Top 10 Worst Things About Modern Spider-Man Marvel Wants You To Forget



So… I’ve got a problem, guys.  I am a big Spider-Man fan.  I’ve been following these comics for a long time.  I’ve read hundreds of issues and have a pretty good handle of the character.  I really do like this hero, but, over the last several years, I feel Spider-Man comics have truly gone astray from the glorious fun they once were.

Clone Conspiracy really was the breaking point for me, but as you will see and those who have been watching our content for a while, well, let’s just say that I’ve been feeling this way for a long time.  This dubious event was just a representation of everything wrong with Spider-Man comics right now, encapsulating just about every problem that has created a situation I find entirely untenable in the current continuity.  Though it may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but there was an awful lot of baggage there to begin with.

I am, of course, referring to the current, main version of Peter Parker.  There are plenty of good stuff going around in the world of Spider-Man, but that’s not the focus of today’s Subject.  Renew Your Vows, for example, is a lot closer to the modern Spider-Man comics I would want in the main series, while Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen comics have both been consistently great and have found their own little identity and niche in the Marvel line-up.  It’s not all bad, and there are even plenty of examples of stories featuring the main Peter Parker that have been a lot of fun.  It’s not all bad, but today, we are talking about the bad.  It’s a frank criticism of a character that I love, so yes, while it will be negative, it goes without saying that not everything Marvel has published with this character is completely without value.

Yet I really do think there’s something terribly wrong with current Spider-Man comics, and it is worth talking about.  If you like Spider-Man comics as they are now, that’s fine, but I know I’m not alone when I say the comics aren’t what they used to be or what they could be, and today, we’re going to discuss why.  So, with all this in mind, let’s begin with…



Lack of connection with the superhero community

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So, we’re going to kick off this list with an interesting problem.  This one has actually only really happened in recent years, but it’s been getting really annoying and has taken something away from the Spider-Man universe in a rather big way.

There was a time where Spider-Man had a defined relationship with pretty much every superhero out there.  Over many issues and crossovers, Spider-Man had an established dynamic with pretty much everyone from the Punisher to the X-Men.  These days, however, Spider-Man seems almost entirely detached from his peers in the superhero community.  Sure, sometimes he’ll appear in a big battle or throw out a line or two in an event’s core series, and, yeah, every once in a while, when the planets align on a palindromic date on a month not ending in “Y,” Spider-Man gets to actually do something meaningful with another superhero, but by and large he exists, off in his own little world, doing his own stupid little things with his own stupid little people.

It doesn’t help that most of Peter’s superhero friends are dead, inactive, secretly evil, dead again, or… I don’t know, depressed, I guess, nor the fact that a lot of the new superheroes have no real relationship with modern Peter Parker.  It certainly isn’t great that almost nobody knows who Spider-Man really is, so he isn’t really trusted by the superhero community, and kind of for good reason.  There was a time where Peter’s family were friends with other superheroes and their family members.  But all this has come and gone.  These days Spider-Man is busy with his story and his people.  When Civil War II came along, for example, Spider-Man got a vision from Ulysses of someone in his company doing something bad and pretty much spent the entire event worrying about that.

He never even talked to Miles Morales, who a huge chunk of that story revolved around.  They’re supposed to be friends and he never encouraged him or even confronted Miles about what was going on, while Miles was dealing with what was probably the most troubling and biggest problem in his entire superhero career.  It was a wasted opportunity, but more importantly, it presents a huge weakness in the current Spider-Man narrative.  Pete is detached from the world around him.  He doesn’t really seem to care about the superheroes anymore, and they don’t care about him, either.  I don’t see much trust between him and other heroes, certainly not like there used to be, and it makes any interaction between these characters hollow and boring.  It’s not the worst problem in the world, and certainly we don’t want Marvel to keep going overboard with crossovers, but it isolates the character of Spider-Man and does more damage then you might think.  Having Spider-Man occasionally show up for a fight isn’t enough.  He needs things to do and people to care about.  Remember his breakdown in House of M, or his frustrations during Siege concerning Norman Osborne?  Or his personal and tragic involvement in the first Civil War?

Those events weren’t perfect but at least Peter felt truly connected with them.  We don’t get that anymore, let alone the fun and occasionally heartfelt team-ups of the classic comics, and that just sucks.  That takes away one of the most fun things about comic books.  And yet somehow it really doesn’t feel nearly as bad as everything else I’m about to talk about.  Somehow.



