-on Anti-Hero after Aunt May's death at the hands of Hobgoblin, officially accepting the symbiote.
  • Dark Lord on Life Support: Spider-Man's attack leaves the Kingpin disfigured, blind in one eye, and reliant on a cane and a respirator.
  • Death by Adaptation: May Parker, Hobgoblin, Shocker, Scorpion, Mysterio, Rhino, Electro, Doctor Octopus, and Reed Richards are all killed in the course of this series.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After Hobgoblin's death, the Daily Bugle publishes another newspaper about whether Spider-Man really is a hero for his murder of the villain. Having endured Jameson's verbal slander and abuse long enough, Peter confronts Jameson, even going so far as to break his hand and threaten him not to publish another slander piece unless he wants him to break his other hand.
  • Enemy Mine: Jameson works with the Sinister Six to try and kill Spider-Man after he begins to murder his enemies. He doesn't like any of the criminals he's collaborating with and wants to see them behind bars, but acknowledges that Spider-Man has become a bigger threat than all of them combined.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Downplayed. Although he still tries to protect innocent people, Spidey's costume becomes more menacing in appearance shortly before he kills the Hobgoblin, featuring a pair of fangs that allude to both a real spider's and Venom's below his lenses, added bulk, claws, and writhing tendrils of symbiote biomass protruding from his torso.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Wilson Fisk doesn't show anger or cower in fear when Spider-Man barges into his home and throws Shocker's arm and Scorpion's tail at his feet. Instead, he calmly stands up, takes off his reading glasses and remarks how broken Spider-Man has become upon discovering his civilian identity before Peter brutally kills him.
  • From Bad to Worse: Jameson manages to remove the symbiote from Peter by forcing him into a burning barn and presumes it to be dead, but Peter senses that it survived the fire. The symbiote makes its way to the Baxter Building and takes over Mr. Fantastic, and to make matters worse, it has begun to spawn more symbiotes.
  • Gaining the Will to Kill: At first, Peter manages to resist the symbiote's urgings to kill Hobgoblin, settling for unmasking him and warning him to stay away unless he wants another beating. It isn't until Hobgoblin murders May Parker that Peter gives in and crushes Hobgoblin's skull.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We don't see Peter killing Shocker, only what's left when he delivers his and Scorpion's corpses to Fisk.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: In Issue #1, Peter is shown to be incredibly agitated due to a mix of the symbiote's corrupting influence, several days without sleep, and being plagued by nightmares involving the symbiote.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Under the influence of the symbiote, Spider-Man begins killing off his rogues gallery when he would normally leave them webbed up for the police, even threatening J. Jonah Jameson by breaking his hand; Jameson himself even acknowledges that Spider-Man has become a greater threat than the villains he fought. He claims 19 confirmed victims by the time the black suit is removed and this trope is subverted.
  • Hearing Voices: Unlike in the original storyline, the suit can now sometimes manifest as a voice in Peter's head. At first, it just tries to stop him from going to sleep, but then it tries to get him to kill the Hobgoblin. Peter resists, though... until the end of the first issue, after Aunt May dies due to the Hobgoblin's attack.
  • Holographic Disguise: Johnny disguises himself as Peter using an Image Inducer and tells the symbiote that he'll take it back. The symbiote falls for this trick and latches onto him, at which point Johnny incinerates it.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: In issue 5, the symbiote impales Reed with its tendrils as it abandons his body.
  • Keystone Army: While the symbiote has removed its traditional weaknesses from its offspring, the original symbiote is still vulnerable to fire and sonics, and its link to the junior symbiotes it has spawned means that killing it kills all of its offspring, although this required Johnny Storm to basically hit it with a point-blank flame blast.
  • Kick the Dog: In issue 5, Peter tells the symbiote that he will willingly take it back if it lets MJ go and releases all the possessed heroes. It agrees, but then callously murders Mister Fantastic as it’s leaving his body so he can’t use his intelligence against it.
  • Kill It with Fire: The symbiote is tricked into bonding with a disguised Johnny Storm, who promptly flames on and incinerates the creature.
  • Killed Offscreen: What happens to poor Shocker and Beetle. The latter even gets strung up by Spider-Man to taunt and scare the Sinister Six when they try to spring a trap for the murderous web-slinger.
  • Kryptonite-Proof Suit: The symbiote, having learned its lesson from past encounters with fire, builds itself a fireproof suit of armor once it takes possession of Reed Richards.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Jameson and Kraven successfully manage to remove the symbiote from Peter via throwing him in a burning barn, the symbiote's influence wanes and is promptly horrified of his actions.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The series ends with Peter joining the Fantastic Four, which was what the very first original What If? issue was all about.
    • The series ends with the Kingpin being presented with what appears to be the Carnage symbiote, which brings to mind the "King Carnage" trading card from The '90s.
  • Never My Fault:
    • The symbiote shifts all of the blame of May's death onto the Hobgoblin; while this is technically true, it ignores that it was the one that prevented Peter from trying to save her in the first place.
    • Like in the main continuity, Eddie Brock blames Spider-Man for ruining his journalism career by catching the real Sin-Eater when he was the one who accused the wrong guy and wrote it on the front page. This is lampshaded by Jameson.
