A Tangled Web: Growing Up In The Marvel Universe In ‘Spider-Man’ #15

by Tony Thornley

Spider-Man in the 90’s was all about the challenges in life. Of course, in a superhero’s life that meant clones, monsters, some cosmic beings, and a few mutants. However, it was also about the difficult decisions that an adult has to make, and that forms the backbone of today’s story!

Spider-Man #15 came right at the end of Todd MacFarlane’s legendary Spider-Man run, but it was actually by a guest creative team who had also made their name on Spider-Man, writer/artist Erik Larsen, with Gregory Wright on color art and Chris Eliopoulos on letters. It’s a fairly grown up story, but it’s also a very fun superhero team-up.

At the time the Beast was almost as big a draw as Wolverine. Looking back at the X-Men merchandising of the nineties, Hank was featured nearly as often as Logan, including some of the more odd tie-ins like Chef Boyardee pasta and Pizza Hut comics. Here though, it wasn’t just a coy attempt to boost sales.

At this point, Peter and Mary Jane Parker had been married for years, which meant conversations had taken some of the more serious turns that face married couples. Yet, when the amazing Spider-Man thinks about having a baby, he needs to consider much more than stocking up on diapers and choosing a pediatrician. So he seeks out an expert – the Beast – and the duo have a heart to heart while fighting through anti-mutant bigots all across New York City!

Larsen is at the absolute height of his creative powers here. Though readers can’t relate to having radioactive blood, they absolutely can relate to looking at the future and determining whether bringing a baby into the world is even possible. Adding Beast to that discussion, as well as a series of very fun beat-em-ups, is the perfect way to grapple with those uniquely Spidey fears that come with a baby, while telling a fun superhero story. 

He packs the story with a lot of plot too. This easily could have been a three or four issue arc, and the story benefits from it. Nothing is wasted, but it never feels like chaos or too much.

Before Savage Dragon, Larsen really made a name for himself with his Spider-Man. This issue shows off why. His Spidey is wiry and acrobatic, moving in ways that are just off human norms. Every page is dynamic, whether it’s Peter and MJ discussing the unique circumstances they’re in as potential parents, to Spider-Man and Beast slugging it out with an unstable mutant in the New York City sewers. 

Wright’s colors are absolutely fantastic too, using light and color in ways that really were ahead of their time. He does some things with color that many color artists wouldn’t do until the days of digital coloring. The only downside is the extremely 90’s trend of some extremely cheesecakey panels of MJ.

This issue is readily available in digital editions, and in print from many local shops. It was also collected in Spider-Man: Revenge of the Sinister Six (a story we’ll visit one day soon!) in print and digital formats.

We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops, that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.

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