WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Sony's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, in theaters now.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a deep dive into many of the absurd and compelling alternate takes on Marvel's wall-crawler. Ranging from Peter Parker to inheritors of the role like Miles Morales, all the way to singularly weird concepts like Spider-Ham, there’s plenty to love about the different incarnations of the hero. But somehow, the film's most valuable player isn't a Spider-hero; heck, she doesn't even have a superpower, beyond a seemingly limitless wealth of patience.
The version of Aunt May Parker who lives in Miles’ universe is one of the best takes on the beloved character, across all media. She's effectively the Spider-Man equivalent of Alfred Pennyworth.
The Golden Oldie
Voiced by Lily Tomlin, May Parker is introduced to the audience under the worst of circumstances, following the death of her nephew Peter. Seen briefly during his funeral, she plays a more important role in the film's second act, when Miles, Gwen Stacy, and the Peter Parker from another universe come to her while seeking a hideout. She’s shaken by the appearance of an older Peter, who lost his own aunt years earlier, but she quickly commits herself to helping the heroes.
When villains come to confront the Spider-heroes, May is revealed to be more formidable than anyone might expect; she even pulls out a baseball bat to drive Scorpion out of her home. When the other Spider-heroes leave the inexperienced Miles behind as the set off on their mission to destroy the Kingpin’s super-collider, May gives Miles the equipment he needs to truly become Spider-Man and help his newfound friends.
The Woman In The Chair
Aunt May serves as emotional support for Peter Parker in virtually every version of the character, but Into the Spider-Verse is one of only a few times she’s actively helped Spider-Man. It took decades in the comics for her to uncover her nephew's secret, but afterward she largely remained in her role as moral touchstone.
However, in Into the Spider-Verse she’s possibly his most important ally. May reveals to the heroes that her version of Peter Parker essentially constructed his own version of the Batcave beneath their backyard shed in Queens, New York. It serves as the base of operations for the heroes as they prepare for their assault on Kingpin, and is stacked with equipment for most any situation.
The collection of spider-gear requires upkeep, a responsibility taken on by May. She even responds with a casual annoyance at the arrival of Doctor Octopus, hinting that May is familiar enough with the world of crime-fighting to know the good guys from the bad.
By the end of the film, she's not longer simply Peter's aunt. She assumes the role described by Ganke in Spider-Man: Homecoming as “the man in the chair." She’s the emotional and strategic support the Spider-heroes need to save the day.
This isn’t the sweet, old Aunt May most fans are used to, but a more dedicated, and coolly confident, take on the classic comic character. She’s no-nonsense, like the best versions of May, but keeps her heart on display. Her scene of seeing the older Peter Parker is heart-breaking on multiple levels, and speaks to the connection she has with her nephew even when he’s from an alternate universe.
She even turns out to be smart enough to construct a set of web shooters distinctly for Miles, and gives him a short pep talk before he rushes off to help save the day. She’s absolutely perfect, and she needs more room to show up and do amazing, spectacular things alongside a growing hero like Miles. Because seriously, he may have his Dad in a support role, but May can offer the kind of guidance that Miles is going to need if he’s going to continue to be a hero.
Seriously, if we don’t see more of May Parker: the Spider-Man Alfred in the next Spider-Verse film, it’ll be the biggest wasted opportunity in recent cinematic memory. The concept gives us a new and exciting interpretation of May Parker, and she’s the stealth MVP of a movie full of fantastic characters.
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse stars Shameik Moore, Brian Tyree Henry, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld, Liev Schreiber, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney and Kimiko Glenn. The film is in theaters nationwide.