King in Black brought back Captain Universe, but Spider-Man wielded those powers years ago and used them to soundly defeat several classic villains.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for King in Black #4, by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, Frank Martin, and VC’s Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Eddie Brock, aka Venom, has gained the powers of Captain Universe in the fourth issue of the King in Black event. The symbiote god Knull has a counterpart, the God of Light, who in actuality is the Enigma Force. The cosmic entity has now chosen Venom to be his new champion to counter Knull’s takeover of the Earth.
However, Venom is not the only hero who has gained the powers of Captain Universe. Back in Gerry Conway and Sal Buscema’s Spectacular Spider-Man #158 in 1989, Venom’s former adversary, Peter Parker, gained those powers himself, which led to a series of wild battles and events.
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Spider-Man Becomes Captain Universe
Spider-Man gained the powers of Captain Universe due to a freak accident. In Spectacular Spider-Man #158, Peter Parker assists Dr. Max Lubisch with his newest invention, a machine that can tap into extra-dimensional energy. The machine melts down while the two men are working on it, and Peter’s Spider-Sense grants him enough warning to save Dr. Lubisch, although Spider-Man ends up being bombarded by the cosmic energy.
It turns out that the machine tapped into the Enigma Force, which placed the power of Captain Universe inside Peter’s body. It turns out that this isn’t entirely an accident, as the Enigma Force has a greater goal in granting Peter this immense power.
Earlier in the issue, Peter encountered the Trapster. This was part of the “Acts of Vengeance” crossover event, where Loki convinced a group of major villains to trade the heroes they traditionally fight in an effort to catch them off guard. The Trapster believed he killed Peter, but, in actuality, Spidey pretended to drown and the Trapster didn’t bother to check for a body. By the time the Trapster did find Peter again, Spider-Man had gained his cosmic powers and was able to easily defeat the villain.
So What Did Spider-Man Do With Phenomenal Cosmic Power?
The moment Spider-Man gained the powers of Captain Universe, he essentially painted a target on himself. The entire Acts of Vengeance event became centered around Spider-Man, with all eyes falling on Peter. In David Michelinie and Erik Larsen’s Amazing Spider-Man #327, Magneto, who up until this point was reluctant to become involved in “Acts of Vengeance,” sets out to fight Spider-Man. Ultimately, the fight becomes a learning experience for Spider-Man. He learns he not only has increased physical abilities and control over cosmic energy, but can also fly. Magneto, it appears, believed for awhile that Spider-Man might be a mutant, but due to Spider-Man having way too many powers, scraps his theory.
Dr. Doom, meanwhile, tries to figure out a way he can harness Spider-Man’s cosmic abilities for his own ends, a plot that runs through Spectacular Spider-Man #159-160 and Web of Spider-Man #60-61. Doom throws multiple villains at Spider-Man to test the limits of his abilities, all while creating his own machines to siphon off the power for himself. Ultimately, Doom succeeds at partially drawing out the energy, but is ultimately defeated. Doom’s obsession with Spider-Man essentially tears the entire party of villains apart, resulting in the whole affair crumbling — although Magneto getting revenge on fellow team-mate Red Skull definitely didn’t help Loki’s plan much either.
Arguably, however, one key moment from Spider-Man’s time as Captain Universe comes in Michelinie and Todd McFarlane’s Amazing Spider-Man #328, when Spider-Man is pitted against the Grey Hulk. In one strike, Spider-Man sends the Hulk flying straight into orbit, demonstrating the vast limits of Spidey’s newfound strength.
Spider-Man Loses His Cosmic Powers
Ultimately, the “Acts of Vengeance” event culminated in the villains being beaten, leaving Loki retreating back to Asgard. As he leaves, he enacts one final act of vengeance: the creation of the Tri-Sentinel. Ultimately, it was for this reason that Spider-Man gained the powers of Captain Universe in the first place, to defeat this new threat.
Spider-Man’s tenure as Captain Universe reached it’s conclusion in Michelinie and Larson’s Amazing Spider-Man #329. Dr. Lubisch, under the orders of X-Men villain Sebastian Shaw, confronts Spider-Man with a device designed to strip him of his cosmic power. However, rather than remove the powers, the device unlocks the full cosmic potential. Up until this point, Spider-Man had only used a portion of Captain Universe’s power. But just in time for the Tri-Sentinel, Spider-Man gains it all.
Spider-Man, now donning the iconic Captain Universe uniform, confronted the Tri-Sentinel before he could obliterate an entire nuclear power plant. Shaw realizes the danger the machine poses and tries to help stop it. His attempts to deactivate the Tri-Sentinel buys Spider-Man enough time to harness the mass cosmic power within, and he blasts the machine to pieces. Spider-Man saves the world but is left without his Captain Universe powers in a triumphant end to the saga.
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