REVIEW: Spider-Man: The Spider’s Shadow #3-4 Ups The Scare Factor

Two twenty-somethings - one a white man to the left of the page, the other a white woman to the right of the page, kiss mouth to mouth. Tears leak from their closed eyes, pale against their red cheeks. Their flesh is colored in shades of red, and inky black tentacles ooze upward over their cheeks

Spider-Man: The Spider’s Shadow piles on the chilling, overwhelming visuals as Peter finally breaks away from the influence his suit holds over him. But the symbiote is not about to let go of its influence over Peter — or Manhattan — that easily.

Spider-Man: The Spider’s Shadow #3-4
VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letters); Pasqual Ferry (Art); Matt Hollingsworth (Colors); Phil Noto (Cover); Greg Smallwood (Cover); Christian War (Cover); Chip Zdarsky (Writer/Logo/Design)
Marvel Comics
June 9 and July 14, 2021

A black-skinned alien creature with large white eyes looms over a crystalline purple-toned spider symbol. Within the spider-shaped symbol the members of Peter's sinister six dwell within it. its black claws reach out to embrace the spider-shaped insignia

As another Marvel character might say, it’s clobbering time for Peter Parker. After permanently taking down a few faces in his rogue’s gallery, the Sinister Six has reformed (minus Otto Octavius, whose technology has passed down to Eddie Brock — now known as “Brock Ock”) and have a plan to take down Spider-Man for once and for all.

Caught in the middle of this plan is a shell-shocked but still righteous J. Jonah Jameson.  He finds himself both desperate to take down Spider-Man but aware that the gang of villains might have bitten off more than they could chew. This proves prophetic, as Peter finally shakes off the suit, only for the symbiote to develop a wicked mind all its own – and a desire to save and help that becomes truly creepy. The result is a stand-off between Peter, MJ, Johnny Storm, the suit, and two possessed heroes which might have a far-reaching effect on the entire Marvel Universe as we know it.

Chip Zdarsky impressively portrays what happens when a good man allows himself to be overtaken by his very worst instincts. In these issues, he begins to buck up and take responsibility for his desires. Peter is filled with remorse, drained by grief, and filled with a sense of pain and longing which makes him eminently worth rooting for. The people around him manage to be supportive without losing their grips on their rational minds and sense of what’s vital to the rest of the world. Mary Jane Watson steps forth in these two latest issues as a strong voice of reason and a coolly rational presence in Peter’s life, and she’s the one who anchors Peter back into his purpose after the loss of Aunt May. JJJ is also impressively sympathetic as he struggles between his cold fury and his pity for Peter.

Comic Panel Art from Spider-Man: The Spider's Shadow #4 in which Black Cat and J. Jonah Jameson confer as Peter and MJ Watson arrive. Peter vows to get MJ home safe while Felicia agrees to take JJJ home. C 2021 Marvel Comics

Zdarsky and Pasqual Ferry’s symbiote-possessed heroes are much creepier than the actual zombified heroes we’ve gotten in franchise favorites like Marvel Zombies. Their red eyes, their horrified expressions, their zombielike motions and the inky, icky trails wrapped around them – keeping their hosts alive but immobile – all make a terrifying picture. When one remembers that the symbiotes hook into the brains of their hosts, one can only shudder at the implication of what’s truly going on.

Ferry’s art is still fantastic – bleary-eyed but incisive, and always ably capturing the horrors of the world which surrounds our heroes. I haven’t mentioned how good Matt Hollingsworth’s color work is, but the bruised and muted shades that he’s selected highlight the nightmarish, bleary cityscape that Peter has brought to life, Seymour Krelbourne-style.

The Spider’s Shadow is slowly evolving into the best horror comic on Marvel’s roster. I’m mightily intrigued to see how — or if — Peter gets out of this situation in August.

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