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The Top 10 Spider-Man Comics to Read Before ‘Homecoming’

Spider-Man: Homecoming is right around the corner. This highly anticipated third relaunching of the Spider-Man cinematic franchise sees the birth of a big screen partnership between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios that has many fans hoping that Tom Holland’s version of Peter Parker will have some staying power. Given his upswing in popularity following a brief appearance in Captain America: Civil War, the groundwork seems to have been laid for a successful solo film.

Spider-Man has undergone a lot of growth since that original Sam Raimi movie hit big screens in 2002 and even more since his debut in comics in 1962. For people interested in learning more about the boy behind the mask, narrowing down a list of titles covered in adjectives can be a daunting task. As with all comic book characters there is as much good as bad. (Be honest: how interested ARE you in clones…?)

Also: Ten Wonder Woman Stories to Read Before (and After) the Movie

But there are a few traits that unite the very best Spider-Man stories ever told. They revolve around emotion and they revolve around family. Now, “family” may not always mean the nuclear version that you might traditionally think of, but it runs deep through the webslinger’s tales. You might think of Spidey has mouthy and jokey – and he is those things – but he’s also living up to the legacy of a ghost that can never meet. At his core, he is a very tragic hero.

In the hopes of spreading the Spider-Man love and highlighting some of Peter Parker’s most important moments of personal and heroic growth, we have compiled a list of…

The Top 10 Spider-Man Comics to Read Before Spider-Man: Homecoming!

A great storyline for fans with any level of familiarity with the classic Peter Parker Spider-Man story. Spider-Man: Blue deals with an adult Peter Parker reflecting on the death of Gwen Stacy (you may remember her from the Amazing Spider-Man franchise of movies, if you’re not a big comics person), and the profound effect she had, not only on Peter, but on Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson as well. It is a greatest hits examination of all the key aspects of the Spider-Man mythos through the lens of his love for Gwen. If you need a refresher course going into Homecoming, you might want to start here.

Photo: Marvel Comics

Kraven’s Last Hunt (actually known as Fearful Symmetry), is Spider-Man’s final battle with one of his most iconic villains. This storyline is the Marvel Comics equivalent of The Most Dangerous Game. It plays into the theme of the best Spider-Man character being animal totems. If Spider-Man is Kraven’s ultimate quarry, then he is the very best at what he does. It’s quite the honor for a young man who didn’t set out to become a hero - and it features an awesome showdown between Spider-Man and Venom! This is the perfect story for fans who are interested in seeing where Spider-Man might be headed after this initial adventure.

Photo: Marvel Comics

You’re probably thinking “Isn’t the Juggernaut an X-Men villain?”, or maybe you know the character from starring in a popular meme about a decade ago. Either way, you’d be correct. This is one of the first times in Spider-Man’s history that he faced a villain outside of his regular Rogue’s Gallery. What’s great for readers who are about to go into Spider-Man: Homecoming is that it presents a classic look at how the wallcrawler takes down a more powerful foe and what makes him in exceptional hero when there are older - and perhaps more well-equipped - heroes who exist in both the current comics and movie continuities. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut really sets the bar for how Peter deals with everyone he is going to come up against into the modern age.

Photo: Marvel Comics

Like Scott Summers and Jean Grey or Clark Kent and Lois Lane, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are an iconic nerd couple. When it was first announced that they were getting married in 1987, mainstream media outlets ran news stories on the event and actors were even hired to cosplay as the Peter and Mary Jane at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York City. Their ceremony was even introduced by Stan Lee, himself, and broadcast on television. This issue features the in-continuity wedding and has effects that ripple through Spider-Man comics into what is currently being published. It may be looking a little far down the line, but this could be where Peter and Mary Jane are headed in upcoming movies.

Photo: Marvel Comics

Everyone gets spider-powers! Everyone gets spider-powers through the powers of bed bugs! It’s a very New York City storyline if there ever was one. Spider-Island really plays on the geography of the hero. NYC is as much a part of who Spider-Man is (and what Marvel Comics is), as the blue-and-red suit. Peter Parker is forced to stare in the face of who and what Spider-Man could have been had the radioactive spider bitten anyone else besides himself. It’s an exercise in self-examination as much as it was an excuse to quickly create a number of new arachnide based foes. Fun fact: among those lucky New Yorkers who got to play at being Spider-Man was none other than Mary Jane Watson … who wouldn’t like to see Zendaya get a crack at webslinging?

Photo: Marvel Comics

Venom! This issue isn’t the debut of Venom, but it is an anniversary issue and it examines how profound an effect Spider-Man actions can have on Peter Parker’s personal life. The issue takes place in the aftermath of Spider-Man being directly responsible for bringing the Venom symbiote to Earth. Not only has the symbiote attacked Mary Jane and forced Peter to face his responsibility for the attack, but it also leads directly to Venom bonding with Eddie Brock and birthing a foe that will terrorize both Peter Parker and Spider-Man for the foreseeable future. Amazing Spider-Man #300 allows readers to examine the scale of mistakes that Spider-Man can cause and how Peter Parker must learn to deal with it.

Photo: Marvel Comics

Whether you’re pro-MJ or pro-Gwen, as in the pages of Spider-Man: Blue, it’s difficult to deny the effect that Gwen Stacy has had on Peter Parker’s life. This two-issue storyline will not only illustrate to fans how the circle of Peter Parker’s family extends well beyond his blood relatives, but how his most heinous villains will stop at nothing to draw him out. The Green Goblin earns a big part of his iconic status from the truly sinister plan that unfolds in these pages. Even if you are familiar with the basics of this storyline from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, you owe it to yourself to seek out the original source material. 

Photo: Marvel Comics

Sometimes it’s tough to be a superhero. Especially a teenage superhero. Especially in New York City when you are surrounded by a bunch of other amazing superheroes. This story deals with the complicated question of how superheroes should be rewarded. Does Peter require adulation in order to keep saving lives or is the deed a reward in itself? The original storyline deals with the rise of The Kingpin in New York City and whether or not Peter Parker is going to remain complacent amidst the madness that ensues. While the Kingpin seems unlikely to make it to the big screen in a Spider-Man movie, this conundrum would make for some compelling soul-searching in the MCU’s Spider-Man’s near future.

Photo: Marvel Comics

This is another wonderful collection to pick up if you need a refresher course in Spider-Man before heading out to the cinema. It’s an edgier incarnation of Spider-Man than you might be familiar with some “Amazing” or “Spectacular” titles and pits Spidey against updated versions of his most recognizable class of bad guys. It shows you just how far Peter Parker is willing to go when someone kidnaps his Aunt May, and with the prominence of Marisa Tomei’s version of the character, this could make for a compelling reading assignment. Plus, it definitely has the power to rehab Electro if you are still sour on the character from the last time he was on the big screen.

Photo: Marvel Comics

The Ultimate Universe was created to explore what the Marvel Comics Universe would have been like if it had been created in 2000. Accordingly, teenaged Peter Parker has a very different career as Spider-Man here than he enjoyed in his mainstream incarnation. He doesn’t get a happy ending, but he gets to achieve his goal. Ultimate Peter Parker messes up worse than you might imagine, encounters even scarier versions of villains whose names you are absolutely familiar with and winds up making the ultimate sacrifice (pun not intended). Most of what fans love about the Marvel Cinematic Universe derives from the Ultimate Comics Universe, so for the best look at what the future of their Spidey franchise might be, Ultimate Spider-Man: Volume 1 is the place to begin.

Photo: Marvel Comics
Top Photo: Marvel Comics