Marvel Comics has produced four Symbiote Spider-Man miniseries, and this week the Symbiote Spider-Man: Crossroads trade paperback is out in comic shops. This series follows the King in Black tie-in series and continues to tell “untold tales” from the time Peter Parker was wearing the Symbiote Spider-Man costumes. Why haven’t we seen these stories till now? In some cases, Spider-Man forgets they ever happened. In others, they were side adventures that didn’t change much in the grand scheme of things. In the latest, the Hulk is stuck in the Crossroads Dimension introduced by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema, and Spider-Man somehow crosses paths with him.
Part of the fun of these series is how writer Peter David packs in a lot of cameos and team-ups. This collection features Black Cat, the Eternals, Hulk, and even Asgard heroes too. This allows David and artist Greg Land to play around with older versions of these characters, defying expectations while technically adding new details to the old canon. It makes these a fun way to experience Marvel Comics if you’re a die-hard fan that has read it all.
This miniseries ties into a deep-cut Marvel creation known as the Crossroads Dimension. Not seen since 1984, David and Land are clearly using this dimension as a sandbox to play around in so they don’t affect mainstream continuity. It’s an intriguing idea since it hasn’t been explored too much, although the context of it will fly over the heads of most readers.
In general, this is an okay reading experience. Dialogue can feel repetitive at times as characters shout at each other. David is typically good for a few pop culture jokes, but here they mostly fall flat. The plotting is manufactured in a way to reveal as a means to surprise or add entertainment value. Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur, for instance, pop up as if to say, “You remember them, right?” There are also unsurprising twists and turns like a Venomized Symbiote Spider-Man fighting Hulk, or Black Cat always able to get a few more folks involved to save the day.
Black Cat features prominently in the opening issue, and her dynamic with Spider-Man continues to be great. In an unlettered preview, we can see they have a fairly casual vibe going. That preview also reveals C-lister Moondark is one of the main villains. In fact, this character paired with the Crossroads Dimension makes for a rather C-list feel to the book as a whole.
You will find plenty of Greg Land art very familiar. His literal copy-pasted facial expressions for women are apparent throughout. He does however impress with some monster design. Not every creature is from Marvel’s past and there are some surprisingly scary-looking beasts that pop up in the story. Black Cat’s is oversexualized in a lot of panels, but overall his clean style is very pleasing to the eye.
Symbiote Spider-Man: Crossroads is an interesting story since it takes a lot of C-list characters and throws them into the narrative, but it ends up feeling like a grab bag of randomness to manufacture surprises. This is a series that must fight to find a purpose since it technically can’t change canon and here it leans way too much on pulling out familiar faces to little effect. Since it does use obscure history and characters throughout, it also makes the story less accessible.
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