Spider-Man: Homecoming heralded a new era of Spidey films, beginning with a lighter, non-origin story set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe that returned the character to high school about a year after he received his powers. This makes a huge change from the previous five films, that didn't spend much time in high school before rushing into the heavier adult adventures.
Homecoming kept the light-hearted tone while still delivering powerful and emotional moments, and fans are expecting more of the same from the upcoming sequel, Spider-Man: Far From Home. Though the film takes place immediately after the incredibly dark events of Avengers: Infinity War and the upcoming Endgame, previews have presented a fun tone consistent with the first movie.
Far From Home's name gave us the first idea of the film's premise, which sees Peter set off on a class trip to Europe. However, the adventures of Spider-Man are never far from Peter Parker's life, and he's soon involved with super-spy Nick Fury, who will work with the wall-crawler and new "hero" Mysterio against the threat of the Elementals.
There's a lot to unpack there, to be sure, but we're going to focus on another possibility considering the setting and characters involved. Recent Far From Home posters confirm that Peter and his class will travel to Berlin, which could mean very bad news for Pete's best buddy, Ned.
The character of Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is not technically a specific character from the comics as much as he's an amalgamation of a couple of characters. The MCU's Ned's appearance, love of LEGO, and other major characterizations, for example, are taken largely from the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, which first introduced new Spider-Man Miles Morales and his best friend, Ganke Lee.
The name "Ned" is derived from the comic character Ned Leeds, a reporter for the Daily Bugle who first appeared in 1964's Amazing Spider-Man #18. Ned has a few important ties to the Spider-Man mythology, like his relationship with fellow reporter Betty Brant, which was implied in the Far From Home teaser, further confirming the character as having some roots similar to his comic book namesake.
There's a dark side to Ned Leeds' comic history as well, including his time as the villainous Hobgoblin, a stint that was eventually revealed to have been due to being brainwashed by the real Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley.
In the 1987 one-shot Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, Peter Parker tracked down Ned in Berlin, where ned was investigating an assassin who was murdering former Russian KGB agents. This assassin was a former ally of Wolverine, which brought the mutant hero into conflict with Spider-Man. In the course of this conflict, Ned was killed by assassins, who took pictures of Ned in his Hobgoblin costume for the Kingpin.
So -- is this a turn of events that might play out in some form in Far From Home? While the death of a high school student is most likely too dark for Sony and Marvel's co-developed franchise, Thanos did just murder half of all creation in last summer's Infinity War. With Peter and Nick Fury working together, the likelihood that Ned's "guy in the chair" role will continue which could conceivably lead to harm for the young man, after all, especially given his comic book namesake's Berlin fate.
While much of the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine storyline would be impossible to bring to Far From Home, considering the MCU's unique version of Peter Parker, Nick Fury's presence and connection to the spy game, Ned's work with Peter, and Spider-Man and class heading to Berlin could all lead to a similar outcome as the comic we've discussed, with Ned paying the ultimate price and Peter blaming himself for the death. This would effectively turn Peter's world much darker, which happens frequently in the comics despite his typically upbeat comedic attitude. And while we've already discussed Disney and Marvel Studios' likely reluctance to turn their Spidey franchise dark, there remains the potential for the films to take a darker direction with the next installment.
Following the death of Ned Leeds in Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, things went very badly for Peter Parker. Not only was he wracked with guilt over the death of Wolverine's assassin friend at his own hands, the death of Ned and its impact on Parker's surrounding cast, coupled with Parker's own indecisiveness over his role as Spider-Man, continued to negatively affect the hero for years.
While his wedding to Mary Jane briefly lifted his spirits, his unhappiness with his life as Spider-Man allowed Kraven the Hunter, on a quest to prove himself one last time, to drug and incapacitate Spider-Man. He then buried the hero alive in a coffin where he remained for two weeks, and Kraven attempted to prove himself to be the better version of his hated enemy.
The iconic Kraven's Last Hunt has gone down in history as one of Spider-Man's greatest stories, and Kraven's most important. With Sony's Spider-Man franchise exploring a number of villains that we haven't seen in previous films, this incarnation's third movie could very easily introduce Kraven the Hunter to the big screen ahead of the villain's planned solo outing.
An adaptation of Kraven's Last Hunt might take the character to a darker place than fans might want to see in the MCU, but it would also showcase exactly what makes both Peter and Spider-Man such an iconic hero. After all, one of the best ways to show how strong a hero can be is to break them down to the ground, and the death of his closest friend would be the most expedient way to do this to Peter Parker.
So while it's admittedly still too early to start any serious speculation about a third Spider-Man film that hasn't even been teased by either Marvel or Sony, we can examine some of the clues left in the early trailers and information revealed for Spider-Man: Far From Home. Unfortunately, those clues might not bode well for good ol' Ned.
Opening July 2, director Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Far From Home stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon and Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal.