Fate vs. the Every Man

While updating some of the profiles here, I’ve noticed that supernatural themes have become more common in Spidey’s books. Even non-superpowered supporting characters have been dealing with outlandish situations, whereas previously they had kept the stories feel somewhat grounded in reality. You could say that “comic book” and “reality” have nothing to do with each other and you’d have a point but at the same time the aspect supernatural does stray from the traditional feel for Spider-Man’s stories. That’s not to say that change is a bad thing. Stagnation is the enemy of creativity and progress. Without change, stories get stuck repeating themselves. Still, it’s worth noticing when a core aspect of a character’s world has fundamentally changed.

When Peter was bitten by the radioactive spider, there was nothing at all special about him. He was a bullied teenage boy, which put him firmly on the plane of the mere mortal. His only exceptional quality was being an orphan and having exceptional intelligence. Yes, the spider powers made him unique but so did the coincidence of the man he allowed to escape be the one that killed his uncle. However, none of this (okay, outside of the wall crawling) was really too unusual. Peter was just an ordinary guy in an extraordinary circumstance. It made him relatable. Sometimes a person ends up in an unpredictable situation but it is still their burden to carry.

This wasn’t necessarily his fate as much as it was his choice. The question of being Spider-Man as a choice or destiny became blurred after Ezekiel Simms came into Peter's life and taught him about his cosmic mandate. While he was still just Peter Parker, former high school nerd, he had been selected to be a “pure” Spider-Man by a spider god. Spidey was eventually introduced to the multiverse, many different realities with many different people that had been given powers after a spider bite. He was the best of the spiders across all of reality and that made him a target of supernatural predators.

It was an interesting thing for the creative team to do. The fact that the spider bit Peter with purpose instead of instinct was such a small but important change. The “totem saga” has been a launchpad for many Spidey stories for the past twenty years but it's consequences have stayed with Spider-Man himself, for the most part. There had been a second spider god mentioned in “The Other,” which demanded cosmic balance after Peter had been resurrected after he had been killed by Morlun. The “counter balance” was embodied by a female creature named “Ero,” Peter’s opposite.

Peter was still Peter but it’s become hard to think of him as an ordinary guy when he is also a kind of messiah to a spider god. The writers wisely use this “new” aspect of the character sparingly. This is Spider-Man that we are reading, not Doctor Strange. The spider god didn’t seem to be interested in interacting with it’s chosen people, outside of maintaining “the web of life and death.” It's never even shown it’s self to it’s children, with the one exception being after Peter died and before he returned to life.

Knull, however, has been a very direct deity. He is the god of the symbiotes, the King in Black. He is a god of darkness, who silently drifted in the void before the existence of time and space. His peace was ended by the Celestials, entities that created the universe with light and noise. He killed one of the Celestials by cutting off its head but was forced back into the reaches of space by the others. It was then that he began to create symbiotes to help him reclaim the universe and return it to darkness and silence.

Knull was introduced in Venom and defeated but was revived in “Absolute Carnage.” He is currently attacking earth in the “King in Black” story. Just as Spider-Man acts as the spider god’s chosen one, Carnage is Knull’s favorite. Knull recently returned Cortland Kasady to life, who is an ancestor of Cletus Kasady. Cortland had been a serial killer in his own right and had been Knull’s previous favorite. At the same time in “Gwenom vs Carnage,” Gwen Stacy from Earth 65 (aka Spider-Woman) was also dealing with Knull’s invasion on her home reality. She gets her powers from an artificial symbiote, which means it is outside of Knull’s control. He sees it as a threat and an insult, so he sent the Carnage symbiote to deal with Spider-Woman. It bonded to her reality’s Mary Jane and claimed to be Knull’s favorite.

I read all of this and wondered where it was going to end. I don’t know if other characters are going to turn out to have gods that rule them (I doubt it but I could definitely see a goblin god or something eventually) but it is odd to have a symbiote god be created after a spider god. Then again, maybe not. “Venom-Verse” followed after “Spider-Verse.” (Maybe Spider-Man stories are testing grounds for Venom stories. That seems kind of backwards if true. I would think that a potentially divisive story would be tested on a "minor" character, which wouldn't cause uproar if done to a central, flagship character.) Anyway, I know this is a stretch but even Mary Jane was somewhat made a chosen one in “One More Day.” When Mephisto explained why he wanted to end Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage, he said it was to spite the one whom he hates me. The Parker’s marriage had been blessed and made holy, even more than the average union.

I really don't expect the "chosen one" theme to catch on with the whole Marvel Universe. I cant say that I'm all that familiar with many other characters, I've always been a Spider-Man fan at my core. Maybe that's why this "trend" stands out to me.