Symbiote Spider-Man: Crossroads #1 Explores the Webslinger's History
Sam Stone
After working together on several comics chronicling Spider-Man's history with the symbiote costume and its untold lore, Peter David and Greg Land reunite for Marvel's Symbiote Spider-Man: Crossroads. The five-issue miniseries continues the adventures of the alien-suited web-slinger and depicts Spider-Man landing in a psychedelic confrontation filled with familiar friends and foes. While fans of the previous Symbiote Spider-Man stories may find things to enjoy in this debut issue, this Spidey tale ultimately delivers a story with mixed results.
The series follows Spider-Man returning to New York City from the 1984 crossover event Secret Wars. However, he's not learned just yet that his new costume acquired on Battleworld is trying to take over his body. The story is set at a time when Peter was still working as a photojournalist for The Daily Bugle while balancing his burgeoning romantic relationship with the Black Cat. A seemingly routine superhero stop at a local history museum soon turns into a cross-dimensional odyssey. As Spider-Man finds himself caught in the middle of a magical showdown, he must contend with none other than the Incredible Hulk.
David has always had a strong grasp on Spider-Man's voice and has written some of the wallcrawler's more memorable stories in on-and-off runs that stretch over thirty years. With the prominent inclusion of the Hulk in this miniseries, a superhero that David catapulted to new heights during his celebrated run on the character, Crossroads is shaping up to be something special. With that in mind, one of the things about the various Symbiote Spider-Man miniseries is that they are largely lightweight side stories. Given the overarching premise of them being set in the past, this is obviously an intentional choice. Even with its cosmic stakes, Crossroads appears to carry on this trend. This run is for readers looking for a rollicking good time from a bygone era rather than a high-stakes, universe-reverberating tale.
Land, reuniting with inker Jay Leisten and color artist Frank D'Armata, has all his usual strengths and weaknesses. The action set pieces are effective and Land's layouts for characters like the Black Cat lean into what he does best visually. One of the most recurring criticisms of Land's artwork is the inconsistency of his facial expressions, particularly on close-up panels. Sadly, that remains glaringly noticeable here. The visual disparity between Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson's respective panels across panels is jarring and can take readers out of the entire experience. With Peter presumably masked for the bulk of the story, this will hopefully be less prevalent in later issues but it throws off this issue's flow.
Symbiote Spider-Man: Crossroads hints at a story that has Peter David leaning into two Marvel characters he is probably the most adept at, in an adventure of cosmic proportions. The most ambitious tale David and Land have crafted as part of their Symbiote Spider-Man line yet, both the storyteller's greatest strengths and most noticeable bad habits are on display here. Hopefully, the imbalance will even out as the miniseries progresses. Fans of previous stories in the line will find a lot to love here, but those looking for a Spider-Man story that better reflects the character today will want to look elsewhere.