There are some blips in this fifth issue, but the lion’s share of Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow is a nervy, eerie book that may be the best horror title Marvel’s published in the last five years.
Spider-Man: The Spider’s Shadow #5
Pasqual Ferry (Art); Matt Hollingsworth (Colors); Phil Noto (Cover); VC’s Joe Sabino (Letters); Chip Zdarsky (Writer/Logo/Design)
August 11, 2021
After four issues of angst and a pretty thick body count, it’s all come down to this. Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow has taken us to Peter Parker’s dark side – and now it’s time for Ol’ Webhead to crawl back into the light if he wants to save his friends and the woman he loves, Mary Jane Watson.
When last we left Peter, he’d shed the Symbiote thanks to intervention via J. Jonah Jameson. But the creature soon went looking for another host, and the eminently curious Reed Richards provided it with a body to puppeteer. The symbiote proceeded to hook into hundreds of other superheroes in town, and all of them are now focused on one thing – eliminating the “distractions” keeping Peter from being a superhero. Including Mary Jane.
This means Peter has to think faster than an alien which almost literally consumed him from the inside out – a hard thing to do since they mind-melded. With that in mind, might won’t win the day (the symbiote has a God under its magical sway, after all), and so Peter has to apply his guile to the situation. Fortunately, he’s got friends who are willing to stick their necks out for him.
Chip Zdarsky’s writing stays sharp, with a surprising and solid last-minute role for Sue Storm, who becomes a leader in an unfortunate way but accepts the new situation with aplomb. I wanted Mary Jane to do more in this series. Sometimes she feels like too much of a beacon, an object for Peter to aspire to, but she at least has a little more agency than your average damsel, thanks to her choice to stay and fight alongside Peter. There’s a great scene between Eddie Brock and Jameson that’s fascinating for its tone and placement in Spider-Man’s canon.
I was a slice less impressed by Pasqual Ferry’s art. Perhaps it was because I was so very wowed by his incredible set pieces and large panoramas in previous issues, but here only a handful of tableaus impressed me. Ferry shines at character portraiture – there’s great solo imagery of Steve Rogers and Matt Murdock deep into the issue, for instance. But heavy inks seem to weigh his work down this time.
The final issue has a different inker, Joe Sabino, and his style seems heavier than his predecessors. This works when Venom drips along while on the prowl and tries to consume Peter again. But for scenes requiring a lighter touch, it feels too heavy. The colorwork by Hollingsworth feels faded and spare, but with intent and purpose, reflecting the way the Symbiote has wrecked Peter’s life.
Spider-Man: The Spider’s Shadow has some unique and memorable scenes, and offers an interesting future for Peter and those closest to him. It doesn’t quite stand as an impactful combination of writing, art, and inking in its final issue, but the miniseries is definitely worth reading at least once.