After attempting to liberate creatures from lab testing, Patton Parnel gets bitten by an irradiated spider, changing not only his life, but of those around him. What sinister turn awaits?
Writer: Clay McLeod Chapman
Artist: Elia Bonetti
Color Artist: Veronica Gandini
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Garry Brown
Variant Cover Artists: Greg Land & Morry Hollowell
Asst. Editor: Devin Lewis
Editor: Ellie Pyle
Senior Editor: Nick Lowe
The Story: In another dimension, Patton Parnell is a high schooler, living with his uncle, Ted. To him, everything is a science experiment, be it burning ants with a magnifying glass or “observing” his next door neighbor, Sara Jane. “Subject” Sara Jane establishes a verbal contact with Patton, wanting his assistance in freeing lab animals during their field trip to Alcorp. Upon freeing a female irradiated arachnid, Patton is promptly bitten, just as he and Sara Jane are caught. Sara Jane vouches for Patton, admitting that she is the one who put him up to it and they are released. The next day, Patton begins to feel sick, a fact not helped when his uncle beats him. Later, he can’t help himself and feeds on a mouse. He then begins webbing up food, including his Uncle Ted. Through the magic of the internet, Patton learns that he was bit by a Loxosceles Reclusa, a highly venomous spider that transfers their eggs through the bite of the female. When Gene goes missing, Sara Jane asks Patton about him and he bites her, then proceeds to go full Spider-Man on her, growing extra appendages and eyes. This attracts Morlun’s attention and he carts Patton away as an appetizer. Sara Jane awakes the next morning, telling herself it is all just a dream, until hundreds of spiders begin to crawl all over her…
Thoughts: Gotta be honest, this was my least anticipated issue of this series. The solicits made it seem reminiscent of a prior What If? story and I was unfamiliar with the creative team. Much to my delight, they took something that could have been mediocre filler and produced a solid little horror comic.
From the first panel, this is not a Spider-Man that we are accustomed to. Though Patton Parnell may look very similar to the 616 Peter Parker, Chapman very quickly establishes the clinical cruelty of the character. Patton is a detached outsider. We never learn of his parents’ fate, but clearly Uncle Ted is not the mentor one would want in life. He beats Patton with a belt at one point, bringing real life horror to this sci-fi horror tale. Patton has no safe refuge at home, and fares little better at school with his classmates taunting him with “Splatin’ Patton”. His creeper factor goes up when he describes Sara Jane as a subject as he peeps her from behind his blinds.
Sara Jane in this universe is still the sweet girl next door, with her party animal facade replaced with social consciousness. If it weren’t for this trait, it seems pretty unlikely she wouldn’t have approached Patton for his help, thinking he would care due to his interest in science. She doesn’t ask her boyfriend, Gene, for help, and I don’t think it’s because she simply wants a fall guy and wants to protect Gene. When they get caught, she herself volunteers that she got Patton into the predicament and tries to square things with the staff and police. Her empathy further hits home as she cries when Patton gets whipped by a belt, courtesy of his uncle.
Speaking of Uncle Ted, we don’t learn much, other than he works nights, seemingly doesn’t have his own version of an Aunt May, oh, and he likes to dole out the beatings on his nephew. Bonetti stages a classic horror scene as Ted enters his darkened home. Bonetti’s line work is very clean throughout and knows how to capture the proper mood when need be.
The B horror movie vibe is captured well, accented nicely with horror posters on the wall. I appreciated the little touches like that, including one poster on the wall stating it was from the producer of The Grudge. I can only assume this is a reference to former Spider-Man director Sam Raimi. While we’re talking cinematic Spidey, Patton described Sara Jane smelling like strawberries. A callback to Spider-Man 3 when Harry says MJ tastes like strawberries? To further the possible Sam Raimi influence, the last panel of SJ screaming harkened back to the ending of the original Evil Dead to me.
A few other things of note-in this universe Patton goes to Octavius High. There’s a statue outside the school, but no extra arms adorned it. Also, I had to wonder if Alcorp was somehow tied to either Liz Allan, or Alchemax from 2099.
At our apartment right now we currently have a few spiders spinning their webs in the breezeway leading to our door. Naturally, they’ve got some prey caught. I can’t help but look at it in a new light given Patton’s description, “Spiders pump their prey full of digestive enzymes, then they suck the liquefied tissues back into their gut. All that’s left is the empty husk. So sweet…like a milkshake.” I’ll pass, thanks.
This was a very well done issue and captured the sci-fi/horror movie spirit very well. I’m not as invested in Patton as Spider-Gwen or Noir, but I am curious what Sara Jane’s fate is. Whether or not we’ll see more of the appetizer formerly known as Patton Parnel remains to be seen as Spider-Verse continues to unfurl. I wouldn’t mind a little more closure, but I’m not clamoring for a new series about this version.
My Grade: A-