Peter Parker's status quo is changing, but to what end?
By Robert Marrujo:: I've been reading Spider-Man comic books since the early '90s when I was a kid. I was there for the lowest low that was The Clone Saga and for some of the character's highest highs, like Brian Michael Bendis's run on Ultimate Spider-Man. Countless scribes and artists have left their stamp on the character and likely many more will in the future, as well. What that future should look like, however, is in hot contention at the moment. Where does Peter Parker fit within the tapestry of Marvel Legacy and where should he go moving forward?
As much as I like Dan Slott's work with Amazing Spider-Man, I can't say that I've been a fan of Parker Industries and the advent of Peter Parker as a rich industrialist. Granted, the role was somewhat foisted upon Peter following the fallout of Superior Spider-Man and Otto Octavius's time in the hero's body. Slott has done an admirable job of organically growing his epic Spider-Man tale from story to story, so much so that it didn't feel like a cheat to get Peter into the driver's seat of a multi million dollar company. He didn't ask for the responsibility, but in good old Parker fashion, he took it on and never looked back.
Now, Slott has once more naturally grown the world of Peter, in this case an instance of addition by subtraction. PI is gone, Peter is broke, and in a fun twist, Spider-Man isn't the menace, his secret identity is. There's even a return to the Daily Bugle in the cards for Peter in the coming weeks. Again, to me Peter as Tony Stark-lite wasn't enjoyable. A huge part of what makes Peter who he is is his struggle with being down in the gutter. He means well, he fights to help others, but ultimately he can barely make rent and his social life sucks. Stripping Peter of the extraneous tech and globetrotting will help return him to the core that's so essential to making him the every man that he should be.
For others, this return isn't sitting well because in their eyes it signals stagnation and regression for Peter as a character. Going from a scientist working on the bleeding edge to being back at the Daily Bugle, regardless of in what capacity, means to some fans that not only does this take Peter backwards, it also diminishes the newfound responsibility that he'd gained as the owner of such a massive, important company. Using his scientific acumen to better the world along with defending it as Spider-Man was, to these fans, the pinnacle of Peter living by his axiom of with great power, there must also come great responsibility.
While I can respect this viewpoint, I'm actually of a different opinion on this issue. For starters, I don't totally buy Peter as a super genius on the same level as Reed Richards or Tony Stark. Yes Peter developed his web shooters in Aunt May's basement, and yes he's a major science nerd, but he's never truly been anywhere near the same wheelhouse of smarts as some of the Marvel Universe's best minds. He's always had the potential to be up there with them, and that's the rub; if Peter were left to his own devices, he probably would have been the CEO of something like Parker Industries and living the good life. Instead, due to the burden he bears for causing (in his mind) Ben's death, Peter is forced to sacrifice what could have been for the life that he leads as Spider-Man.
Peter was having his pie and eating it, too, as head of Parker Industries. Sure, he was bettering the world with wonderful new inventions and devices, and he even demonstrated how to run an international company without being a ruthless penny pincher. Yet, for all the good he did, and even though technically all of this was in character for Peter, ultimately this was not who Parker is supposed to be. Peter isn't supposed to have it that easy. Not because he doesn't deserve it, but because to Peter he doesn't think that he does. The poverty he struggles with, the inability to move beyond his lot in life, is intrinsic to who he is. In Peter's mind, not being a successful scientist is par for the course. He's chosen to be Spider-Man and that is what takes precedent over everything else.
With Marvel Legacy, I hope to see Marvel continue to tap into the Peter that represents human beings who strive to do their best no matter how bad things get. I can grasp why Slott went where he did with Peter and Parker Industries, but now is the time for a return to what makes Spider-Man such an amazing hero. Seeing Peter wrestle with celebrity and bushels of cash doesn't progress the character, it puts him in a situation he should never be in to begin with. Peter can have moments of bliss and he can use his mind in productive ways, but at the end of the day his quest is to be the best Spider-Man he can be, not the best Peter Parker.