Spectacular Spider-Man Delivers a Shocking Return from the (Recent) Past


SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man #1, on sale now.

Whenever Marvel puts the name "Peter Parker" in the title of a Spider-Man series, it's a good bet there will be a strong focus on the man behind the mask. That's definitely the case with Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert's debut issue of Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man, the latest volume of the classic series, and the first non-Amazing ongoing Spidey book to star Peter in a few years.

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The issue revisits Peter's friendship with the Human Torch in a big way, and introduces a new love interest -- albeit for Spider-Man, not Peter -- named Rebecca London, a stand-up comic who Spidey (and Ant-Man) assist during a mugging. But the biggest potential impact on Peter Parker's personal life comes in the very last page of the issue's main story -- with the appearance of Teresa Parker, Peter's long-lost sister.

Well, maybe.

Let's rewind a bit. In April 2014, Marvel released Spider-Man: Family Business as part of its original graphic novel line, from the creative team of writers Mark Waid and James Robinson, and artists Gabriele Dell'Otto and Werther Dell'edera. The story received mainstream publicity -- including a major USA Today article published 10 months in advance of publication -- due to the novel hook that the book would reveal that only child Peter Parker has an alleged sister named Teresa, who also happens to be a CIA agent. As Waid put it at the time, however, "[Peter] has every reason to be skeptical about who this woman is."

Art from the Spider-Man: Family Business OGN

Turns out, he was right to be suspicious -- well, again, maybe. In Family Business, Teresa is initially positioned as the genuine daughter of Peter's superspy parents Richard and Mary Parker, with a baby photo to prove it. Though carrying the cool swagger needed for a secret agent, she carries some resentment towards her deceased birth parents, having grown up not knowing who her parents were, and only recently discovering her true heritage. Or so she thinks.

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In the third act of Family Business, the Kingpin, the story's antagonist, reveals that Teresa is not in fact Spider-Man's sister, and in fact both Peter and Teresa have been under the control of the telepathic supervillain Mentallo, who is assisting Wilson Fisk in his latest endeavor. As part of that plot, he's made Teresa think she's someone else, and for Peter to see her as someone who could pass for a sibling. Teresa is actually a redhead named Teresa Durand, a CIA agent who is unrelated to Peter Parker. Well -- wait for it -- maybe.

The OGN ends with yet another twist: An old associate of the Parkers named Emile Chigaru analyzes the DNA of a cup used by Teresa earlier in the story, and is noticeably surprised by the results. Parallel to this, a flashback shows Richard and Mary discussing family matters at some point after Peter's birth and before their deaths, with Mary seemingly pregnant with a new addition to the family.

Art from the Spider-Man: Family Business OGN

Thus, the book ends by leaving the door open to the fact that Peter Parker actually may have a sibling out there, and it might still be Teresa... or perhaps not. But for a book that was well-received and had legitimately major hype behind it -- longtime Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott went as far as to say the story "changes everything" in the Family Business intro -- it hasn't been followed up on in the years since its release. Of course, this isn't entirely surprising as Marvel's OGNs often exist somewhere on the edges of continuity, in canon, yet standing on their own.

That changes in a big way with Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man #1, as Teresa -- introducing herself as Teresa Parker -- finds herself on Peter's doorstep where she introduces herself to Johnny Storm, who has been stood up by his buddy. It's not clear exactly how close this story will follow the conclusion of Family Business, but Kingpin appears in the solicitation for issue #3, so at this point "pretty closely" feels like a good bet. Whether or not this is a further ruse, of course, remains to be revealed.

Also remaining to be revealed -- the mystery of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s unique interest in Spider-Man, first introduced in the Zdarsky-written Spectacular Spider-Man Free Comic Book Day story back in May, and continued in this issue's back-up tale, illustrated by Goran Parlov. It's also not clear if this plotline is connected to the Teresa Parker story -- after all, the CIA and S.H.I.E.L.D. both deal in top-secret espionage work.

What's much more clear in Spectacular Spider-Man #1 is how perfect of a fit Zdarsky, Kubert and colorist Jordie Bellaire are for Spider-Man. Zdarsky's well-honed sense of humor is perfect for both Spidey's quips and his rapport with the Human Torch, and Zdarsky & Bellaire's art is lively and timeless. Also, Aunt May recommends Peter check out Tinder (or a reasonable facsimile), so things get interesting pretty quickly.

Spectacular Spider-Man #1 is on sale now, and more answers (and more questions?) are sure to come in issue #2, scheduled for release on July 19.

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