What If? Marvel's What if? Returned? - Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow #1 Review

Marvel’s What If? series was a pretty fun set of one-shots from back in the day, focusing on cool thought exercises of “what if one thing in the Marvel Universe went differently?”. From big questions to small wonders, we took a look at the small details and larger implications of such things as “What if Captain America was unfrozen today?”, “What if Elektra had lived?”, and “What if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four?” among other scenarios.

I always had a soft spot for these as they were always a cool story to read about how much or how little the Marvel Universe would change if an event went one-way. Books like “What if Atlantis Attacks?” where the heroes lose. weren’t all the best as they were frequently testing grounds for new creatives at Marvel, or just fun “one-and-done” books by the creators of the original stories like Frank Miller with the aforementioned Elektra story or Brian Michael Bendis with “What if Jessica Jones joined the Avengers?”

While I am fan of these stories, something that always bothered me about them was that they were fairly short, cramming the idea of a “What If?” scenario into a single issue. There were a lot of cool ideas proposed but wrapped up too quickly or left with no time to develop.

Enter today’s recap and review of the triumphant return of the “What If?” format with Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow by Chip Zdarsky and Pasqual Ferry. This book is a new look at “What if Spider-Man kept the Alien Symbiote?” where we get to see how Spider-Man would have ended up if he kept the black suit and this time it’s explored over four issues instead of one. Let’s get to the story at hand, shall we?

The issue opens up with Peter Parker having nightmares. Not the “I’m delivering my thesis in my underwear” nightmares either. This is more along the lines of “I’m running from my greatest fear of letting down those I care for” nightmare packed with talking heads of Black Cat, Mary Jane, Aunt May, and dead Gwen Stacy’s skull all taunting and guilting him. Nightmares like these were pretty constant for Spidey during this time (read any mid-80’s Spider-Man title). Aunt May not talking to him because he dropped out of grad school and juggling his love life with both Mary Jane and the Black Cat can do that to a guy. The only reliable thing in his life is his superhero career and his snazzy new black costume made by alien technology. It makes crime fighting so much easier with a sleek look, unlimited webbing, and it responds quickly to his thoughts and commands. It might be adding to his anxiety and stress though as we see him go off on some muggers a little too hard before he catches himself and leaves them for the cops.

Peter tries again to get some more sleep but it just leads to more nightmares which leads to him absentmindedly lashing out at MJ, who came by to check on him after their infamous “I know you’re Spider-Man” talk. She’s genuinely worried about him and came to help in his hour of need. She gets Pete to stop being stubborn and admit something’s wrong and convinces him to stop putting off a long overdue meeting with Mr. Fantastic so Reed can study the suit. On the way there his suit runs out of webbing. Let me rephrase that.

His unlimited web producing suit runs out of webbing. How strange...

He tries it again and this time it succeeds but it lands him within ear-shot of the Hobgoblin which distracts him from his original mission. Much like his earlier encounter with the muggers, his quippy, fun attitude fades to a much more serious demeanor leading him to unmask Hobgoblin as Roderick Kingsley and leaves him with a message to spread the word to the rest of NY’s villains that “Spider-Man is playing for keeps now”. He meets up with Black Cat and confides in her about what happened. She also reminds him of his meeting with Mr. Fantastic, which he says he’ll go to tomorrow.

The next day Spidey finally meets with Reed at the Baxter Building to study the suit. Reed runs some tests and one more of Pete’s nightmares (this time Aunt May tells him it’s okay to hurt people to save people) later, the results show that the suit is alive and bonding with him. Reed suggests that he take the suit off before things get bad but Spidey isn’t having it. He convinces himself that it’s better for him to have the suit because he can help more people and that the suit chose to bond with him. He also calls Reed out for wanting t