Zeroing in on Spidey’s Humanity in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 310

by Michael DeLaney

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

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Chip Zdarsky brings his time with Spider-Man to a close as he sends off the ‘ol webhead in a personal manner in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 310.  Spider-Man has amazing powers and arguably some of the best villains in the Marvel Universe, but Zdarsky zeroes in on what keeps this character consistently relevant: his humanity.

At first, seeing Zdarsky’s artwork was a little jarring because I associate it with Sex Criminals…but really his emotive character work is to the issue’s benefit. The gist of the issue is that it is interviews with various people who have interacted with Spider-Man, with the occasional “flashbacks” in between.

As you might expect, the interviewees’ opinions on Spider-Man are all across the board: some judgmental, others annoyed, and others in awe and full of respect for him. The three stories that Zdarsky elaborates on in particular show the essence of who Spider-Man is as a character and a hero: selfless, optimistic and…a little irritating.

Honorable and heroic he may be, don’t forget that Spider-Man is also a cheapskate freeloader. He’s the type of guy that you never want to offer up an “any time” IOU to — as a certain hot dog vendor would attest to.

Even though he fights villains with devastating powers and weapons, Spider-Man is also the type of hero who knows the importance of a small gesture. After all, this is a guy who took a sentence his uncle uttered to him one time and transformed it into a mantra. At the end of the issue Zdarsky “pulls back the camera” and shows us the documentarian who decided to make this project in the first place.

It wasn’t a life-changing exchange by any means, but it was nevertheless impactful for the guy.

Of course, the most emotional praise for Spider-Man comes from a mother whose son was murdered. Zdarsky intersperses this particular story throughout the issue, bringing the narrative back to ground after some more humorous exchanges.

We see how Spider-Man took pity on Kyle — a burglary lookout — by sparing him the burden of a criminal record. He even goes on to help secretly tutor the kid every now and then. After the burglars return and kill Kyle, Spider-Man is out for revenge.

I don’t think that it’s a mistake that this confrontation between Spider-Man and Kyle’s killers is eerily reminiscent of when he tracked down Uncle Ben’s killer. The entire sequence of Kyle’s death and Spidey bringing his killers to justice is presented in five pages with absolutely no dialogue. There are no Spider-quips and no monologues — just emotion.

Zdarsky’s final word on Spider-Man (for now) reminds us why we love the character. He’s a mirror of our best and sometimes worst attributes. We strive to not be the freeloader, but instead be the person whose small acts of kindness impact someone else’s life.

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The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

2 comments on “Zeroing in on Spidey’s Humanity in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 310

  1. I loved this issue. It’s probably on my shortlist for favorite issues of the year. That wordless sequence Michael highlighted is so powerful, especially the way the panels really open up compared to the smaller layouts in the rest of the issue. All of a sudden it’s big and it’s quiet and Spider-Man is scary in a way he hardly ever is because of it. Very cool. Very powerful. And I love that message from Peter himself on the final page.

  2. After I heard of what the issue was, I decided to pick it up, despite bouncing off this run pretty early. And it was spectacular

    I think the secret of its success is that it actually so perfectly combines the two sides of Spider-man. Spider-man has always been the friendly neighbourhood Spider-man. The hero of the people. But there are also the big, epic stories. The final confrontations that define him. The sort of iconic stories like the Night Gwen Stacy Died. Peter is the hero of the people. But he is also the person who loses everything trying to save the day. He is just as defined by the little moments of helping people as he is the great sacrifices.

    What Zdarsky does so well is give us a story that ties both these threads together. Provides the Friendly Neighbourhood side the stakes and impact, and provides the “I let Gwen Stacy die” the grounding and the humanity that can get lost in soap opera excess. Which gives the comic such a great encapsulation of everything. And when Peter at the end gives us the thesis statement, it all comes together as such a perfect encapsulation.

    The fact that Peter has felt great failure even is such a small thing like that is brilliant. It grounds the lesson of someone who fails and keeps trying and makes it broader and more universal. Peter doesn’t just fail in big, epic events that change the status quo. He fails in the more ordinary stories. He fails all the time in real life. He couldn’t stop the Green Goblin from getting revenge, but he also couldn’t save a little a kid.

    And yet, he keeps trying. And that is heroic.

    Though honestly, not a fan of Peter and the hot dog guy. It honestly feels like Peter has gone beyond cute to the point of being a real problem. Not being a friendly neighbourhood Spider-man at all. In a comic all about trying to your best best, hot dog guy seems to be the one point where Peter isn’t

    _________________________________________________________

    Also, I watched Venom. And wow. I don’t know what to think.

    I honestly thought Venom was going to be the worst superhero movie of the year. Even after Infinity War set the bar so low, I thought Venom was going to be neck and neck. But Venom is too weird. It is so weird, that that despite… everything, Infinity War is still the worst superhero movie of the year by a considerable margin

    There is no point is going into a deep comparison. Just try and describe what Venom is

    I thought that it was going to be the shitty version of Upgrade, but in all honesty, in is Infinity War that is the closest comparison. So here I go

    Imagine a movie with all the incompetence in its basic scene writing as Infinity War. Every scene fundamentally fails to be engaging or work on any dramatic level.
    Now, remember Gamora’s death scene in Infinity War? Remember how funny that was once you overcame the horror and revulsion of the movie condoning child abuse? Remember how stupid and goofy Thanos looked like? How hilariously bad the tears going down his face were? Imagine if that Thanos was the lead character of a movie.
    Imagine if instead of Josh Brolin’s poor performance, you had Tom Hardy, master of the silly voice, give us two different silly voices. Going for full on crazy. And imagine if he was filmed in such a way to make Tom Hardy’s already hilarious performance even funnier by framing him as some sort of crazy person
    And then, imagine if the central thesis of the movie was that Eddie Brock and Venom are pathetic losers. Not even in the Guardians of the Galaxy way where they are losers that can grow into better people. Just pathetic losers worthy of derision. Which makes me wonder if the movie is supposed to be so laughable. That the whole idea is that Venom is so stupid that all you can do is laugh at them. Which is certainly a unique take.

    This is a movie that sometimes feels like a proof of concept of a Venom sitcom. Sometimes it feels like they accidentally made a queer romcom.

    Is it a good movie? A bad movie? I don’t know. I don’t believe in So Bad It’s Good. It is frequently incompetent, in ways that are both funny and not. And it is full of all sorts of scenes where the combination of Tom Hardy’s unique performance and the inherent absurdity of the situation is hilarious. It may be the most straight faced comedy of all time.

    Venom is something special. Don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

    But it is fucking hilarious

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