When it was first announced that Peter David and Greg Land would be creating a Symbiote Spider-Man series set in the early days when Spidey had the black costume, I was curious. The idea was sound since it was a darker time for Peter and one not often explored. Throw in Mysterio (which may have been an attempt to tie-in to Spider-Man: Far From Home) and it sounded like Marvel was going to start printing money with this one. Did they achieve high entertainment value? Sure, but did the story need to be told? Probably not.
Greg Land positively dazzles with the art in this series, smacking us in the face with an awesome full-page splash to open the story. The splash, which you can see above, shows Mysterio battered and beaten and yet Spidey continues to want to beat him some more. It’s a moment where Spider-Man would usually back off and quip, but instead, he’s angry and looking to hurt Mysterio. Spider-Man looks fantastic in the black costume with a lustrous and complex black design used by colorist Frank D’Armata. Inker Jay Leisten should get some credit here too as the book has a darker tone thanks to his inks. In an iconic page everyone will be talking about, the art team does an exceptional job with a highly emotional location in New York City popping up. I’ll fully admit Black Cat is overly sexualized throughout–sometimes jarringly so–but whatever sells comics, I guess. It is nice to see how much she cares for Peter which is conveyed well in her facial expressions.
As far as the story is concerned, Peter David is doing a great job delivering on the angrier more edgy Spider-Man. Fans of Black Cat are going to love this since she’s the main love interest, at least in this first issue, and David does a great job capturing the complexity of their relationship. This is a more adult Spider-Man to be sure and you see that in the relationship he’s got with Black Cat. David lays out all the main relationships well too, scattering appearances from Jameson, Aunt May, and key players in Mysterio’s corner. There’s even an appearance from a classic villain we haven’t seen in ages. Good stuff. Mysterio is certainly more in control than ever even when he comes up against Kingpin. There are delightful twists in the story too including a moment where Mysterio gets Venom-ized.
The biggest weakness of a story like this is its flashback nature. None of it really matters since you can’t change stories already written. By the end, Mysterio gets a bit of info, but even he points out he won’t use it against Spider-Man. Convenient, but you’ve already written yourself into a corner when you say the series is in canon but set decades ago. There isn’t much there either. Peter lets Aunt May down, Black Cat does her usual backstabbing, and even Mysterio devolves back into being the loser that he always was.
This feels like a series written for fans. It has a class Symbiote wearing Spider-Man getting angry and sexing it up with Black Cat. Does the story matter all that much? Probably not, but it’s a fun adventure — albeit an unnecessary one.