One of the movies I’m most excited about since Avengers: Endgame is Spider-Man: No Way Home. One of the ways I have been preparing for it is rewatching the Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spidey films. Another way is reading the recent run of The Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer. It’s an intriguing series and puts a new spin on one of Peter Parker’s greatest villains. Specifically, this article will be based on issues #37-60.
Even Heroes Need to Grieve
Arguably the most iconic quote in comic book history is Ben Parker’s, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter Parker took his uncle’s words to heart and takes the job of a superhero seriously. In the MCU, Peter is always trying to do his best at making Tony Stark (a father figure) proud. The weight of responsibility Spider-Man carries makes him one of my favorite Marvel characters.
One of the side effects of taking your responsibilities so carefully and seriously is you often don’t have the foresight to recognize it’s sometimes okay to make mistakes. In Spencer’s The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter doesn’t give himself enough grace when things happen outside of his control. He even takes responsibility for the choices of the villains Sin-Eater and Kindred.
Sins Must Be Paid— But By Who?
The Sin-Eater is a former S.H.IE.L.D. agent (Stanley Carter) turned serial killer. He believed the sins of his father were passed onto him and decided to “absorb” the sins of other people who abused their power. Spider-Man values human life so much that his battles with Sin-Eater forces Parker to defend one of his greatest villains—Norman Osborn.
In a soliloquy during issue #47, Sin-Eater tells Spider-Man:
“Do you want to know what your problem is, Spider-Man? You think you’re superior. Above all this. Above them. You look at their fear, and their bloodlust with disdain. Of course, you do. Why wouldn’t you? You swing up high, through the city, you tear down walls with your bare hands. It affords you this luxury. The luxury to call what I do unseemly. To refuse to believe in my calling. To insist I can’t be trusted. You don’t know what they’re feeling—how desperate they are. But you will…you see the one who called me, he has a plan for you. I am just his vessel. He told me who to cleanse next—see what your sins have done.”
Sticking to the Mission
Throughout his superhero career Peter Parker took it upon himself to protect his city, family, and friends. When I think of Spider-Man I don’t normally associate him being part of a superhero team like the Avengers or Fantastic Four. Spider-Man had good reasons to be solitary and keep his identity secret—to protect Aunt May, Mary Jane, and others he loved.
Even when members of the “Order of the Web” showed up in Volume 9: Green Goblin Returns, Peter Parker is reticent to accept their help. He doesn’t think it’s their responsibility for his “sins” or past failures. He wants to stick with his mission of fighting villains by himself.
In issue #51 Spider-Man seeks out help from Dr. Strange in finding the demon Kindred. Peter tells Strange, “For as long as I’ve been putting this suit on, one deranged monster after another has used the people I love as pawns. I have lost so many of them…But that ends here. It has to.” Great power. Great (sole) responsibility. That’s what Peter learned long ago from his Uncle Ben. He continued to tell the mystical doctor, “So whatever you think can be done—to find him (Kindred), to free them—I am in. But understand this—I will be there. I’ll be the one to face him. And I am not taking no for an answer.”
The Amazing (and Lonely) Spider-Man
When Peter Parker does eventually find Kindred he is quickly outwatched. The centipede-clothed villain wants Spider-Man to confess his sins. After torturing Spidey for some time, Kindred pulls off his mask and reveals himself to be Harry Osborn.
Kindred (Harry) hints at Spider-Man’s primary character flaw in reply to Peter blaming him for sending Sin-Eater, “No, you decided—like you always do—that you knew best. Thinking you know better than all of us.” Much of the hatred Harry/Kindred feels towards Spider-Man originates from Peter keeping the secret of Norman Osborn being the Green Goblin. Harry felt betrayed because he didn’t know what his father was going through until it was too late. Spider-Man wanted to protect Harry from his father.
The following exchange between the former best friends comes to a boil:
Harry/Kindred: He was my father!!! I had the right to know! It was my family, not yours! I could’ve gotten him help. You just let him walk free!
Peter: I…I didn’t know he was still a threat. He had suffered amnesia after our last fight. He didn’t even remember he was the Goblin.
Harry/Kindred: There we are. There’s the lie. You let him go because of the amnesia. Yeah, Pete, that’s right. But not because he didn’t remember who he was. It was because he didn’t remember who you were.
A fractured friendship was sowed by distrust. Harry could have forgiven Peter’s mistake of not keeping him aware of Norman’s identity as the Green Goblin. Spider-Man could have eased the tension by looping more friends into his secret of being a superhero. But trust lost entangled their relationship.
Confession Leads to Peace
The fight between Kindred, Spider-Man, and Green Goblin (who shows up at the end of Issue #55) ends with Wilson Fisk showing up. The Kingpin harnessed and amplified the villain The Spot’s powers to contain Harry. Kindred is trapped in a sort of dimensional encasement.
Even after the capture of Kindred, Peter continues to have dreams about him and struggles with his past decisions as Spider-Man. At the urging of Mary Jane, Peter decides to talk about his problems and fear relating to Kindred. Peter closes his eyes and imagines Kindred standing before him. Spider-Man explains why he takes it upon himself and decides what’s best for others. Peter blamed himself for his Uncle Ben’s death and the lost friendship with Harry. Peter pleads, “Just tell me out to fix it, Harry. Tell me what to do. I’ll confess to anything, do anything…”
Peter admits to Mary Jane he feels more at peace getting his “sins” off his chest. There’s something about externalizing our problems, failures, and sins to others that makes us better able to move on. The Catholic Church has the sacrament of confession where one receives the grace of healing and forgiveness. Though not an exact parallel, Peter does find the ability to move past this obstacle in his life. Mary Jane’s love for Peter was a catalyst for him pausing and recognizing he needs help.
Nick Spencer’s The Amazing Spider-Man was a fun and intriguing read. Peter Parker’s stubbornness and need to shoulder responsibility by himself resonates with me. Great power comes with great responsibility. But the greater lesson I learned? You don’t need to shoulder the burden by yourself. Be willing to ask for help in time of need.