By Christopher Ryan
In the wake of the monumentally successful release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, there has been a satisfying amount of scrutiny, opinion, and interpretation that Marvel geeks like me eat up by the bowlful. And in the spirit such delicious exchanging of ideas, allow me to suggest one other small element of interpretation: the Home trilogy completes our cinematic connections to beloved Spider-Man comics.
Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man each told the titular hero’s origin (key points – Uncle Ben’s globally known statement and subsequent murder, followed by Peter Parker’s resulting guilt and commitment to web-slinging). Recently, it was suggested that the Home trilogy didn’t show Uncle Ben’s death because the entire trilogy served as the origin story. This culminated, of course, in a dramatic variation on the tragedy, which occurred about two thirds of the way through No Way Home. This tear-jerking twist may have hit a deeper emotional note with us because it built over three films, but ultimately the movies collectively deliver Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to the heartbreaking legacy that is our hero’s essence.
Spider-Man is a tragic figure in our modern mythology. He must always lose someone. That spurs him on to do good for others. Yes, many Marvel characters have variations on this trope, but worldwide, we strongly recognize ourselves in Spider-Man. We see Peter Parker (or Miles Morales or Gwen Stacey) trying to be Spider-Man (or Spider-Gwen), sacrificing so much to be the hero that he or she failed to be for a person close to them. We cannot help but want Spidey to overcome failure because we want to overcome our own shortcomings. We identify with this grief-stricken kid because of his determination to be better because we want to be better, too.
There is no new ground here at all. This is merely a confirmation of all the conversations that have gone on recently. I applaud them. They are a lot of fun to dig into. I love this stuff so much that, with all respect, I’d like to add just one more element. This is not to negate or contradict anything that’s been said before. It is just meant to, hopefully, add one more layer of fun.
When I was growing up there were three major Spider-Man titles that Marvel published: The Amazing Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man (which eventually just became Spider-Man) and one other. If we look at the three Spider-Men (Toby McGuire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland), each of their cinematic journeys match one of those major titles. Toby McGuire’s films were called Spider-Man and Andrew Garfield’s movies were entitled The Amazing Spider-Man, covering those two comics. I suggest that, besides accomplishing so many other things, Tom Holland’s MCU adventures sting suggest the formula of the third beloved Spider-Man title of my childhood, that classic comic called Marvel Team-Up.
In every issue of Marvel Team-Up, Spidey would meet another Marvel character and their interaction would influence the outcome of the adventure. The Home trilogy is very much (though not perfectly) film versions of Marvel Team-Up.
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, the web-slinger teams up with Iron Man, sort of. In Spider-Man: Far from Home he works with Nick Fury and, in a weird way, Mysterio. And in Spider-Man: No Way Home, Spidey clearly teams up, at least for the beginning and the end of the movie, with Dr. Strange. And, um, other Spider-Men. And, er, a reformed villain. If it was an actual issue of the comic, the cover would read Marvel Team Up Spider-Man and Dr. Strange and Spider-Man and Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus.
This is neither deep nor revelatory. It is just fun to note that there is a Marvel Team-Up series in the MCU. To the best of my knowledge, the Tom Holland films were never promoted this way, but I can’t look at these films without seeing one of my all-time favorite comic books very well represented.
Fans may dream of a Marvel Team-Up series on but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. First of all, Spider-Man is still and probably always will be owned by Sony. Secondly, Spider-films are expensive to produce in any form. There seems no way a series could afford to pay all the headliners currently in the MCU to come in for one episode or a two- or three-episode arc (as seen in the comic). Further, MCU/Disney+ shows have established themselves as season-long arcs rather than adventure of the week, so adding new guests each episode would result in a pile of expensive characters for each season’s finale, costing about as much as a major motion picture. That is not a goal of these shows, according to what MCU guru Kevin Feige has said.
But all of that is okay because, honestly, we are already enjoying MCU Team-Up.
And it has been glorious.