Warning: SPOILERS for War of The Realms: The Land of Giants
Spider-Man has had some incredible superpowers over the years, but Marvel has raised the bar with his newest ability. Comic book fans, it's time to officially call him Peter Parker... the Horse Whisperer.
If the average comic book fan was asked which creature they would want to bond with as a superhuman hero, spiders would have to be near the bottom of the list (Peter Parker really did luck out... just look at his Spider-Doppelganger clone). But as Marvel's War of The Realms has thrown the world into chaos, and injected magic and mysticism into everyday heroes, Spider-Man gets the chance to commune with a far more attractive animal ally. Thankfully, the steeds of Asgard can recognize a warrior's heart when they see one. SPOILERS ahead!
Spider-Man Prepares For Asgardian Battle
Most readers following the War of The Realms will know about Thor's blood soaked slaughter of Frost Giants, having been marooned on Jotunheim as Earth was attacked. But in War of The Realms: The Land of Giants, the story of his rescue is told in greater detail: beginning with the team of Captain America, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Spider-Man sent to bring him home. To do it, they arm up with weapons and relics of Asgard from the armory of the new Avengers headquarters. Of course... Spidey isn't really a "weapon" kind of guy.
Luckily, Wolverine isn't either. So when he plops a "magic helm" onto Peter Parker's head to match his golden shield, it's assumed that Logan picked it for a reason, perhaps enchanted with magic giving Peter a bit of his teammates' famous strength and durability. Unfortunately for him, Logan merely saw a joke too good to pass up. Don't ever let anyone claim that Wolverine lacks a sense of humor.
When the team makes their leap to Jotunheim--made possible through use of Bifrost, and a glorious Pegasus of Asgard for each of them to ride--they are quickly ambushed by awaiting Frost Giants. As the warriors start putting their fear-inducing weapons to use, Peter asks what gift is given to him by the magical helm. Wolverine dismisses the idea, explaining that he simply chose the dumbest looking helmet that he could find. It's a commendable gag, but Spider-Man doesn't let it stop him from being one of the most fantastic fighters. Flying through the air on the back of his horse, "Buttercup" (his choice of name), Peter protects her life with his dazzling shield, using her to anchor his webbing, tumbling and swinging through the air above the Midgardian clobberers below.
Eventually the fight is over, leaving the heroes to witness their gamical steeds, all having fallen on the battlefield, save Buttercup. At which point Spider-Man learns that his helmet is actually the most unique and meaningful of them all.
Spider-Man's Helmet Lets Him Speak 'Pegasus'
As the heroes (led by Spider-Man) bow along with Buttercup to honor the fallen, Peter realizes that the helm really is magical. It may not make him any stronger or tougher in battle, or vanquish Frost Giants like Iron Fist's swords or Luke's hammer... but it does open Peter's eyes. Well, technically his ears, granting him the ability to understand the words of Buttercup--who is actually Arctorius, Queen of the winged horses once ridden by Odin's Valkyrie. (For the record, Peter's choice of "Buttercup" shows he is perfectly in tune with the Pegasi even without any magical charm to help him.)
As Queen Arctorius explains, all horses are able to speak so that they are understood among their own kind, meaning Peter referring to her, or any of the Pegasi as "talking horses" is incorrect. All horses can speak, but only now can their words be heard by a human. The Queen goes on to say that seeing these fallen steeds as victims is doing them a dishonor; they were every bit the warrior as those they conveyed, and chose to risk their lives along with Cap, Spidey, and their team. So once Queen Arctorius offers the funerary rites to usher her comrades into the afterlife, she returns to Peter, promising to carry him into the battle to come. Because it is as much her fight as theirs:
We are of the Ten Realms. If the Realms fall, stallions, mares, and foals will be enslaved. You fight for your kin. I fight for mine. Let us fight together, noble jester warrior.
It's a touching moment... that is only slightly re-framed when the comic shifts back to the rest of Peter's team, to show how THEY have been perceiving his heartfelt conversation this entire time.
Spider-Man Speaks Horse Now, Too
Honestly, Tom Taylor, Jorge Molina, and anyone else even remotely related to this issue deserves a standing ovation for this moment alone, as Spidey is revealed, standing before his horse, arms gesticulating wildly, carrying on a conversation in a chain of neighs and whinnys. It's also worth pointing out that neither Wolverine nor Captain America are shown to be perturbed by this development. After all, it's Wolverine who sternly commanded the others to bow to the dead, after Spidey suggests it. And Steve Rogers would inherently know to stand in awe of what's transpiring between Peter and Buttercup. Which leaves Luke Cage to finally break their silence with a heartfelt "Seriously, what the @#$%?"
This bond, which could have seemed like a joke in a different team's hands, comes off as a perfect encapsulation of Spider-Man's spirit. He may be known for his sense of humor, but even astride a flying Pegasus on a fantastic quest, Peter Parker knows to be humbled by a guardian angel, be they horse or human. Queen Arctorius requesting Spider-Man accompany her into battle shows his worth more than lifting Thor's hammer ever could, and The Land of Giants takes on a more philosophical meaning by the end of the issue.
Spider-Man is keeping the magical helm for the time being, but even if this new superpower lasts as long as the War of The Realms itself, fans will be able to return to this story for years to come. We doubt that any of Spidey's teammates will ever forget it, either.
War of The Realms: The Land of Giants is available now at your local comic book store, and direct from Marvel Comics.