Warning: SPOILERS for Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #6
Spider-Bite, Spider-Bite, does whatever Spider-Man can! Swinging into action in Marvel's Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, the superhero sidekick Spider-Bite saves the day. And at just 9 years old, Spider-Man's new sidekick is guaranteed to bring a tear to every fan's eye.
The issue jumps directly into the action, as all seems lost with Spider-Man pinned down by Doc Ock, seemingly unable to keep the valuable box out of the villain's hands. That is, until the young Spider-Bite swings in to save his partner, Spider-Man. Spider-bite makes quick work of Doc Ock, playing a classic game of 'stop hitting yourself' with his six robotic arms. And if fans think that a youthful, playful kid is exactly the kind of sidekick needed to bring out the best in Spider-Man... you don't know the half of it.
Just as the tides seem to change, the Vulture flies in to save Doc Ock, escaping with the all important box. The duo of Spider-Man and his miniature sidekick go on to fight the Sinister Sixty, collecting an entire army of Spidey's villains all working together to keep the box from Spider-Man and his courageous young partner. The Spiders ultimately win after an epic battle, and successfully retrieve the box. And as the two heroes take a seat atop a New York skyscraper and discover the box contains a Spider-Man action figure, the truth of this Spider-Bite adventure finally becomes clear.
The truth of the story is that Spider-Man has been playing make-believe with a boy named Nathan, a patient of a children's cancer ward (seeming to have been arranged through a Make-a-Wish-esque program). And through this lens, previous moments of the story take on a more pained, but far more beautiful meaning. Spider-man's first speech about how Spider-Bite is stronger than he thinks, because "we all are." The moments in which Peter periodically checks on Spider-Bite to make sure he doesn't need to rest before going into their next battle. And as the backdrop depicting New York City begins to appear more and more like crayons on cardboard, the hospital staff and Nathan's family are revealed as the supervillains they've been battling the whole time.
When Spider-Bite notes that he is short compared to Spider-Man, and brushes off his words of encouragement by saying that he hopes he will grow, and his coughing causes Peter to take off his mask, it all comes together. Play time is over, but Nathan doesn't want to stop the team-up of Spider-Bite and Spider-Man. Sure, no fan of the wall-crawler would. But Nathan doesn't want to go to sleep either, because he's scared he might not wake up. That's information passed from Nathan's parents to Spidey in private... which instantly spurs Peter to ask for permission to do more than just pretend their son knows what it's like to be a superhero.
In classic Spidey fashion, he takes Nathan on one last adventure in their day together, swinging through the New York skyline for real. the box? That is a gift for Nathan: a classic Spider-man action figure, one that articulates in more areas than the real Spider-man himself. Spider-man also reveals that he collects his own memorabilia, but never takes it out of the box. It is a warming story that reminds us that heroes don't need to be out saving the world from giant threats... donating your time to help others can have a huge impact on their lives.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #6 is available now from Marvel Comics.