I’ve already ranted and complained about my feelings for the “Summer of Symbiotes” and “Dark Web.” I still don’t care for them (as well as some other stories) but I don’t want to beat the creative team too much. The current nearly three dozen issues have been a mixed bag but when isn’t that the case?
To get it out of the way, I don’t like how the relationship between Peter and Felicia was handled. They became a couple again in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 6) #20 and broke up in #31. Their reasoning was that they were just going through the motions. Peter was a project for Felicia, not a relationship partner. That was a pretty quick relationship, especially since they didn’t appear together very much. She did help Spidey take out the Shocker in #27, not that he needed much help. Peter actually spent more time with Mary Jane in those eleven issues than Felicia.
Also, we all know that the story with Mary Jane ending things with Peter for Paul and his kids is completely out of left field. Some guy that worships a mathematical god decided that MJ was the sacrificial lamb needed for his master to arrive. She and Spidey got sucked into another dimension, where they met Paul. Peter was sent back to earth and went on a frantic search to find a way to get her back. In his panic, he refused to wait or be patient when he dealt with his usual allies. Time worked differently in the two days it took Peter to get back to MJ, because for her he had been gone for months. In that time, she had bonded with Paul and his kids. Peter managed to return to MJ with help from Norman Osborn, witnessed by Ms. Marvel.
People have complained about the supernatural aspect of the story and the fact that Peter acted so stupidly when trying to get help from his friends. On one hand, I don’t like too much magic in Spider-Man stories myself. Dealing with a creature from outside of our world and reality feels more like a Dr. Strange or Fantastic Four book. Yes, the totem aspect of modern Spider-Man has been accepted by the fan base but let’s not overdo it. On the other hand, it’s not too uncommon for Spider-Man to clash with other vigilantes. In his very first issue he fought the Fantastic Four and then he fought the Avengers when they tried to recruit him (Amazing Spider-Man Annual (vol. 1) #3.) Then he fought Black Widow (Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #86) and the Hulk (Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #119.) Granted, those stories took place when Peter was much younger. He has matured since then but being hot headed with other heroes is not too out of character.
That said, it’s been good to see new life being breathed into old villains. Tombstone hadn’t particularly left much of a mark in the Spidey books since the 90s or 00s but that has certainly changed. (Although having the White Rabbit be his henchwoman is an odd choice. When did she go from goofball to psychopath, anyway?) I don’t mean to sound sadistic but it was kind of a good thing to see Spidey take a beating. I like the more adult content. Peter is in a violent life and sometimes it catches up with him. I’m sure that he’s gotten wrecked multiple times, but I was reminded of his first encounter with Morlun. Tombstone hasn’t just been a killing machine but has gained some depth. We learned about his bloody upbringing but have also seen him cleverly manipulate the hero to take out his competition. He seems to have moved on from his cat-and-mouse game with Joe Robertson (for now) and has reluctantly tolerated Randy as a son in law. He’s a cold blooded killer but he’s a good dad to his daughter.
Speaking of supervillain families, Adrian Toomes’s character as a patriarch has grown. He’s long been shown to care for his extended family (from his disabled brother, to his murdered nephew, and sick grandson), and is now mourning the loss of respect from his granddaughter. Tiana Toomes researched Adrian’s life and learned of his multiple murders, causing her to sever ties. Unable to accept any kind of responsibility, Vulture blamed Spider-Man. I’ve heard several people complain that Vulture’s fight with Spider-Man was out of character and he was presented as more dangerous than he should be.
I’m biased as a Vulture fan (yes, we exist) but I was glad to see him so ruthless and efficient. Too often he’s written as a pushover. He’s kicked Spidey’s butt in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #64, crashed a plane in Web of Spider-Man #45, helped defeat army troops in the “Return of the Sinister Six” and nearly overwhelmed the Superior Spider-Man (with help from Scorpion and Boomerang) in Superior Spider-Man (vol. 1) #12.
On another note, something seems to be going on with the Goblin kids. Ned Leeds and Betty have an infant son named Winston that Ned feels the need to protect from someone. (I have mixed feelings about Ned being alive all of a sudden. I’m half expecting him to be a clone.) At the same time, the long lost Kolina Frederickson was trying to procure Stanley Osborn in Misery #5. Is the Scrier cult trying to learn more about how the Green Goblin formula changes someone born with it? Time will tell.
I appreciate parts of this volume because it feels character driven, with the occasional over the top adventure. I’ve just finished reading part two of “Spider-Man’s First Hunt,” which will understandably be a divisive story. Personally, I finished reading it genuinely curious to see what happened next. It feels like a long time since I’ve been that invested.