Warning: MASSIVE SPOILERS for Spider-Man #1
When Marvel announced a brand new Spider-Man comic written by J.J. Abrams and his son Henry, fans didn't know what to expect. The master of reboots and mysteries is known for his reboots, but how much can you really reinvent Spider-Man? The answer is a shock, and easily the biggest comic book twist of the year.
Now, whether or not existing Spider-Man fans will approve of, accept, or even enjoy the Abrams' re-imagining of Peter Parker and Mary Jane remains to be seen. But if fans were disappointed that Marvel chose to reveal almost nothing about this new Spider-Man miniseries, only emphasizing the fifteen years it took to get Abrams on board, the publisher does have good reason for it. Just a handful of pages into Spider-Man #1, readers will witness the source of the secrecy, as the story is flipped upside down. Here's your very last SPOILER warning.
Spider-Man is Broken By Cadaverous...
The only real insight into this new Spider-Man story offered by Marvel focused on the new villain created for it: Cadaverous, a hulking, twisted mixture of body horror and cybernetic experimentation. The series' artist Sarah Pichelli (co-creator of the Ultimate Spider-Man, Mile Morales) guaranteed that the book and its villain would be pretty to look at no matter what, but her concept art for Cadaverous made it hard to imagine Peter Parker making a dent. And when Spider-Man #1 opens, it's the titular hero who has taken the worst beating of the two. Like so many times before, Mary Jane rushes to find Peter crushed beneath a pile of rubble, having won a few seconds of peace until Cadaverous tracks him down.
One look at Peter's broken and mangled arm reveals this isn't your usual villain dust-up, as even Mary Jane is shocked at so gruesome a wound (along with plenty of readers). She's even unwilling to humor Peter's joke at his own expense--although both mysteriously agree that "He would laugh. He laughs at everything." But before readers can even wonder who the pair are referring to, Cadaverous returns to swarm Spider-Man. He urges Mary Jane to flee before being pinned by Cadaverous's forces, and witnesses a pain far worse than a shredded arm.
...But Mary Jane is Killed (For Real)
Even for a character who has seen women he loves killed more than most, the sight of Mary Jane being impaled on one of Cadaverous's massive metal fingers will be hard to forget. When she's tossed free of the bridge by this new villain, Peter manages to break free of the swarm and swing out in time to catch her. A feat made even more difficult by his now missing arm, removed from the elbow down. While deaths are only temporary in comics, the following scene delivers on the shocking twist, as Peter stands beside MJ's casket. The people gathered for her funeral aren't all clear, but the short, redheaded boy clutching Peter's hand sure is.
The son of Peter and Mary Jane guaranteed to "laugh at everything" can't appreciate that he's now stepped directly into the same tragic childhood as his father, but the readers can. And as the news reports claim this is as yet another time Spider-Man managed to save countless lives, the emotionless glimpse of Peter's eyes tells the real story. Having lost the love of his life (and an arm), Peter's days as Spider-Man are over... at which point the story jumps forward twelve years to the present day.
The Real Star is Ben Parker, Their Son
The meta-narrative of this Spider-Man series--told by two generations of Abrams--finally clicks into place when the story picks back up, following the teenage Ben Parker as he starts his day in Aunt May's house, attends high school, stands up to a bully, and is admonished for the violence (sound familiar?). A shaggy and bearded Peter Parker shows up to confirm that he's no longer taking care of Ben, having left him in Aunt May's custody while he pursues his career away from New York City.
Lest anyone assume that Peter Parker has become a deadbeat dad, it's clear he holds himself responsible for Mary Jane's death, explaining to May that his son is "better off without me. You both are, you know it." And judging by the way Ben bites back at his father, 'the last man who would ever know anything about protecting people,' Peter's doomed days as a superhero have been kept quiet. A choice that seems impossible to keep up as Ben arrives home fuming, finds himself unable to let go of the front doorknob, and tears it into splinters.
Fans can conclude that Ben Parker has no clue about the truth behind his mother and father's lives, their marriage, or the tragic circumstances of her death (and Peter's role in it). That's going to change for Spider-Man #2, as this issue concludes with Ben stumbling on shocking evidence of the man his father used to be. So it seems certain that this top secret Spider-Man story will ask the question: what if you found out your dad used to be a superhero... but totally sucks at being a father?
It's a twist and premise that Marvel managed to keep quiet for months. Now let's see how the story will change, with the big secret out of the bag. Will Ben Parker become the new Spider-Man swinging through Queens like his father once did? To find that out, readers will need to catch the next issue. For now, find the full credits and plot synopsis below:
- SPIDER-MAN #1 (of 6)
- Written by: Henry Abrams, J.J. Abrams
- Art by: Sarah Pichelli
- Cover by: Olivier Coipel
- The most shocking and incredible comic of 2019 is here as J.J. ABRAMS (STAR WARS, STAR TREK, SUPER 8) and his son HENRY ABRAMS are joined by superstar artist SARA PICHELLI (MILES MORALES, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) team up for SPIDER-MAN! What do they have planned for Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson?! Who is Cadaverous?! The Modern Master of Mystery Makes His Marvel this September!
Spider-Man #1 is available now from your local comic book shop, or direct from Marvel Comics.