Warning: contains minor spoilers for Captain America #27!
One of the things that sets Spider-Man apart as a hero is his penchant for throwing out jokes while battling with the bad guys – but it turns out this is the friendly neighborhood hero’s way of not accidentally killing his villains. Captain America’s ally Sharon Carter just realized Spidey’s secret while learning to control her own new strength level, apologizing to Steve in Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leonard Kirk’s Captain America #27 that a misjudged joke is because, “I have to keep things light to avoid killing someone. I totally get Spider-Man now.”
There is no doubt that Spider-Man is strong enough to kill someone, which is why he has been pulling his punches while fighting non-powered individuals for quite some time. In The Amazing Spider-Man #619, Mysterio worked his magic and temporarily tricked Spidey into thinking he killed a gangster with a single punch. Spider-Man is shocked not because this was possible, but because he’s had years of experience that tell him how much to pull his punches when fighting normal humans. Thankfully, he is a hero after all, and killing isn’t something he takes lightly. In order to keep himself calm during fights he jokes around and keeps himself laughing in order to keep his blood pressure down and his fists under control.
But it’s not just non-powered people Spider-Man has to pull his punches around. Amazing Spider-Man #700 sees Doctor Octopus in the body of Peter Parker, going up against some of his classic villains. During the fight, he strikes Scorpion’s jaw and accidentally tears it off, thinking, “Never knew this body held so much power. All these years, Parker must have been holding back.” Time and time again, Spider-Man has used his webbing to disarm and tie-up anyone non-powered that he goes up against, and part of the reason why is clearly the danger he poses other people in combat. One misjudged punch could be lethal, and as Sharon observes, the best way to stay in control is to keep things light and airy by throwing out joke after joke.
With great power comes great responsibility, and for Spider-Man one of those responsibilities is keeping people alive, no matter what they have done or how evil they are. In order to not let his temper get the best of him, Peter makes fun of the villains he is fighting, because if he loses it, he could quickly become a lethal hero – something no-one wants, especially Peter Parker.
It’s easy for fans to forget just how strong Spider-Man is, but Captain America #27 offers a fun and timely reminder that Peter’s sense of responsibility is infused into everything he does. While swinging through the air, quipping his heart out may look fun, there’s no moment of a fight where Spider-Man can afford to just let loose, and his sense of humor helps prevent that from happening. The villains of New York may despise Spider-Man for making fun of them as he foils their schemes – little do they know, things could be a whole lot worse.