Patrick Gleason’s New Spider-Man Villain Design is Excellent

Spider-Man’s classic red, blue, and black costume is hands down one of the perfect examples of superhero design in the genre’s history. A mix of elements you’d expect—two stylized spiders, a webbing pattern on the mask, chest, hands, and boots—and ones that you wouldn’t—the colors—it has endured more or less unchanged for sixty years.

Still, sometimes you just need to shake things up.

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For Ben Reilly, life post the fall of the Beyond Corporation is one such time. After failing to convince Peter Parker, by argument or force, to help him by donning an experimental mind-swapping helmet, Reilly allowed Beyond to literally fall down around his ears. Then, despite his fellow man-in-webs trying to persuade Ben to get out of the wreckage, the former Spider-Man instead opts to be washed over by a psychoactive chemical.

In a cruel joke of fate, Reilly nonetheless survived. The tons of steel and stone that crashed down upon his body his left him shockingly physically unscathed. His psyche his, however, did not fare as well. Seemingly permanently stripped of precious memories and continuing to experience vivid hallucinations of his own facelessness, he is emotionally and psychologically battered. He couldn’t be Spider-Man anymore, even if that’s what he wanted. Thus, enter Chasm!

With the new change comes a new costume. A good outfit can tell you plenty about a character before they even open their mouth. Patrick Gleason’s work on the Chasm’s look does precisely that. It’s an undoubtedly strong piece of design that nods to Spider-Man’s (and Reilly’s) past without simply copying previous efforts.

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To begin with, take a look at the colors. Any Marvel Comics fan, and any Spider-Man fan even more so, can tell you that purple and green in a costume tends to mean that character is bad news. For Spidey, the ur-case is Green Goblin and his various incarnations his. Even the best of them, Ben Urich’s nephew Phil, couldn’t stay on the straight and narrow once he donned those distinct colors.

However, the Chasm’s purple and green are not those classic nearly crayon box shades. Instead, while still not exact, the colors are closers to the purple and green of The Prowler’s costume during the “Clone Conspiracy” storyline. This could be meaningless, or it could point to what sort of space Reilly will take up with his new costume identity his.

Rather than an outright villain like Green Goblin, he may occupy a grayer space. After all, The Prowler started as a criminal and became a hero. However, when he was wearing that version of the costume, he was aiding and abetting New U Technologies and their cloning agenda. Therefore, these colors could speak to Reilly moving from one pole, hero, to another, villain, they could suggest an anti-hero path, or, lastly, they could speak to him being in a conflicted place where he wants to do good but can’t be entirely heroic.

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From there, it’s useful to consider the costume’s most eye-catching design elements. The first of these is the energy trails that seem to be flowing back away from Chasm as if carried by the breeze. It’s a fairly common effect that recalls the bright neon green coloring of DC’s Underworld Unleashed crossover in a more muted fashion. Given that came from the other guys, though, the focus should remain on more “local” elements. Although different in color, the effect mirrors the Spider-Man of 11638’s, the so-called Ghost Spider, too overwhelmed with energy appearance. Like Chasm, Ghost Spider is a character fairly conflicted about his current state of being his.

Chasm’s mask is a unique interpretation of the big white spider eyes of the classic costume. Its use of negative space and trailing lines off the mask does, however, suggest Spider-Man 2099’s first mask as well as the brief Dr. Strange stand-in Paradox and Nightwatch. While the chemical slurry Reilly took a dip in was supposedly scientific in nature, both the energy effect resembling Ghost Spider and the mask suggesting Nightwatch and Paradox may also point towards supernatural elements in Chasm’s future. And once again, Paradox and Nightwatch were both deeply ambivalent about their place in the world.

The emblem on Chasm’s chest places the character still firmly in the Spider-Man camp. While the spider is unique — a look at all Spider-Man’s previous costumes reveals no exact matches — it suggests some desire to still be a part of the “Spider-family” or hold onto some aspect of it. This is further reinforced by Ben still having the wrist gauntlets that every version of both his Scarlet Spider and Spider-Man costumes had.

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Over and over, the design of the costume suggests ambivalence and longing. The use of purple and green but not committing to the outright villain pallet. Still placing a spider emblem on an outfit for a character named “Chasm,” a not especially arachnid-related term. The wrist gauntlets for a character who may not even need webs to get around. The list goes on.

Reilly is also suffering from significant memory gaps, which suggests his subconscious may be in the driver’s seat in part. After all, his closing monologue revolves around him casting off all connections to his past self. However, he dresses in a costume that immediately suggests Spider-Man. And if his subconscious his is capable of doing that, it may also present evidence that those memories remain somewhere within him, even if they ‘re not actively accessible.

In the end, Gleason’s design balances the kind of fear and hope fans should feel toward the character. He’s going through some disastrous developments; it makes sense to both fear for him and be afraid of him. However, the look suggests others shouldn’t just accept that Ben Reilly is a bad man now, one beyond saving, one dedicated to villainy and destruction. There’s still hope for him.

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