Spider-Man #1 is a brand-new series from Marvel Comics, and the previews promised a city-shattering battle in its opening pages. The New J.J. Abrams Spider-Man series, co-written with his son Henry, uses this as a launching pad for a story about the web-head we’ve not seen before. J.J. Abrams didn’t really set out to write a Spider-Man series, but his son Henry is a huge fan. An editor at Marvel Comics apparently worked on Abrams for nearly a decade to work on a project with him. Yet, the elder Abrams possesses an affinity for comics, but his creative spirit leans more towards films like Star Wars Episode IX or projects for his new WarnerMedia mega-deal. His son Henry, however, grew up loving comics, so when J.J. Abrams saw this, he realized he had a chance to write a story with his son.
As he told The New York Times:
Marvel Editor Nick Lowe “had been pressing me to do a book with him. A year or so ago, I started talking about it with Henry and it sort of happened organically. And that has been the joy of this. Even though I’ve been talking to Nick for a long time, weirdly, this feels like it just sort of evolved from the conversations of Henry and I, having ideas that got us excited and Nick being open to the collaboration.”
In the same interview, Henry added they wanted to tell a story that offered a new take on Spider-Man. Thus, the Henry and J.J. Abrams Spider-Man series falls outside of the current continuity. This tale is a bit of a one-off, though knowing Marvel it might just launch a whole new branch to the Spider-Verse. The first issue is on stands and in digital bookstores now. We’re going to talk about it, complete with spoilers. So, check out a video from Marvel Entertainment highlighting the Abrams’ contribution and art from Sara Pichelli. Once you read the book, come back and let’s talk about how Earth-shattering the story will be for the Spider-Man mythos.
The Henry and J.J. Abrams Spider-Man Series Is a Story About Fathers and Sons
Image via Marvel Entertainment
Somewhat obviously, this story at the heart of this book is about fathers and sons. Of course, Spider-Man doesn’t haven many living father-figures. Uncle Ben and his father Richard Parker are both dead. Instead of putting someone like Captain America or Tony Stark in that place instead, Henry and J.J. Abrams distinguish their Spider-Man series by making Peter Parker the father. Yes, the main character of this book is not Peter but rather his and Mary Jane’s son. Like the other son of an iconic pair of pop-culture people created by J.J. Abrams, the boy’s name is “Ben.” He’s also troubled, but instead of becoming the villain, this story will likely show how he becomes a hero, just like his old man. Of course, Peter Parker is not in a great place nor does he appear to be a great father.
The Peter Parker in this story is down a few things from our Peter, not the least of which is a hand. Outfitted with a prosthetic claw-hand (not a sci-fi one, just a regular old prosthetic), Peter spends more of his time slinging photos than webs. He’s in town by happenstance when the story begins, and we see that he’s left an increasingly elderly Aunt May in charge of his boy. Ben gets in trouble at school, mostly because he can’t stop protecting the defenseless students in his school from bullies. Peter, on the other hand, took the bullying himself without fighting back. This creates an interesting dynamic, because it means that Ben is already in a better social stratum than Peter was at his age.
Where is Mary Jane Watson and Why Isn’t She Raising Her Son?
Image via Marvel Entertainment
Perhaps the most controversial element of the Henry and J.J. Abrams Spider-Man series is the fate of Mary Jane Watson-Parker. In the opening battle against the mysterious villain Cadaverous, MJ is right there in the thick of it. She rushes to Peter’s side, who is clearly losing the fight. In just three pages, MJ is killed by the villain. We don’t see the end of the battle. What we see is the graveside memorial for MJ. Peter’s arm is gone and he holds his son’s hand. Then the story skips forward 12 years. Bullies taunt Ben about his mother’s death, and the boy dreams of her bathed in blood. Yet, as we learn more about the villain, we see MJ’s story might not be over.
After the first pages, we only see Cadaverous one more time. He’s attended to by strange semi-robotic minions, rambling about another “failure.” (He also eats bratwurst with his metal claws. Is it a clue? Is it just gross? Who knows!?) The key detail comes in the last panel on the page, where we see that he seems to have MJ’s body in a strange sci-fi vat of red liquid. She could be a clone or he somehow came into possession of MJ’s actual remains. Either way, this suggests that Cadaverous is not so much a new villain but a version of someone who has a close connection to both Peter Parker, MJ, and Spider-Man. Of course, Spider-Man, in this series, will be Ben. He inherited his father’s powers, and in the last pages of the comic Aunt May gives him Peter’s old suit.
Peter and Ben Parker Will Be Spider-Man Together Before This Is All Over
Image via Marvel Entertainment
J.J. Abrams swears by the “Mystery Box” and his Spider-Man series is no different. The story begs as many questions as it does provide details about this world. We know why Peter quit being Spider-Man, we think. MJ died and he lost an arm. As Ben’s only parent, it would be irresponsible for him to continue to be a hero. Not only that, he seems to want to spare his son the pain of a life of heroics, discouraging him from caring about anyone but himself. Yet, Ben is a thoughtful boy. For example, we see that before going to school, he makes Aunt May breakfast instead of the other way around. Ben will become Spider-Man, but it seems safe to assume that Peter will don the mantle of the Spider again, too.
Still, this is a J.J. Abrams joint, so there are bound to be subverted expectations. The reasons Peter stopped being Spider-Man might have to do with more than just MJ’s death. The reason he stays away from Ben may not be as simple as we think. With four issues left in the Spider-Man series, the story could go anywhere. The question that remains, however, is if it will be a lasting part of the Spider-mythos or just a one-shot story by a father and son about a father and a son.
How are you feeling about it? I want to know in the comments if this is a story that interests you or if it’s one you’ll wait for the trade paperback to finish. Spill in the comments or shout us out on social media.
Featured image via Marvel Entertainment
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.