What’s a Spider-Verse without a Spider-Man?
This year was meant to be the launch of Sony’s sprawling web of Spider-Verse franchises. We’ve already caught our first glimpse of Venom (in theaters October 5th) and the Miles Morales iteration of Spider-Man (in theaters December 14th), but we’re still trying to figure out how much of a role Peter Parker will have in these adventures. Never mind the mystery surrounding the fallout of Avengers: Infinity War and the matter of Jake Gyllenhaal’s vengeance upon Spider-Man: Homecoming 2.
The partnership between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures Releasing birthed the best version of Spider-Man we’ve seen so far. Tom Holland perfectly navigates the tricky blend of youthful naivete and cocksure bravado that this new, younger Spidey embodies. No disrespect to Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, but Holland is Spidey sprung straight from the comic book panel.
Questions still surround the contract linking Marvel and Sony. The Avengers can recruit Parker into their roster, but can Parker pop into Venom for a Carnage-bashing team-up? If the answer is no, then the relationship appears to be in Marvel’s favor (at least creatively, as Homecoming profits bounce back to Sony). One also has to wonder: What’s the point of Eddie Brock if he doesn’t have puny Parker to define his antagonism?
It all might be a moot point. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the next strand in the Spider-Verse has already been cut. Silver & Black, which was supposed to hit theaters on February 8th of next year, has been removed from their release calendar. Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond the Lights) is still on board to write and direct, but her recent rounds on the press circuit for her other Marvel property, Cloak & Dagger, revealed that she was still focused on writing the script. No screenplay means no movie.
The concept behind Silver & Black was to link two Spider-Man sidekicks in their own espionage caper. Silver Sable is a female mercenary who specializes in the capture of war criminals. She’s the leader of the Wild Pack, a sometime friend, sometime foe to the friendly neighborhood wallcrawler. Black Cat was the daughter of a world-renowned cat burglar who took over the family business to seek revenge against the villains responsible for her daddy’s death. Like Silver Sable, she would often find herself fighting against Spider-Man, but would occasionally get overwhelmed by his adorable do-gooder attitude.
In the comics, neither character really hung out with the other. However, in Sony’s desperation to make this Spider-Verse a reality, Silver & Black is a viable option. You gotta work with the toys you got.
While I struggle to understand what a Venom story looks like without Spider-Man (the very design of the suit is the alien symbiote’s desire to replicate ol’ webhead’s costume), it is much easier to comprehend a kick-ass action story about the relationship between a spy and a thief. Sure, the comic book fanatic may scratch their head, but the mainstream moviegoer will show up as long as the product is decent.
Gina Prince-Bythewood is a fascinating filmmaker. A quick glance at her filmography may not scream “comic book caper,” but she’s certainly a director who focuses on the emotional stakes of her characters. Superhero movies work best when the internal struggle is as important as any great blue beam of light penetrating the atmosphere. Early buzz on Cloak & Dagger indicates that Prince-Bythewood excels with heroic melodrama. Hopefully, her Silver & Black is not off the books forever.
Sony certainly has every reason to make this Spider-Verse happen. They need to prove to us that they are more than a charity for Kevin Feige. If Venom, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and Silver & Black perform well at the box office and inside the hearts of fans, there is a nearly limitless pool of Spidey characters left to plunder. They’re already planning a Morbius the Living Vampire film and a Spike Lee-produced Nightwatch, but I’m aching to see a Cardiac solo flick. Just please, no Aunt May spin-offs.