Improper use of villains

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Well, you can’t have a good superhero story without villains and… oh boy, Spider-Man just hasn’t been delivering on that front in recent years.  In a really weird way, considering how great Spider-Man villains can be.  Now, there are two ways modern Spider-Man can go when it comes to villains.  They can either create memorable new characters or bringing back classic ones and presenting them in some sort of fun or original story.  Both are totally fine, by the way.  I’ve read great comics that do either.  Modern Spider-Man instead tends to opt for neither, preferring forgettable new villains and low quality reuses of the classics.

Of course there are exceptions to this, the most obvious one being the whole Superior Spider-Man thing.  That worked well with Dr. Octopus and… just okay with the Green Goblin.  But that is really the only case I can think of where Modern Spider-Man has nailed anything concerning villains, and even that is certainly debatable.  I liked it but I acknowledge this story wasn’t perfect.  At least there Otto was not only handled well but he had a really cool and compelling story.   We hadn’t really seen anything like that before… at least back then.

And as for the rest, well, we have a bunch that aren’t even really worth mentioning, Morlun who was… well, him and his family were at least a little intimidating for a little while, but they were never like, amazing, and um… the Jackal?  Ben Reilly?  The Queen Spider-Monster Jaberwocky from Spider-Island?  The Black Cat?   These villains range largely from forgettable to terrible, with Felicia actually being my least favourite ever since her abrupt change in character at the end of Superior Spider-Man.  Now there’s a character who went from somewhat interesting to completely insane and utterly annoying.

Spider-Man hasn’t really done much with their rogues gallery in a long time.  We haven’t gotten any gems like Kraven’s Last Hunt since, well, Kraven’s Last Hunt.  I can’t think of a single new villain who actually added something to the story, aside from maybe Morlun’s relatives and even those guys were a bit iffy.  The villains and how they are used are so disappointing and one of the biggest problems in modern Spider-Man.  The old ones are barely used and when they are usually it’s just as a throwaway fight that barely poses a danger to Peter.  They have no teeth to them, while the new ones are just… paint by numbers.  Boring and unremarkable.

Ben Reilly in the recent Clone Conspiracy was a good example of that.  Aimless, poorly explained, the choice to bring him back as a villain really didn’t work and only made the story worse.  I’m sure some people will point out there’s a big, upcoming fight with Green Goblin coming up in the comments section below, as if that’s going to somehow change things.  It could be good, sure, but given the track record so far, well, it’s like meeting somebody new and assuming their poop is going to taste delicious.  Precedent matters, dammit, and I’ve only ever met like one person whose poop tastes good.  You can quote me on that.



Boring Stories & Characters

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Spider-Man comics have gotten incredibly boring, both in story and character form.  Basically these comics have become holding patterns.  Spider-Man does boring filler stuff in between his own events and the company wide stuff.  And both the filler and the crossovers… haven’t been all that great.

There are exceptions, of course.  We’ve already talked about Superior Spider-Man, but Spider-Verse just a lot of fun and was really cool, too.  But most of these stories never amounted to much.  Spider-Island was a cool idea but suffered in it’s execution.  Big Time was cool but really lingered and I feel like I liked the idea more than any of the actual execution.  Everything else just felt… empty.

The supporting characters don’t fare much better.  Though there are exceptions, most don’t offer anything all that meaningful.  We’ve already talked about Black Cat, but Carlie Cooper never stimulated much interest from me.  The Horizon crew… I couldn’t name them or tell you the first thing about any one of them.  And as for the traditional characters, your J. Jonah Jameson and your Aunt May, they’ve kind of fell into this weird stasis, unable to develop or meaningfully change.  They’re still them, but they don’t really contribute anything to the story.  They’re just there.  Ghosts of better stories, echoing sentiments of their past selves when they had something to actually do, lingering because we expect them to be here but without a plan or purpose.

It’s a vital part of any good story, yet time and time again, I find they flub this.  Why is that?  How is Spider-Man hitting this boring wall of mediocrity over and over again?  Well…




Dan Slott

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Yeah, you probably saw this one coming.  One way or another, a lot of this has to do with Dan Slott’s writing.  After all, this is the guy who’s been writing Spider-Man for pretty much the entire period I am referring to here.  …Dan Slott is not doing Spider-Man any favours.  He’s been writing this character for a long time now, and I honestly think the time for him to move on has long passed.