  • Not Quite Dead: In the epilogue, Wilson Fisk is revealed to have survived in his encounter with Spider-Man and is only left maimed.
  • Orifice Invasion: How Peter kills Scorpion. Specifically, Spider-Man forces the symbiote's biomass into his adversary's lungs through his mouth, suffocating him to death. He repeats this with Mysterio.
  • Point of Divergence: This issue starts during Amazing Spider-Man #258, but there's a small change: instead of going to the Baxter Building immediately after his nightmare, he gets distracted by a fight with the Hobgoblin, where he ends up giving into some of his darker impulses and beats and unmasks Hobgoblin, warning him that he's "playing for keeps." This allows the suit a little more control of Peter and when he finally does have Reed Richards examine the suit and learns it's alive, he doesn't remove it like in the original story, but keeps it.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Fisk learning that Spider-Man has begun killing his foes worries him. Not because it means the web-slinger is getting serious, but because it's bad for his business. Up until now, all Spidey did was beat the shit out of his men and villains on his payroll and put them behind bars, so he can potentially still use them. It's another story if Peter is killing his men; he can't exactly work with corpses.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kingpin spent his last words to Spider-Man by telling him how he has no one left that loves him anymore.
    Kingpin: So I went about investigating. Seeing if you had any other close family members. A wife, a girlfriend- someone I could threaten. But there was no one. So incredibly sad. You have no one, Peter Parker. Anyone you ever loved is-
  • Removed Achilles' Heel: Once the symbiote takes over Reed Richards, it genetically modifies its offspring to remove their vulnerability to fire.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Hobgoblin attacks Spider-Man when he's at Aunt May's house because Spider-Man "ruined the game" earlier. This causes Spider-Man to viciously beat Hobgoblin and, after Aunt May dies, kill him.
  • Sequel Hook: The final issue shows Kingpin being offered a red-and-black symbiote.
  • Spotting the Thread: Fisk notes that Spider-Man began resorting to brutal methods to deal with criminals after he killed Hobgoblin, which has him investigate the circumstances behind the villain's actions before his death. When he discovers that Hobgoblin killed May Parker, he realizes Spider-Man's murder of Hobgoblin was a violent reaction to the old woman's death, meaning Spidey is someone close to May Parker; her nephew Peter Parker.
  • Take Up My Sword: Indirectly; after Reed is killed by the symbiote, Sue invites Peter to join the FF in Reed's place so that they can each help the other heal after the trauma of the symbiote threat.
  • Terror Hero: Peter thinks that the black suit strikes fear more than his regular red-and-blue and that perhaps that's what's needed to stop his enemies. Sure enough, when he kills Scorpion and approaches a whimpering Shocker, a mother holding her child can only cry in fear and seemingly protect her daughter, not from Shocker, but from Spider-Man.
  • Time-Passage Beard: An unknown amount of time passes after Peter confronts Jameson as when Mary Jane goes to his apartment to check up on him, she finds he's grown a beard.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Jonah, of all people, takes a level at the end of the story. After the Venom Symbiote's defeat, Jameson visits Eddie Brock in the hospital; he urges him to let go of his grudge against Spider-Man and become a better person, implying that he's also coming to terms with his resentment toward Peter.
  • Trilogy Creep: The series was intended to be a four-issue series, but it got bumped up to five issues.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: As described by Peter, the symbiote isn't entirely evil. It genuinely wants to help people based on what it knows from Peter. The problem is that it has zero understanding of morality.
  • The Unmasking: The Kingpin exposes Spider-Man's secret identity to the world in issue 3.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Like with the main comics, the suit is still vulnerable to fire and loud sounds. This becomes tragic when Peter tries to rush into the burning house to save Aunt May, but the suit forces him to stop, because it can't stand the fire. Jameson and Kraven pick up on it during Spider-Man's fight with the Sinister Six and defeat the web-slinger by forcing him into a burning barn.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Instead of freaking out upon learning the suit is alive, Peter accepts it for what it is and berates Reed for wanting to lock it up and experiment on it.
  • Wham Shot: Doc Ock orders his men to get ready to wipe out the old members of the Sinister Six once Spider-Man is dead, only for one of them to attack him from behind. Doc Ock addresses the goon by name, only for the man to unmask himself.
    Eddie Brock: Sorry, Doc. Can't let you just go and kill Spider-Man... when that's my job.
    • In the epilogue: Kingpin is revealed to be alive and dead set on killing Spider-Man, and he has what appears to be the Carnage symbiote in his possession.
  • Yandere: The symbiote genuinely loves Peter, but sees his friends and family as weaknesses to be removed so he can become better than he currently is. It's especially not happy about Peter loving Mary Jane and mainly targets her.
  • You Are Not Alone: Jonah gives one of these to Eddie Brock when he visits him in the hospital. He doesn't know what Brock is going through, but Jonah knows what it's like to put the blame on someone and make them the reason for all their problems. Jonah will help Eddie get past this, saying he isn't alone.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Eddie Brock claims Doc Ock's tentacles for himself after killing him.