One of the best aspects of Spider-Verse and Spider-Geddon is how many fresh takes on Spider-Man have been introduced. In Spider-Geddon alone, we’ve got the most 1990’s take on the character possible and a young black woman serving as a virtual reality hero, both of which are strong enough concepts to justify at least a miniseries.
Now, the event has introduced us to a character who is simultaneously a callback to an almost 20-year-old story and also the most frightening Spider-Man ever introduced. Everyone, meet your new waking nightmare: Spiders-Man.
What makes Spiders-Man so frightening isn’t just that he’s made of spiders bunched up in a Spider-Man costume. Sure, that’s pretty horrifying but what makes him truly scary is that he doesn't seem to even know that he’s a legion of spiders. This Spider-Man makes quips, talks strategy, acts like Spider-Man.
But tears in his costume reveal the mass of insects underneath, and he’s definitely not all there. Many of his jokes center around eating someone; at one point he compares another Spider-Man to veal, assign us that he’d never actually eat someone because he understands the concept of responsibility. In short, because he thinks he’s Spider-Man, he wouldn’t do something Spider-Man wouldn’t do. It’s a thin veil that could be pulled aside at any moment, and if it is, it’ll leave the assembled heroes dealing with something almost as bad as the Inheritors.
But while this is a frightening concept, it's not one without precedent.
The idea was (somewhat) explored before in “The Coming of the Thousand,” one of the stories from the early 2000’s Spider-Man anthology series Tangled Web. The story (by Garth Ennis, John McCrea and James Hodgkins) centered around a former bully of Peter Parker’s, Carl, who ate the spider that turned Peter into Spider-Man.
Transforming into a thousand spiders, Carl gained the ability to crawl inside someone, consume their innards and steal their body. It’s a truly terrifying story that Spider-Man barely survives before it ends on a classic Ennis punchline.
Spiders-Man seems to be the product of a What If? reality where the Thousand had managed to kill Spider-Man. Maybe the remnants of Peter Parker would have taken hold in the mind of the spiders (like how his consciousness survived Doctor Octopus body-swapping with Peter), and now it’s trying desperately not to realize what he’s become. Unlike his human multiverses brethren, Spiders-Man doesn’t make jokes to distract his enemies or cover his fears. He makes jokes to stall his hunger, a twist that would be tragic if it wasn’t so terrifying.