warning: This article contains Major spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home and Marvel’s Spider-Man! Make sure you check out IGN review of the new Spider-Man movie.
If the recent Spider-Man movies have taught us anything, it’s that Peter Parker is just one thread in the vast web and that’s the Spider-Verse. There are no two identical versions of Spider-Man, but as Spider-Man: No Way Home has shown us, many of them have experienced similar tragedies and failures over the course of their careers. Tragedies such as the death of Aunt May.
Much like in No Way Home, this frustrating plot has its origins in Marvel’s Spider-Man comic books. Let’s take a closer look at how the comics dealt with Aunt May’s death, and how that death has been reimagined in other branches of Spider-Verse.
Aunt May dies in Spider-Man comics
The classic comic book version of May Parker is portrayed as being slightly older than the MCU version, and it often seems as if the chronically ill Mayo was near death’s door for most of Peter Parker’s adult life. Fate finally catches up with May in 1995’s The Amazing Spider-Man #400.
Having recently had a stroke in an earlier issue, May’s condition worsens in this chapter. However, she is on hold long enough to receive the good news that Peter and MJ are expecting a baby. She might also reveal that for years she’s known her nephew is Spider-Man and she’s proud of him. Coming clean, she finally succumbs to her illness and dies, which leads to a crying funeral scene.
This issue was published at the height of Marvel’s popular Clone Saga crossover, although it’s much more appreciated by fans in general than the rest of that story. The clone of Peter Penn Riley also plays a large part in this story and mourns Mae’s death as deeply as Peter himself. Compared to the movie No Way Home that made Mayo the victim of Norman Osborne’s feud with Spider-Man, it is interesting to note that this death is caused by purely natural causes.
How was the aunt revived?
If you’ve read more contemporary Spider-Man comics, you’ve probably noticed that May is alive and well again. It turns out that she’s not immune to the revolving door of death and resurrection that affects nearly every popular Marvel character.
As the increasingly complex Clone Saga came to an end in the late 1990s, Marvel introduced a number of plot twists that effectively undo the biggest developments from earlier in the crossover. After temporarily handing the mantle of Spider-Man to Ben Riley, Peter discovers that he was the original after all. Peter and MJ’s baby is softly written out of the picture. May may rejoin the Spider-Man supporting cast after it is revealed that she has been kidnapped by Norman Osborne and replaced with a prankster.
Somehow, Mae has kept no memory of that ordeal, and it turns out that the real Mae never knew Peter was Spider-Man. However, she later finds out the truth when she steps on a badly injured Peter in his sleep from his fight with Morlon. This leads to an uncomfortable conversation between the two, with Peter forced to apologize for hiding the truth from May all that time.
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