Some years ago, in the wastes of Siberia, Black Widow was brought in by SHIELD to examine a mysterious object that popped up. It's a bit beyond her pay grade, though... fortunately, the good Dr. Strange showed up just in the nick of time.
Cut to New York City, and Spider-Man, still decked out in his swanky new black costume (which he has no idea yet is a living symbiote), is locked in combat with the one and only KRAVEN THE HUNTER!
After getting dosed with a powerful poison, Spidey awakens to a very different world, though...
And that's not all, sports fans...
Beyond confused and well on the way to freaked out, Spider-Man knows one thing for sure: when things get weird, go see Dr. Strange! That, though, is when this alien new reality takes the most sinister turn of all!
THE HOBGOBLIN IS SORCERER SUPREME! What's a web-head to do NOW?!
Writer Peter David and artists Greg Land and Jay Leisten return to the world of Symbiote Spider-Man, and don’t waste any time hitting the ground running. Whereas the previous symbiote-infused miniseries by this winning team took a little while to establish the dynamics between Peter Parker and the alien costume before diving into the creeping horror vibes, this issue is full throttle from the get-go.
Bringing the Hobgoblin into the mix (foreshadowed on the final page of the last mini) and then flipping the story – and Spidey’s world – on its head was an inspired bit of storytelling. It may be hard for modern fans to fathom, but Hobgoblin was a pretty big deal back in the ’80s. He occupied a sweet spot post-Green Goblin and pre-Venom where Spider-Man was in need of a big, marquee new villain (Doc Ock was having a less-than-inspired decade). And as an added bonus, his true identity was a mystery that played out for years across the book, taking several unforeseen twists and turns as writers changed, until at last, a young Peter David – then still pretty new in his career, was brought in to do the big reveal that he was Peter Parker’s friend Ned Leeds the whole time.*
So: in going back to the era of the symbiote costume, adding Hobgoblin to the mix is a no-brainer. And while Hobby takes a backseat for much of the issue while Spidey is getting the lay of the land of his weird new reality, when he does make his presence known, it’s in a manner both major and completely unexpected. I sincerely doubt anyone was going into this book with the idea that Hobgoblin was the new Sorcerer Supreme. And it works! The new alternate reality takes a lot of fun, signature-Peter David turns, such as Black Widow being Black Cat, Kraven being Spidey’s partner-in-crimefighting, and the completely awesome return of the Spider-Buggy. And that doesn’t even get to the biggest mystery of all, the so-called “word of God” that Dr. Strange initially finds in the Siberian tundra.
Greg Land is his usual Greg Land self here. The images are pleasing enough to the eye as long as readers don’t think too much about how so many images were traced from other sources. There aren’t too many instances where it stands out, but when it does, it’s very noticeable. The most egregious example is the splash page of Kraven attacking Spidey mid-air; Kraven’s pose simply does not match the action he’s supposed to be undertaking. More likely it was swiped from a male modeling magazine or something.
Symbiote Spider-Man: Alternate Reality is a joyous, expertly-executed comic. It aims to tell a fun story that doesn’t need to be spread across eighty comics over a nine-month span and bilk readers out of their hard-earned money for diminished results. It’s almost an anti-event comic in that regard. If I may be so bold, it’s what superhero comics are when they’re at their best. Pick it up today – you won’t be disappointed.
*This was an editorial decision, and not what Hobgoblin creator Roger Stern had in mind. About a decade after that fateful issue of Amazing Spider-Man (#289), Stern was allowed to tell his story as he had intended, revealing Leeds to have been set up to take the fall, and revealing Hobby’s true identity as one Roderick Kingsley. In the interim after Leeds’ death, Hobgoblin’s identity was taken up by former Jack-o-Lantern Jason Macendale, who eventually bonded with a demon and became an actual hobgoblin. Then the demon was eventually separated from Macendale and became a third-generation goblin-themed villain named Demogoblin, who was obsessed with killing sinners (read: anyone). Demogoblin was eventually killed by Kraven’s son during the Clone Saga, and Macendale was subsequently offed when Stern was given leeway to do so by editorial in the aforementioned return of the OG Hobgoblin story. Then Kingsley was eventually beheaded and replaced by someone else. Comics are convoluted sometimes, folks.
Symbiote Spider-Man fires on all cylinders right out of the gate, providing readers with a rip-roaring adventure that's as fun to read as it is to explore its upside-down new reality. For anyone fatigued by event comics, Earth-shattering cosmic crises, or endless reboots, here's the perfect antidote: a comic that aspires - no, dares - to just have fun, and in a smart way to boot. Buy it today!
Symbiote Spider-Man: Alien Reality #1 (of 5): Upside Down, Inside Out
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
- Art - 7/107/10
- Color - 7/107/10
- Cover Art - 7/107/10
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