Not even necessarily Peter Parker, as Ben Reilly holds a special place in my heart. Migeul O'Hara is pretty awesome, and from what little I've read of Miles Morales he seems cool too. It's the attitude they all have. The thing that makes a Spider-Man, Spider-Man. The 'won't back down no matter how bad things look', the guilt that tends to drive them onwards. Batman is driven to not let anyone else die, but to me Spider-Man's drive to right a wrong is far more heroic. The fact he did a long time ago but can't accept that makes it all the better.
For years I've held Ben Reilly's first time as Scarlet Spider, where he confronts Venom unable to believe Peter hasn't done anything yet, as the ultimate Spidey moment. Ben, believing himself to be a lesser person, believing he's not a hero, and not worthy of anything, all because he's a clone, completely destroys Venom and proves the exact opposite of what he believe. For me that is Spider-Man in a nutshell.
However, recently I've had a close second. See, my Spider reading has been awful until recently. Last time I read Parker properly was when Stracsynski was writing, and I gave up when he revealed Gwen had kids with Osborn. When Brand New Day started I fully intended to pick up trades, but I never got round to it except for the odd one here and there. Then Dan Slott took full control and got even more accolades for his writing and I thought about starting there. Last year I finally set about reading the big stories.
Annoyingly Slott's opener, Big Time, is still on my To Read list. I love when Parker starts using his brains and coming up with scientific solutions for problems, and all the stuff about new costumes sounds perfect. Maybe someday. But I started with New Ways to Die, Return of the Black Cat and Grim Hunt. All part of Brand New Day, but New Ways to Die and Grim Hunt both set up various bits of Spider-Island, which is pretty much why I'm writing this whole thing.
Spider-Island was Dan Slott's big Spider-Man crossover. Jackal, the bad guy from The Clone Saga, teams up with some crazy Spider lady and turns everyone in New York into Spider-people. As in, everyone gets Peter's powers, and things get more and more body horror from that point onwards. It is sort of amazing.
It's finale is the new ultimate Spider-Man moment I mentioned earlier (wait not Ultimate Spider-Man. Small u, meaning the best ever). Throughout the whole thing Madame Web has been telling Peter that he's the one that saves the day. He's the only one capable of killing The Queen aka the big evil Spider Lady. A notion Peter doesn't go for because he refuses to kill.
When it comes to the big throwdown, Peter almost wants to withdraw, feeling his powers make him useless. MJ – who is fighting alongside him with her spider powers – points out that it's not his powers that makes him special. It's everything else. As Pete argues against that he quickly comes up with a plan to cure all New Yorkers of their Spider powers, which is what is giving Queen so much power. So off he goes, Parker's on top of the Empire State Building, using science and spider knowledge to take cure the city in a matter of seconds, and break Queen's powers.
As a result his evil clone goes starting his redemption by destroying the creature behind it all. And when Madam Web says she misread the future as she thought Peter was the one to do it, he points out “You don't get it, do you? I used a move he came up with. A suit he built. In a moment he provided. I just struck a monster down at its weakest. He healed millions in their time of greatest need. It was The Spider-Man who won the day. And there is only one like him.”
After absolutely loving that story, and that moment reminding me of so much of what I love about Spider-Man. I quickly went to follow up on Kaine's own comic as he took over his clone brother's old moniker of Scarlet Spider - much to his chagrin. I really liked this take on Kaine, mainly because the whole basis of the comic is a spin on that earlier example I gave of Ben fighting Venom. See the five years Ben spent on the road, Kaine spent as a killer for hire. The complete opposite of the “Great Power, Great Responsibility” schtick. But after a series of events, including that he's no longer permanently dying and in intense pain, he's on a slightly straighter road. He always says he's not a hero, he's a killer and barely worthy of the Parker name, all while his actions prove exactly the opposite. Christopher Yost also writes him perfectly straddling the grey area an ex-assassin trying to be a hero would walk. He knows certain 'easier' ways to get things done, and he doesn't always resist that temptation. His team-up with Wolverine is a perfect example of Kaine letting rip in a way Peter never could.
But my favourite moment of Kaine vs Peter thinking comes when Kaine nearly dies. He goes into a spider cocoon just like Peter did during The Other story arc. In this cocoon Peter was offered a second chance at life, but there was a drawback that the more animalistic side of Spider would be freed. Peter fought this decision and obviously won out. Kaine also resists. Right up to the point the Spider points out that he needs to save a young girl, right there he figures it's the best way of doing that and gives into the feral side of his powers. This is a battle he's fighting for the rest of the series.
The one area I haven't dived that much into is Superior Spider-Man, which is Doctor Octopus taken over the body of Peter. I read a couple of issues, and his team up with Kaine, and it's an intriguingly different look at Parker and what it takes to be Spider-Man. Of course, this being comics, it's nearly coming to an end and Peter will be back in charge. Which is at it should be. But Ock's time as Spider-Man that reinforces that.
But all of these are exactly why I love the Spider-Men. All of them just won't quit, yet have this view that they aren't as good as they really are. Doc Ock himself has proved that without the Parker guilt, Spider-Man really can be Superior. But that's not what makes him Amazing, and for that you need Peter Parker. Or a clone.