This review contains spoilers for the entire issue.
Sean Ryan, writer of Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man as well as the numerous tie-ins to the series since, gets Peter Parker. Empathetic, kind, funny, and endearingly naïve, Parker as written by Ryan is a dyed-in-the-wool hero that reminds me of everything that made him my favorite to begin with. This is true in the second issue of this War of the Realms tie-in, illustrated by the competent Nico Leon, but it also makes it infinitely surprising that Ryan seems to not get a lot more.
Before any of the fun can begin, before amends can be made, and before Spidey can do his lifesaving work? The fridging of a lesbian character. Two tired tropes in one.
I saw it coming from the first page, two pretty, happy women in love and sharing an intimate moment (in their underwear no less! Yawn) — knowing that one of them had since turned “bad”. The natural, inevitable, most obvious and painfully reductive conclusion that our central villain Malekith had since killed one of them to not only advance his own plot but also those of Fernande and eventually Spider-Man. It’s brazen, uninventive and rote – as if going through the motions. Sure, it makes Fernande’s motivations justified, but at what cost? The advancement of both the fridging trope and the bury your gays (when Marvel already has some issues with authentic LGBTQ+ representation, to boot)? I’ll pass on finding that necessary, earned, or compelling.
The fact that the rest of the issue, a fun, bombastic affair of traditional comic goodness makes it pale in comparison is all the more damning.
Which is to say that, yes, there is some good here. Parker referring to his capped ally as “D’artagnan” or himself as the friendly GLOBAL Spider-Man, is fun, organic and indicative of the kind of kind, peace-brokering, humanistic light that Ryan sees our hero in as much as many readers do. Interstitial scenes of war, close to the ground and largely regulated to one on one violence as is Leon’s strength serve the advancement of the plot well, and the culminating fight with Kurse (unexpected cliffhanger and all) is interesting, well plotted, and brought to life.
In fact, the best parts here is all indicative of a much different book or intention, one that endeavors to find the good and fun in comic storytelling and heroism, much like its very fun previous issue, rather than highlighting damaging tropes that completely betray the premise. If it were only the gold standard heroism (still in the face of adversity, we already know Malekith is a bad guy, or Kurse, for that matter) and fun art that existed here, I might find the effort impacting and endearing rather than tired and reductive but that’s not the book that exists.