WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Spider-Man #1 by J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams, Sara Pichelli, Elisabetta D'Amico, Dave Stewart and VC's Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
Marvel Comics caused a stir over the summer when it began releasing cryptic teasers for a Spider-Man project that featured a spider's web with a number stitched in its center, with the countdown beginning at No. 4. When the time for the reveal, fans were shocked to learn director J.J. Abrams and his son Henry were teaming with artist Sara Pichelli for a miniseries starring the web-slinger.
Details on Spider-Man were kept under wraps, with the biggest piece of information concerning the debut of an original villain named Cadaverous, "who will cause problems for Spider-Man, his alter ego, Peter Parker, and his beloved Mary Jane Watson." Of course, causing trouble is the goal of every Spider-Man nemesis, so what would make Cadaverous stand out from the likes of the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus or Carnage?
With the release of Spider-Man #1, it's interesting to note that while Cadaverous does make a brief appearance, the story throws a curve ball by taking the attention away from the villain and placing it squarely on Peter Parker and his family. Titles like Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows have provided fans a monthly look at Spider-Man as a husband to Mary Jane and father to Annie. However, Abrams' and Pichelli's Spider-Man flips that concept on its head by turning Peter into a one-armed widower, and father to a young boy named Ben Parker.
The first couple of pages show Mary Jane searching a devastated New York City for Spider-Man. She finally finds him wounded on a bridge, but this is when Cadaverous finally reveals himself. He doesn't come alone, as he sics his minions on an overwhelmed Spider-Man. The chaos allows Cadaverous just enough time to impale Mary Jane on one of his razor-sharp fingers, before tossing her off the side of the bridge.
Spider-Man is able to free himself to catch MJ's lifeless body before it hits the river below. We're then taken to MJ's funeral, where we get our first look at a young orange-haired Ben holding his father's finger before the issue takes a 12-year time jump.
One parallel at play here is Mary Jane's death almost mirroring Gwen Stacy's murder at the hands of the Green Goblin. Both women were the love of Peter Parker's life, and both incidents took place on a bridge. However, Gwen's death isn't enough to make Peter give up being Spider-Man, though he can be forgiven here since he married and had a son with Mary Jane.
As one can imagine, there are a few changes in the twelve years since Cadaverous killed Mary Jane. Peter has given up being Spider-Man, leaving Ben in Aunt May's care while he travels for work. Named after Peter's Uncle Ben, his son is already showing Peter's heroic traits, especially when he sticks up for a classmate being bullied. An even bigger surprise comes when Ben starts to display Spider-Man's ability to stick to any surface.
When a dream of his mother leaves Ben hanging from his bedroom ceiling, Aunt May takes the opportunity to show the boy some of his parents' belongings. A box hidden in the floorboards of the attic contains photos and letters of Peter and MJ, along with the torn Spider-Man costume Peter was wearing the day of Cadaverous' attack.
In this alternate take on Spider-Man's origin story, Aunt May is aware of Peter's extracurricular activities, and is even attempting to pass down all the responsibilities that come with it to her nephew's son. Much like Spider-Man is written by the writing duo of J.J. and Henry Abrams, their story is also set up to explore the web-slinger's father-son dynamic. While it's unfortunate that Mary Jane has to be sacrificed for a story plot, the issue does tease her return through some form of Cadaverous machinations.
It's hard to create a retelling of Spider-Man's classic origin story, but Spider-Man #1 adds some much-needed intrigue to the hero's mythology while also introducing a new villain. Is Mary Jane really dead? Will Ben pick up the Spider-Man mantle his father tossed aside? Will father and son fight side-by-side as Spider-Man and Spider-Boy? The fact that we have so many questions should let you know J.J. Abram's Marvel debut has a lot to offer Spider-Man fans.