Precedents Of The Most Shocking Moment Of Spider-Man
There are so many surprises and (in) expected comebacks in Spider-Man: No Way Home that it’s easy to forget something important – this is, first and foremost, the pinnacle of a narrative cycle that began with Captain America: Civil War . That is, the third cinematic reboot of Marvel’s most beloved superhero, which we got to know up close in Spider-Man: Homecoming .
Since his arrival, it has been common in fan circles to discuss the differences between Tom Holland’s Peter Parker and the previous ones presented to us by Sam Raimi and Marc Webb along with the iterations of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.The gadgets inherited from Tony Stark … and the absence of Uncle Ben being especially controversial .
Still from ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’
That is to say. Throughout the movies there have been clues about the memory this character left in Peter, but it has never been nearly as important as in the cartoons, or in the previous films. In fact, it seemed that the role of father figure who passed away to inspire young Spider-Man was played by Tony Stark ( Robert Downey Jr. ) to his heroic sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame , reinforcing this idea in Spider-Man: Far From Home . It seemed that even with Uncle Ben absent, Peter didn’t need to lose any more mentors… but then No Way Home came along . And, in one of her most shocking scenes, Aunt May ( Marisa Tomei ) died.
It occurs after Doctor Strange’s ( Benedict Cumberbatch ) spell goes awry and brings several Spider-Man enemies from previous Sony movies into the MCU. They are Electro ( Jamie Foxx ), Doctor Octopus ( Alfred Molina ), the Lizard ( Rhys Ifans ), the Sandman ( Thomas Haden Church ) and the Green Goblin ( Willem Dafoe ), the latter being responsible for May’s death. Peter’s aunt convinces him that he has to try to “cure” these villains to return them to their reality, and shortly before dying he finally tells Peter the mythical phrase: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
No need to remember. This is the phrase that, from the beginning of the Spider-Man mythology, Uncle Ben used to say to Peter on his deathbed, precipitated by his impulsiveness. The wall-crawler feels guilty about the loss of his uncle, and that’s something we saw replicated in Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man (with Ben Parker being played by Cliff Robertson and Martin Sheen respectively ), but not in the same way. MCU. It has been Aunt May, instead, the one in charge of making the character mature, through his death.
No one expected it to happen and that is why the twist works so well in Spider-Man: No Way Home , bringing the character closer to that constant tragedy that has always made him the Marvel superhero with whom it is least difficult to empathize. It works well, also, because of the previous work with the Tomei character: in Homecoming we saw him discover Peter’s secret identity, while in Far From Home he had become his great ally while promoting his philanthropic activity for those affected by the Snap of Thanos, and had time to start a romantic relationship with Happy ( Jon Favreau ).
Still from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’Still from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’Sony
In No Way Home this solidarity has gone further, finding Tía May as a member of FEAST. This stands for Food, Emergency Aid, Shelter and Training ( Food, Emergency Aid, Shelter and Training ) and appoints an organization that helps needy New York. Her heroic selflessness will end up marking Peter in a rather unprecedented turn, but one for which there has already been precedent in other media outside the cinema (where before Tomei she was played by Rosemary Harris and Sally Field ). Without going any further, already in the 60s May was on the verge of death because of an adulterated medicine from the Kingpin, in an episode of the animated series Spider-Man .
Zendaya and Tom Holland in the ‘Spider-Man’ saga
Spider-Man managed to solve this plot, and as a rule Aunt May has remained safe and sound in film and television. In the comics it is another story: in 1995, we come across a most bizarre plot in number 400 of The Amazing Spider-Man , developed by JM DeMatteis, Mark Bagley and Larry Mahlstedt. The death of Aunt May came to occupy an unforgettable vignette from the hospital, dying in front of her nephew … so that shortly after we discovered that this was not Aunt May, but an actress identical to her.
This number took place within the so-called Clone Saga , while the real Aunt May had been brainwashed to forget about Peter. The situation, thus, never became as difficult as it was 12 years later, shortly after the Civil War special event concluded . During this Spider-Man had revealed to the world that he was Peter Parker, causing the Kingpin to send a hit man to kill him. The bullet intended for the protagonist, however, hit his aunt, and as a result she had to die in hospital while Peter felt guilty. Which is what he does best.
Cartoon from ‘The Amazing Spider-Man # 400’Cartoon from ‘The Amazing Spider-Man # 400’
The One More Day arc , developed by Joseph Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada throughout 2008, happens to be the most similar story to the No Way Home plot . May’s death is the result of the world knowing the secret identity of Spider-Man (in the cinema this situation was due to a trick of the Mysterio played by Jake Gyllenhaal ), and Peter also wants to fix the situation by resorting to Doctor Strange. True to form, the Sorcerer Supreme tells him that he can’t bring May back to life, and Spider-Man tries to time travel without success.
Then the demon Mephisto proposes a deal to save May, and as a result One More Day makes a resounding retcon to the new continuity that Civil War had inaugurated. After this, not only was May still alive and the world had forgotten who Peter Parker was, but his romance with Mary Jane, and their future together, had also been eliminated at a stroke. A penance that the wall-crawler gladly accepted in order to keep those he loves safe and that it is easy to relate to the tragic end of Spider-Man: No Way Home , with Peter unable to continue with the MJ who plays Zendaya .
The answer is yes, but we have to move away from comics or television series to find a precedent. Curiously, this is not very far away in time from Spider-Man: No Way Home , because you only have to go back to 2018, when Insomniac published the acclaimed video game Marvel’s Spider-Man . Considered one of the best versions of the wall-crawler, Marvel’s Spider-Man featured a veteran Peter Parker who helped May (here voiced by Nancy Linari ) in her solidarity activities within FEAST, here led by a guy named Martin Li. One guy, we would soon learn, not very trustworthy.
And it is that Li was the alter ego of Mister Negative, a villain who planned to make New York sick with a virus called Devil’s Breath. Thanks to the mediation of Doctor Octopus, Spider-Man ended up obtaining an antidote for the disease, but was faced with a difficult decision: either he would give it directly to Aunt May, who had contracted the virus, or he would use it to synthesize a vaccine with the one to protect New York in its entirety. Peter opted for the latter and Aunt May died in his arms, but not before telling him that she had known for a long time that he was Spider-Man, and that she was very proud of him.
Three years later, we have witnessed a death of Aunt May again, only with a slight change in terms. In the first case, Peter had to accept that his mentor died for the greater good. In the second, he did it to understand that with great power comes great responsibility, something that from now on will be his mantra … and, who knows, it will make it easier for him to make decisions as difficult as the one we saw in Marvel’s Spider-Man . It only remains to hope, therefore, that this is not the last time we see Tom Holland as the wall-crawler.