It’s Hard to Take Peter Seriously in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 3

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The fact that Chip Zdarsky would be writing his own ongoing Spider-Man series intrigued me from the moment it was announced. Zdarsky’s sad-sack take on Spider-Man was one of the most consistently funny gags in Howard the Duck, but seemed difficult to translate into the star of a monthly title. Even now that we’re three issues into Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man I’m honestly still not 100% sure how it’s worked out. Zdarsky and Adam Kubert ace the series’ humor and have come up with some interesting plots, but their Peter Parker is almost too stupid to function.

It’s a tough line to walk, to be sure; if this version of Peter is too confident or superheroic, then what would be the point of bringing Zdarsky’s particular touch to his adventures at all? But the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction; living in a more traditional take on the Marvel Universe than Howard‘s, Zdarsky’s Spider-Man feels practically incompetent at times. He brings strangers to the very private workshop of Hophni Mason, confronts the Kingpin with absolutely zero plan of attack, and takes a full four pages to remember that he has Spider-Sense. Perhaps worst of all, he not only takes wanted fugitive Theresa Parker out adventuring without a mask (which comes back to bite him in the incredibly clever and funny J. Jonah Jameson epilogue), but he brings her to face the Kingpin, who not only knows who she is, but of her connection to Peter as well.

Now, I fully believe that Zdarsky and Kubert are aware of how stupid their Peter is — in a way, it’s the entire joke of the series. The problem is that it creates a confusing tone for the series — I’m finding it difficult to both laugh at Peter and take him seriously enough to get invested in his problems and their possible solutions. All these elements work well in isolation — I again just want to emphasize that this is a very funny comic — but the creative team has yet to strike the perfect balance that will make everything sync up. I hope they can soon.

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