Peter David and Greg Land are on a roll with Symbiote Spider-Man, and this week, the third series by that name is out in trade paperback. A King in Black tie-in, this story continues the trend of the previous series by taking place during that short period in which Peter Parker wore the Venom Symbiote. It’s also coming out the same day their fourth Symbiote Spider-Man story launches. In this new story, David and Land go deep with classic characters by using The Watcher, Kang, Rocket Raccoon, and more. It’s a story that spans time, space, and plenty of Spidey quips.
This book is a lot of fun and that’s largely due to the cameos, which includes the characters mentioned above plus the Black Knight. Getting to spend some time with Kang and Watcher outside of the main continuity allows the creators to have them say and do things in a casual manner that’s rare for them. Frankly, this is as much their book as it is Spider-Man’s. For the most part, Spider-Man is more of a passenger on this crazy ride, offering pop culture references, but mostly is here to inform the reader of what is going on. It’s also fun to see Spider-Man meet Rocket Raccoon for the first time, and David digs deep into Marvel lore to play around with expectations.
Thanks to some expert plotting, it never gets boring and instead lays on mystery after mystery as well as new characters to enjoy. Kang is a character who is always good for a bit of scenery-chewing, and he does so here. As a book taking place in the earlier years of Peter Parker’s life — who is once again working for the Daily Bugle — it’s also cool to see thought bubbles in use. It’s easy to forget they’ve gone out of style, but once you read them it livens up the book a bit and gets you inside Peter’s head at opportune times.
Land’s art is about what you’d expect. The usual facial expressions show up on women, and certain pages will look oddly familiar, but he also has a handle on explosive splash pages. Kang looks particularly cool in his purple and green costume with great use of light by color artist Frank D’Armata. Inker Jay Leisten puts a nice thick line on everything, and for a book involving a Symbiote, he doesn’t disappoint with the layering of dark tones. A shadow creature rears its head midway through the first issue, and it’d be interesting to see the original Land art and how the inks and colors enhance it. This creature ends up playing a major part in the story and even gets a bit of an arc themselves.
As a tie-in, this book loosely connects to the event. It all revolves around a McGuffin that could make Knull more powerful. The events here help to reduce his effectiveness decades later when he shows up in King in Black, but since a lot of what happens here is “forgotten” by many of the characters, it’s also a blip that doesn’t matter all that much.
This is an entertaining comic if you want to turn off your brain and enjoy classic Marvel characters spending some time together. If you’re looking for exclusive Spidey entertainment you might be disappointed, but if you’re a hardcore Marvel fan, you’ll be delighted to see a few different cameos along the way. As has happened in previous Symbiote Spider-Man stories, this more about a lost story that stands alone.
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