- Spider-Boy faces off against his old rogues gallery, including the hulking Hellifino, who has an orgin story similar to that of the young hero.
- Hellifino was once Bailey’s friend Eli, who underwent horrific experiments and was transformed into a monstrous form.
- While Spider-Boy feels responsible for Eli’s villainous turn, there is hope that he can help his former friend regain his humanity.
The following contains spoilers for Spider-Boy #1, on sale now from Marvel Comics.
To say that Bailey Briggs (aka Spider-Boy) has had a rocky start in the Marvel Universe would be a massive understatement. For starters, the entire world literally forgot that he even existed. As bad as that is for Bailey in and of itself, things have become progressively worse, as he begins to follow a particularly heartbreaking trend that has plagued several other heroes who have worn the mantle of Spider-Man.
Spider-Boy #1’s “Solo Run” (by Dan Slott, Paco Medina, Erick Arciniega, and VC’s Joe Caramagna) features the titular hero facing off against members of his old rogues gallery. While the partially indestructible yet otherwise human Gutterball is little more than a nuisance for Spider-Boy, it isn’t long before a far more capable villain makes their own explosive reintroduction. During what should have been a celebratory occasion, Spider-Boy is accosted by the hulking Hellifino who not only shares a near identical origin story with Spider-Boy, but continues a longstanding Spider-Man tradition of heroes watching their closest friends be dragged into darkness.
Who Is Spider-Boy’s Hellifino – And How Are They Connected?
As seen through a flashback sequence, Hellifino was once Bailey’s friend Eli, a fellow captive of the malicious Madame Monstrosity who was subjected to horrific experiments under her watch. Like Bailey, Eli was kidnapped and held captive until it was time for him to undergo the transformative process that led to the creation of Madame Monstrosity’s other Humanimals. Worse still, it was Bailey who inadvertently decided what form Eli would take on, and all for the crime of trying to find some silver lining amidst the abject horror they were being made to endure.
Shortly after his own transformation into Spider-Boy, Bailey and Eli began joking about how much worse things could have been. When Madame Monstrosity overheard the children laughing about the possibility of a Hellifino, a combination of an elephant and rhino, she took that as a sign that such a monstrous form would be perfect for Eli, and with that the boy’s fate was sealed. Thankfully, Bailey is able to get through to Eli on some level during his rampage, preventing any human tragedies from occurring while also ensuring his own chance to safely escape. Although this does give Hellifino a glimmer of hope when it comes to reclaiming his inner humanity, it also puts Bailey in familiar territory with the other Spider-Men of the Marvel Universe.
Spider-Boy Is Following One of Spider-Man’s Most Tragic Tropes
As tragic as it is that Bailey feels responsible for Eli’s villainous turn, he not the first Spider-Hero to experience this kind of tragedy. One of Peter Parker’s earliest and most infamous storylines centered around his best friend Harry Osborn’s descent into darkness. Although Harry’s father Norman operated as the Green Goblin for years, it wasn’t until after the death of the elder Osborn that his son discovered this secret identity. After experiencing a psychotic break, Harry took up his father’s old mantle and embarked on his own career as the Green Goblin in 1974’s Amazing Spider-Man #136 (by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru). Despite being defeated just one issue later, Harry spent years cycling in and out of the Green Goblin costume.
The original Spider-Man is still haunted by this chapter of his life, and his closest successor experienced a similar ordeal with one of his closest family members. In the case of Miles Morales, it was his uncle Aaron Davis, better known as the Prowler, who took a villainous turn. From the moment Aaron realized his nephew was the new Spider-Man, Miles was blackmailed and threatened into doing the Prowler’s bidding. Once Miles decided to stand his ground against his uncle, the ensuing conflict resulted in Aaron’s death. Although the Prowler was returned to life following the events of 2015’s Secret Wars, his death still stands as a devastating bout of deja vu for Spider-Man fans.
Spider-Boy Could Avoid the Losses of His Predecessors
Spider-Boy is now in a position where he has no choice but to fight someone he cares about, just like Peter and Miles before him. However, Bailey has shifted the dynamic between himself and Eli in ways that his predecessors never could. The fact that Eli doesn’t remember Bailey means that he wouldn’t remember the circumstances of his own creation either. This means that any resentment he once had toward Bailey should no longer exist.
Eli’s lack of memory about Bailey ultimately contributes to Hellifino’s decision to let Spider-Boy go. This also suggests that it may not take much convincing for Hellifino to eventually join Bailey as a hero. There might not be any going back from Madame Monstrosity’s experiments, but that doesn’t mean that her victims have to become actual monsters. This also gives Spider-Boy a good chance of overcoming the heartbreaking tragedy that has followed the Spider-Heroes, namely of having to face their closest loved ones as bitter enemies.
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