Marvel revives What If? Formula with Spider-Man becoming Venom

Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow
(Image credit: Pasqual Ferry/Matthew Hollingsworth (Marvel Comics))

As work on the Disney Plus animated series What If? continues, Marvel Comics is reviving that classic formula for the first in what's planned as a series of several alt-history limited series set in the Marvel Universe.

(Image credit: Phil Noto (Marvel Comics))

Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow asks the question 'What if Spider-Man became Venom?', with that being answered by former Spider-Man writer Chip Zdarsky, artist Pasqual Ferry, and colorist Matthew Hollingsworth.

"Peter Parker once put on an alien suit that nearly destroyed his life – but what if he'd never taken it off? Ignoring every warning, Spidey embraces the dark symbiote!" reads Marvel's description of the four-issue series. "Haunted by terrible nightmares and exhausted by an endless barrage of bad guys, Peter can't seem to catch a break these days. So when the Hobgoblin attacks, he finds a hero at the end of his rope…and vulnerable to new dark impulses. Spider-Man is about to change his rules – but is it truly Peter who is in charge?"

Described as one of the "most ruthless" Spider-Man stories ever by Marvel, Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow is long-time Marvel artist Pasqual Ferry's first real project with Spider-Man front-and-center.

"Since I started working at Marvel some long years ago, I always dreamed of drawing Spider-Man. I came close a couple of times to get it, but the God of Thunder and Iron Man got in the way at the last moment— which were quite a joy too," Ferry says in the announcement. "So when I was offered the opportunity to draw this miniseries, you can imagine my happiness."

Ferry goes on to call Zdarsky's script "shocking and surprising," while for his part Zdarsky jokes about how dark it'll be.

'I'm thrilled to be kicking off a new era of 'What If?' stories with this tale of a Spider-Man gone bad!" Zdarsky says. "How bad will he be? Will he have a goatee and no hyphen in his name? Pick up issue one to find out! But seriously, I feel that with Spider's Shadow we’re exploring some dark situations with Spidey and the Marvel Universe, while making it cool and fun to read."

Long-time Marvel readers will remember this idea was touched upon in 1989's What If? #4 (Vol. 2), in a story called "What if the alien costume had possessed Spider-Man?' by writer Danny Fingeroth and Mark Bagley. 

Spider-Man: Spider's Shadow #1 (of 4) goes on sale this April. Look for Marvel's full April 2021 solicitations later this week on Newsarama.

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Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)