Remember when Peter Parker thought the symbiote was just some weird alien tech from Battleworld? Peter David returns to that era in this series, and so far it’s been pretty fun. While not as tightly told as the previous installment, Symbiote Spider-Man #3 keeps the necessary threads going.
Mysterio is still the main antagonist, but the focus is more on Felicia Hardy AKA Black Cat. While that’s acceptable, we don’t get the same hints of desperation and tragedy we did previously from Quentin Beck. On top of that, it feels as if Peter David is trying to write himself out of a corner. He’s made Mysterio so incompetent, he needs to spend all his time recruiting others and can’t be such a present threat to Spider-Man.
More focus is granted to Black Cat, and it’s pretty interesting. There was a time when she wasn’t a wannabe Kingpin and had a lighthearted romance with the wall-crawler. David even harkens back to Felicia’s encounter with Aunt May in #1 for some conflict between the two sort-of lovers.
Speaking of which, there’s a moment where Felicia seduces Pete and I’m conflicted about it. Is it a woman confidently using her sexuality or is it a leering trope? Both? I’m ill equipped to answer, so what I’m really saying is that we need more feminist comic critics.
I won’t dwell on the dialogue too much because I talked plenty about it in #2, but we’ve still got plenty of thought-bubbles and people talking/thinking exposition to themselves. I love it. It firmly settles us into ye olden days when Peter wore black turtlenecks.
A comic pet peeve of mine is when a series feels the need to unnecessarily throw in more heroes and villains to get more readers/money. While Symbiote has played with many Spider-Man heroes and villains, the inclusions usually serve a purpose and garners nostalgia points. Unfortunately, Electro is shoehorned in to lame effect here. Other than establishing Spider-Man continuing to fight villains, it’s a waste of page space for such a non sequitur scene. But hey, if you’re a Cats fan, maybe this is your jam.
I’m becoming a real fan of Greg Land’s work. Despite his photo-reference style, his art isn’t overbearingly going for realism. It’s like Mike Deodato Jr. but less smothered in shadows. An especially strong point for Land are his faces, which are distinctive and consistent.
It’s not the darkest or most streamlined installment, but David and Land are continuing to elevate ’80s nostalgia in the Spidey realm. The fact that this incidental series is so fun is a mystery-o.