What is Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours?
Peter Parker’s life has hit a peaceful stretch. No evildoers have tried to flatten him in weeks, his marriage to Mary Jane is stronger than ever, and he’s enjoying his job as a high-school science teacher. Life is good. Naturally, that doesn’t last.
When Peter learns that his old enemy, the Rhino, is on a rampage in Times Square, he suits up as Spider-Man to stop the destructive villain in his tracks. But he’s unexpectedly foiled in his attempts by the Black Cat, a former ally and old flame. The Cat informs Peter that the Rhino is just a distraction – the real threat comes from a group of Ancients, members of the same race as the being called Morlun, who Spidey defeated in battle years earlier. The Ancients are now looking to exact revenge – and hope to steal Spider-Man’s life force in the process.
To defeat such powerful beings, Spider-Man is going to need all the help he can get, especially from the Black Cat. But what will Mary Jane Parker have to say about that? Peter isn’t sure which is worse – the Ancients trying to drain his life force or the wrath of a jealous wife….
What do I think of SPIDER-MAN: THE DARKEST HOURS? Jim Butcher really likes the Rhino. This is an odd way to open the review but it is the thing that stuck out most from this fairly enjoyable Spider-Man story set during the time that Peter Parker was still married to Mary Jane as well as teaching science.
It’s a very interesting time capsule of a certain period that some fans may call, “the last period before Spider-Man completely went off the rails with Civil War as well as One More Day.” It’s also notable for being after the introduction of Morbius substitute, Morlun, but before it was revealed that Morlun was part of a family of inter-dimensional totem hunters.
If that all sounds like utter gobbledygook to you then welcome to comic books. However, the actual storyline is pretty easy to understand. Peter Parker faced a villain named Morlun about a year ago, in-universe time, and now his family of immortal vampire friends are out to get revenge. Spider-Man must recruit the help of the Black Cat, Rhino, and Doctor Strange in order to deal with the incredibly powerful beings.
You can tell just how much Jim Butcher loves Spider-Man by how much his story immerses itself in Spider-Man lore that goes beyond the casual. This is the kind of book for someone who deeply loves Spider-Man and has a willingness to engage with the somewhat bizarre and contradictory world of everyone’s favorite working class hero.
I appreciate that Butcher is willing to deal with Peter’s day-to-day life as well. He’s someone who gets stuck substituting for his high school’s basketball coach and dealing with difficult students. Peter wants to get a guy up to date on his vaccinations so he can continue playing and that means playing the guy who can’t crush him at basketball. Butcher falls into a few inner city teacher tropes that even he lampshades but I appreciate the effort. I also like that one of the subplots is Mary Jane trying to get a driver’s license and buying an old clunker.
Most of all, I really appreciate the inclusion of Felicia Hardy AKA the Black Cat. I’m a huge fan of hers and am glad she’s finally getting the attention she deserves with her own series and inclusion in a lot of spin-off media. Here, she’s not Peter Parker’s girlfriend and just a good friend to the married Peter Parker. I could use less cattiness and jealousy from Mary Jane since I really like when these two play off one another. However, that’s a small complaint overall.
But second to the use of Felicia Hardy, I do appreciate the author making ample use of the Rhino. I’m a big fan of Spider-Man’s second tier villains and he’s one of my favorite jobbers. Which, if you don’t know professional wrestling terms, is a guy who exists to lose in order to make the other guy look better. Rhino is given a lot of sympathy and not all of it deserved. This version of the Rhino has never killed anyone, for example, but the comic book version definitely has.
In conclusion, this was a pretty fun book. I didn’t much care for the villain as Morlun as well as his female knock off, Mortia, aren’t very good characters. I do wonder if this book inspired the Spider-Verse use of Morlun’s family, though. That would be cool and a nice place of importance for this book. The narration by Jack Meloche was good and I was overall satisfied with the book.