Ah, the new superhero costume reveal. That thing where the comic companies muck with some of their most iconic visuals to get a rise out of the fans, get eyes on their product, hopefully tell some kind of story with it, then go back to the status quo. Just now I’m getting memories of Norm MacDonald on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, breaking from the script to openly complain about Electric Blue Superman.
While most of the time, these new looks get rather negative reactions, they at least happen for a reason. When Batman was redesigned in the ’90s to have the ugliest, most spike-ridden armor imaginable, it was part of a narrative about how Jean-Paul Valley represented what Batman shouldn’t be. When Flash Thompson Venom looked like some kind of hulky Ben 10 creature during his time as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, it was to illustrate his status as a clear-minded space knight. When the X-Men started wearing leather jackets, it was to tie into how relatively grounded the then-new movie franchise was.
They all inevitably rubber-banded back to the mainstream looks down the line and Spider-Man will be no different. You see, Spider-Man is about to start wearing a brand new costume as of Amazing Spider-Man #61 this March, brought to us by the team of Nick Spencer and Patrick Gleason.
Take a look…
Yes, yes, we know, you probably hate it. I’m not exactly crazy about it either. The webs will be back eventually. We know this.
The real question is, “Why?”
Spider-Man’s changed his main costume many times and usually there was a pretty good reason behind it. He wore the black costume as a tie-in to Secret Wars and it eventually led to the introduction of Venom. He had that sweet, silver armor for a single issue, where its creation and destruction were self-contained. The red and gold costume was based on his close relationship with Iron Man. He wore white and black to tie into his membership to the Fantastic Four. He wore a variation of Alex Ross’ unused movie costume design because Doc Ock had taken over Peter’s mind for a while.
Then there were a bunch of forgettable costumes from Dan Slott’s run that were mostly about solving story-specific problems.
So why does he look like a hybrid of Superior Octopus and Gravity?
My theory starts with that color scheme. It’s a very non-Spider-Man color scheme that’s very specific to another character. Navy blue and white with an orange (or at times golden) trim.
I believe that Peter Parker isn’t under that mask. This is Tony Masters, otherwise known as the Taskmaster. The same villain and occasional antihero who will be represented on the big screen this May (maybe) in Black Widow.
Hey, he’s even pulled off the glowing orange/gold eyes before.
While it will be a few months before we get to that leg of the story, it certainly fits in certain ways. By March, Taskmaster will be finishing up two miniseries. One is Taskmaster by Jed MacKay and Alessandro Vitti. That one ties closer to the upcoming movie by having him framed for murder and being hunted down by Black Widow. His other big appearance is King in Black: Thunderbolts, where he and the rest of the team are dealing with the big Venom crossover story. With those two stories done, Taskmaster’s schedule is wide open.
But there’s another thing about that Thunderbolts storyline. These days, the Thunderbolts work for Mayor Wilson Fisk. While there are no real details in the solicitations for the Amazing Spider-Man issues where the new look debuts, it is very apparent that Kingpin is a major player. More specifically, “And Kingpin’s plans start coming together!” and, “Kingpin makes it personal with Peter Parker and New York City itself will pay the price!”
Otherwise, the only notable line in any of the solicits is, “Peter Parker gets a new job!” Considering the prominent STARK logo on the cover to #63, it could be that Peter is just wearing another Stark-created Spider-Man costume, since that worked so well for everybody last time. Then again, if it is Taskmaster, it could be Tony or someone like him behind the money.
I mean, yes, Kingpin using Taskmaster to ruin Spider-Man’s reputation is something that’s a legitimate possibility, but if he’s going to do that, he’s going to have him wear the damn webs for the sake of confusing people. Using such a strikingly different costume mostly makes sense if it’s being used for good guy purposes.
And hell, pay him enough and Taskmaster will get a little girl’s cat down from a tree.