Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours is a Spider-Man novel written by Jim Butcher in 2006 which serves as a sequel to a story arc within The Amazing Spider-Man comic.note As is Jim Butcher's style, many tropes from The Dresden Files appear here as well.
The novel chronicles the life of Peter Parker/Spider-Man as he attempts to defeat a trio of psychotic life-eating monsters who want him dead because he killed their brother by injecting himself with radioactive material and then beating him down until the monster's assistant emptied a Glock into him. The now-dead monster (named Morlun) has two brothers named Thanis and Malos, and a sister named Mortia. All three of them want to beat Spider-Man and eat his totemic life-force (the power he has from being associated with a spider).
Spider-Man is joined by his Old Flame Black Cat as well as Doctor Strange and the Rhino (yes, really). Our hero eventually defeats the psychotic family with magic rocks and plays basketball with a Tibetan monk.
The darkest tropes:
- Action Girl:
- The Alleged Car: MJ buys a rusty, lime-green Gremlin so she can play Lady Macbeth for a theater company in Atlantic City.
- Animal Motifs: This story expands on the animal totems plot introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man (J. Michael Straczynski), introducing the siblings of Morlun, the Implacable Man and Energy Vampire who feeds on this totemic champions, and it turns out that every Animal-Themed Superbeing has this connection even if it's not obvious. Black Cat is a Badass Normal; she wasn't bitten by a radioactive cat and given feline powers. Yet, if she wasn't cat enough to be delicious and nutritious to the likes of Morlun, she'd never have chosen the name. That's why Spidey, Cat, and even the Rhino must team up when Mortia, Thanis, and Malos come to town.
- Big Bad: Mortia, The Leader of the trio of Ancients that is hunting down Spider-Man and other totemic champions.
- Big Damn Heroes: Just when things are looking really bad, Mary Jane comes in to save the day.
- Canon Immigrant: Morlun was revealed to have a family in Spider-Verse, although Thanis, Malos, and Mortia aren't part of it.
- Car Fu: Mary-Jane rams her old Gremlin into Mortia, driving her through a junkyard office wall. Even though she's begun feeding on Spider-Man and is therefore vulnerable, that's still not enough to knock her out.
- Chekhov's Gun: MJ's rusty Gremlin ends up being useful in the finale, when she uses it to ram into Mortia when she's about to kill Spider-Man.
- Clothes Make the Legend: The Rhino admits to Spider-Man that he hates his suit, especially the Rhino hat. After he had gotten the suit off after a period of being trapped in it, he tried to change his image, wearing a suit and tie. But the first employer he tried to get refused to believe that he was the Rhino, associating him with the costume and the rhino hat. He's been using it ever since simply because the costume is the only way he is recognized enough to get work.
- Continuity Nod: Quite a few to J. Michael Straczynski's run on Spider-Man, notably Morlun and the whole "totemic hero" concept.
- Darkest Hour: It's the title of the book, plus Spidey has three, near-invincible psychopaths trying to eat his power and kill his family. Darkest hour indeed.
- Defiant to the End: Peter continues to snark at Mortia, no matter how hopeless the situation seems to be or how she demands him to beg for his life.
- Drives Like Crazy: MJ is such a bad driver she gets a 0 in her first attempt at getting a driver's license.
- Dynamic Entry:
- Spider-Man yells "Boot to the head!" as he swings in and kicks the Rhino in the stomach.
- Mary Jane drives a Gremlin through a chain-link fence and beats up an ancient monster with a tire iron, all while quoting Macbeth.
- Enemy Mine: The Rhino and Spider-Man end up teaming up against The Ancients.
- The Eeyore: Dex note continues to be a melancholic mess, even after Morlun's death.
- Fatal Flaw: The Rhino acknowledges his. He has a temper, and he gets stupid. Peter thinks that if Rhino could actually get it under control, Spider-Man might not be able to beat him.
- First-Person Smartass: Spider-Man serves as the Narrator of the story and he naturally snarks as much in his narration as he does in his dialogue.
- Interrupted Intimacy: Felicia breaks in into Peter's house to find him and MJ barely dressed in an intimate moment. When she starts checking out Peter, MJ shoves him out of the room.
- It May Help You on Your Quest: When Spider-Man asks Doctor Strange for his assistance in dealing with the Ancients, he refuses, stating that doing so would undo the cosmic balance. He does arrange for his manservant Wong to prepare Spider-Man a sack lunch... which contains, along with a ham sandwich, three small stones which can be used to transport someone to an uninhabited dimension. After Spider-Man defeats the Ancients, Strange asks Wong what had happened to the stones, pretending not to know anything about their use.
- Lightning Bruiser: Mortia is much faster than her brothers, making Spidey consider her the biggest threat, as his speed is the only advantage over the other Ancients.
- Lured into a Trap: Felicia wears one of Spider-Man's spare costumes to lure one of the Ancients into a trap.
- More Deadly Than the Male: Mortia is considerably more dangerous than her brothers.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Run in Morlun's family. Morlun, Mortia, Thanis, Malos? Death, death, death, and evil. These guys are not afraid to let you know they're not good guys right off the bat.
- Oblivious Mockery:
- The Rhino has a hidden pocket on his suit that he uses to carry his cellphone. He had it made because "What kind of idiot designs a suit with no pockets?". Peter means to add pockets to his suit eventually...
- Rhino also mentions that he considered becoming a professional wrestler early on in his career, but stopped because he realized how "stupid" it would be to become a wrestling star just because he'd gained super strength. Peter joins the Rhino in laughing over what a silly idea that would be.
- The Rhino also happens to complain about his first suit, which was bonded to his skin for some time before he got it off. He asks himself, "what kind of moron gets himself stuck into a costume he cannot even remove?" Peter happens to notice his wife is vibrating from holding in her laughter, most likely over his own experience with a hard-to-get-off costume.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: It is suggested that Rhino is a lot smarter than he lets on and only pretends to be dumber than he is so the rest of Spidey's villains, many of whom are of genius-level intelligence, will underestimate him.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Like Morlun, the Ancients are a vampire clan that drains the life-force of their victims to become immortal.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: When Spider-Man demands that the Black Cat explains why she's trying to stop him from taking on the Rhino, "in five words or less," she answers, "It. Is. A. Trap... Dummy." Possible Shout-Out to a similar line from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Out. For. A. Walk... Bitch."
- The Renfield: Spidey explicitly compares Dex (Morlun's old human slave) to the Trope Namer. Dex takes offense.
- Revenge: The Ancients trio is hunting Peter out of revenge for killing Morlun.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Doctor Strange uses the longest words possible, much to Spidey's annoyance.Strange: They are older than mountains, older than the seas. Since life first graced this sphere, and since that life called out to the mystic realms, echoing in harmony and sympathy, these beings, these Ancients, have been there to feed upon it.
Spider-Man: Really, you could have just said, "Yes, they're old," and it would have been enough.
- Shout-Out: Dr. Strange's monologue on the nature of magic could have come straight from The Dresden Files.
- Sleeps in the Nude: After the battle with the Ancients, Felicia strips out of Spider-Man's spare costume and goes to sleep naked at Doctor Strange's place, too exhausted to care about her audience.
- Weaksauce Weakness: The Ancients are superhumanly tough and strong (and in Mortia's case, fast), but only as long as they're actively willing themselves to be tough, strong and fast. Sucker punch them when their attention is elsewhere i.e. when they're feeding, and they can be taken down like any normal human.