To be fair, not everything he’s done with Spider-Man is bad, not by any means.  And he’s low on this list because we really can’t prove what stuff is his fault and what he has to do because Marvel insists upon it.  Take Renew Your Vows, for example.  It feels like the second Marvel let him do whatever he wanted, he did a really good job and wrote like his best Spider-Man story to date with that one!

So not everything is his fault, yet, at a certain level, the majority of the responsibility still has to be on him.  He’s the writer – the one steering this ship.  Perhaps what is most annoying is the knowledge that Slott’s writing can be good.  Occasionally he has these great little moments of real depth that remind us he can really write if the opportunity presents itself.  But all too often his writing is disorganized, boring, stale, or an unhealthy mix of all three.  It gets to be frustrating more than anything else, because I know how great Spider-Man comics can be and we almost never get that feeling out of Dan Slott.

Yet somehow I really think these next six points on my list aren’t entirely his fault.  In some ways Dan Slott is in an unenviable position.  He’s the story’s navigator but the way is fraught with obstacles – rules and problems in Spider-Man enforced by the audience, the editorial team, management, and <DEMONIC> Perlmutter which all conspire to prevent these comics from being all they can be.

So while I don’t entirely blame Dan Slott, he’s a big problem with current Spider-Man and I really think the time for him to move on has come and gone a long time ago.  I know what you’re saying.  Surely the writer of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions can’t be that bad <LONG PAUSE; COUGH>…let’s move on!



Nostalgia Rules

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Nostalgia can lead to faulty thinking.  It’s not always bad, as it is basically a positive emotion, but like any good feeling it can be over relied on, or worse, taken advantage of.  Modern Spider-Man suffers from both problems.  There’s a segment of the Spider-Man community that can’t handle any sort of character development or change.  If it were up to them, Spider-Man would exist under whatever status quo they grew up with, never changing or challenging the reader.  It’s childish but certainly not unique to the Spider-Man fan base, to be fair, but no less of an obstacle when it comes to writing for Spider-Man.

It’s this sort of silly thinking that made Superior Spider-Man so controversial.  Faced with the prospect of a dead Peter Parker and apparently lacking any sense of pattern recognition, fans FREAKED OUT!  Not only did we get the usual protests, comic burnings, and boycotts, but as always the nut jobs took things too far and Dan Slott received more than one very serious and explicit death threat during this time period, and let’s face it, likely on more than one occasion since then.  As always, such behaviour is not only unacceptable, no matter how much you dislike a comic book writer, but it opens up a rather unfortunate prospect of writers and Marvel being too afraid to take any chances with Spider-Man.  Keep in mind that Superior actually tread new ground and did have a pretty solid emotional arc to it, yet how eager are writers going to be to try stuff like that if the insufferable members of the fan community are going to relentlessly harass them?

This is why it’s hard to blame Dan Slott for everything wrong with Spider-Man.  Would you be so eager to push the envelope and try new things if it meant daily harassment and inappropriate outrage flung in your direction?  Be honest, and really think about what that would be like, and try to imagine that not ever affecting the quality of your work.

And that sucks.  But, before we give Marvel too much credit, it’s worth mentioning that for all the flak Marvel gets, they do like to deliberately use nostalgia constantly.  From the cynical use of resurrection in Clone Conspiracy to tease fans without any sense of commitment, to the refusal to budge on the dynamics behind certain aspects of Peter’s life, we’ll get to that, Dan Slott and Marvel have shown no fear of using nostalgia to manipulate fans and sell comics.  Sometimes it works.  Spider-Verse is an obvious example of this behaviour, but at least they used nostalgia to have some fun.  I don’t mind when it’s clearly just a party and we’re all meant to have some relatively light fun.  Hahaha, murder.   So much fun.

But too often nostalgia is over used in Spider-Man comics.  Characters constantly parrot old, famous lines and moments, and are kept around with no purpose, as we’ve discussed.  They’re just there because people expect them to be there.  It’s empty in purpose otherwise.  So on both ends, from the fans and the staff, nostalgia really detracts from Spider-Man, especially when it gets out of hand.  Look, I will be talking a lot about the Spider-Man from the past.  That’s because it holds up pretty well and seems a lot better in comparison to more recent content.  But I understand at the same time, change is important.  Spider-Man can’t just be the exact same way forever because then there’s no real story to speak of.  Sadly, the changes we get always seem to be in the wrong direction.  For example…

UP NEXT: 10 Worst Things About Modern Spider-Man Marvel Wants You To Forget Pt 2

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