Any comics fan knows Spider-Man isn’t the most beloved hero in the Marvel Universe, often despised thanks to the Daily Bugle‘s campaign of hate against the Wall-Crawler, but one of Spidey’s biggest detractors is his fellow creepy-crawly hero the Wasp. A founding Avenger, Janet van Dyne has gone on to lead the team and work with every hero under the son, including her ex-husband’s daughter, Nadia Pym, with whom she now shares her superhero name. Nadia and Janet have a fantastic relationship rooted in their heroic instincts, ambition to improve the world, and – it turns out – shared loathing of Spider-Man.
Created by Mark Waid and Alan Davis for the All-New, All-Different Avengers, Nadia is the child of Hank Pym and his first wife Maria Trovaya. When her mother was kidnapped and killed, Nadia was taken and raised by the Red Room, who hoped to manipulate Nadia’s aptitude for science for villainous ends. Nadia eventually escaped and came to America, where she learned her absent father had been killed by Ultron, never having known of her existence. Nadia built her own Wasp costume and sought the approval of her father’s compatriots in the Avengers. Her intelligence balanced by her naivety and desire to do good made her an ideal Avenger, and she steadily grew closer to her stepmother and other Marvel heroes… with one exception.
Nadia was among the team for Mark Waid and Mike del Mundo’s 2016 Avengers, which saw her working alongside Captain America, Thor, Vision, Hercules and Spider-Man. In issue #1, Peter’s successful business Parker Industries allows him to offer to officially fund the team and provide a new headquarters, but he faces some heated criticism from Nadia over his connection to his web-head “bodyguard.” When Spider-Man is later in the same room as Nadia, her abrupt disappearance follows an observation by Thor that he appears to be the only person who irritates the otherwise sunny hero. Following the events of Secret Empire, which include the foreclosure of Parker Industries, Peter ends up in a situation only he could contrive – being present as Spider-Man while the team bash his civilian identity – and the Wasp is his harshest critic, unaware of Spider-Man’s real identity or that he tanked his own company to prevent it from falling into the hands of a supervillain.
The two heroes are later paired together, and Spidey can’t help but try to understand the reason behind the tension. While Spider-Man seems incapable of not taking Nadia’s dislike of him personally, he remembers that Nadia’s predecessor Janet also had an issue with him, citing a natural antagonism between wasps and spiders that he complains doesn’t even exist. Happily, the two bond soon after, discovering a mutual love of science that finally thaws the ice. But why did Nadia hate Spider-Man so instinctively, both in and out of costume?
In Amazing Spider-Man #46 by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr., Spider-Man faced Shathra, a wasp-like entity from the Astral Plane who sensed Peter as an animal totem and pursued him as his natural predator. Pete ultimately defeated Shathra, but given that the series focused on the mystical significance of animal totems, it’s possible that Janet was right all along, and the struggle Spider-Man faced with both Wasps was more about magic than science.
Whether Nadia’s hatred of Spider-Man was eldritch in nature or not, the pair were ultimately able to work together, and the Wasp overcame the same hurdle as Janet van Dyne, pushing aside their symbolic differences in pursuit of the greater good. In a running gag that added some much-needed texture to the team, Nadia’s optimism was tempered with some irritability, while Peter got to freak out for an entirely new reason. The two haven’t worked together much since, but Spider-Man has only grown more connected to his animal totem, so it’s possible he and either Wasp may eventually be in for an adventure that reveals the dark heart of their rocky relationship.