Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow #1 Review

by Charles Martin on April 14, 2021

Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow #1 Review
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Pasqual Ferry
Colourist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Writer Chip Zdarsky closes this issue with a letter introducing us to the idea of "What If?" comics and welcoming us to a bold new era where Marvel explores its roads not taken in thrilling "multipart epics." 

Am I sounding sarcastic? That is my intent. 

The story conveyed in this issue is finely tuned. It has a solid pace, good dialogue, and striking artwork. This is the story of Peter Parker succumbing to temptation at a challenging point in his life. Everything seems to be falling apart except his weird new alien suit, so he just … leans in a little bit too far.

It's a good story. It's an entertaining read, even expanded to a generous 30-plus pages. 

What it isn't, not remotely, is the bold re-imagining the author talks about in his "howdy" letter. Marvel has travelled down this alternate path a lot. Peter David and Greg Land set up a damn gas station on this road not too long ago. 

We all know what would happen if Peter Parker decided to keep his alien symbiote suit: he'd go villainous. And that's exactly what Spider's Shadow gives us: Peter plodding tragically down the road to infamy.

This first issue delivers the beats you'd expect: the key digression from Marvel history as we know it and the first awful consequence of Peter's different choice. It even closes with an obvious "twist": Spider-Man sporting an ominous new look and turning his latest tragedy into an excuse to leave mercy behind.

So far, I've been super negative about this, but I must also shine a spotlight on the comic's considerable positives:

Artist Pasqual Ferry does a sterling job conjuring Peter's world to life with a discriminating eye for detail. Given a costume that demands careful silhouette work, that's exactly what he delivers: An exquisite shadow-form that emotes through body language. His non-hidden characters show off a similar economy of detail, coming to life with carefully-chosen lines that leave plenty of space for dynamic motion.

He also succeeds in making that "ominous new look" at the end striking. It's not Venom, it's not Black Suit Spidey, it's something new. And "something new" is highly welcome in a book that's coming up short on surprises.

Matt Hollingsworth completes the visual presentation with muted but diverse colours, carefully balancing between warmth and coldness. This book's palette is fire and ice, tracking the slow burn within its star. Peter's frustration builds throughout the issue and the colours follow all the way to the final eruption of hot fury.

There's an even more nuanced character portrait springing from Chip Zdarsky's words. He has an exceptional talent for bringing us inside Peter Parker's head, grounding bad decisions in a context that makes them seem rational and inevitable. This is the opening act in the fall of Spider-Man, and the author succeeds in making his protagonist believable and compelling even as he (the character) piles up mistakes.

It's a sad story. It's a moving one if you open your heart to the good character work the creators put on the page. But it just isn't new or surprising. It's exactly what you expect to happen when Spidey falls from grace.

Spider's Shadow kicks off the story of Peter Parker embracing his symbiote suit with great talent but without great novelty. These are skilled creators, and their skill is in full evidence on the pages. They may well take this story in a surprising direction -- but they haven't done so yet. What we've seen so far is enjoyable and even satisfying, but it's also terribly safe and (I hesitate to end on such a loaded word, but I must) predictable.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I'm a particular fan of the way Pasqual Ferry draws Mary Jane. Realism takes precedence over glamour, and that makes her brief scene stand out.