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Spider-Man's No Kill Rule
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YousufKhan1212
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Spider-Man's No Kill Rule

Spider-Man's No Kill Rule

Part 1:

One of Peter Parker/Spider-Man's core moral principles is that I want to touch upon is that he is a non-lethal crime fighter. He doesn't kill. Many superheroes have a moral code, which is that they are averse to killing. Spider-Man has been very adamant about using non-lethal methods when he formed a temporary truce with Venom and Black Cat:

quote:
Venom: Good. Our strength has returned!

Black Cat: And it's not the only thing, gruesome!


Venom: You! Black Cat! Come to play again...?


Black Cat: Oof! [Venom broke my nose once, almost killed me! But I have to stand my ground!] I don't want you, Venom--I want what you want! I've come to help put Carnage in a body bag!


Venom: Alone?


Spider-Man: No!


Black Cat: Spider!


Spider-Man: Okay, I'm in--but there are the rules: I'm aboard to save lives! If anyone, on either side, tries to kill someone, I'll do whatever it takes to stop them! Got it?

Source ― Maximum Carnage Issue #14.



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quote:
Black Cat: Talk about the nick of time!

Spider-Man:
Just remember what I said about not killing--!


Venom:
Carnage brains! Yum!


Source ― Maximum Carnage Issue #14.


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Spider-Man's non-lethal methods even have an international terrorists reputation amongst terrorists, hence why Flash Thompson was prompted to become the new Venom, rather than a second Spider-Man:

quote:
Flash Thompson: Why can't I be Spider-Man? They're two Hulks, two Caps, why can't there be two--

Aaron MacKenzie: We're sending you after terrorists. We've done psyche profiles. And terrorists aren't afraid of Spider-Man. They know he doesn't kill. Venom, however, will kill ya, eat ya, and come back for seconds.


Source ― The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Issue #654.


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I think a lot of people gloss over this because they typically think of Batman when superheroes and their moral codes are brought up. But Batman is not the only superhero who is averse to killing. Spider-Man is also averse to killing, and I will post some examples of situations that Spider-Man refuses to cross that line when he easily could have gone in for the kill. There are many examples, but I will only pick a few from different continuities. I'll start with one from an elseworld that retells of Spider-Man's origin story:

The Burglar

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OK, I will have to admit that I was not a fan of John Byrne's Spider-Man: Chapter One. It's probably my least favourite version of the classic Spider-Man origin story. I found it to be pretty lame and unnecessary for the most part. But one aspect I do like about it is the way the Byrne wrote this specific moment:

quote:
Burglar: Hey, don't worry, pal! I ain't gonna blow your little TV Star gig! But as long as you're gonna play cat burglar on th' side, you an' me, we could be partners! With your talent and my brains...

Peter: No! No!! I didn't even recognise you, it was all so unimportant to me! You're the one I didn't stop! And now Uncle Ben is dead!! Because of me!!! No... No... Gotta stop. Before I kill him. He's out cold. Probably since my first punch. He didn't hear anything I said. Now... There's only one thing for me to do...

Source ― Spider-Man: Chapter One.


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The way Peter's confrontation with his Uncle's killer goes down differently than in Amazing Fantasy #15, Ultimate Spider-Man Issue #5 and Spider-Man: Season One. In those versions of the classic origin story, Peter incapacitates his Uncle's killer with a punch, and only realises the identity of his Uncle's killer when getting a closer look at his face, who is incapacitated. In this version, it's the reverse; Peter realizes the identity of his Uncle's killer immediately, and then proceeds to beating him up in a fit of rage and grief. But Peter eventually restrains himself, realizing that he needs to stop, otherwise he'll end up killing him. Bear in mind that this is the man who killed Uncle Ben. Peter already knows who is, and even when he gives him a beating in a fit of unbridled rage, Peter demonstrates a moral compass that's strong enough to stop himself from killing the man who murdered Uncle Ben.

Now I am going to start picking examples from the mainstream Earth 616 universe:


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Part 2:

The Green Goblin

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The Night Gwen Stacy Died is a really awesome story, it's one of the most iconic and famous Spider-Man stories of all time. One of the reasons why I like it so much is because we get to see Spider-Man on the edge, driven by pure anger and rage. Spider-Man is tempted to seek revenge on the Green Goblin for murdering Gwen Stacy:

quote:
Spider-Man: --I'm easily the most verstaile! Who else could save a falling girl from certain dea- Gwen? Hey kid--what's wrong? Don't you understand? I saved you--you can't be-No! Oh no, no, no--Don't be dead, Gwen--I don't want you to be dead! I saved you, honey... Don't you see? I saved you...

Green Goblin: ROMANTIC IDIOT! She was dead before your webbing reached her! A fall from that height would kill anyone--before they struck the ground! But for you, my friend--death will come much more quickly and more surely tan the shock of a sudden fall!

Spider-Man: Wrong Goblin!YOU'RE THE CREEP WHO'S GOING TO PAY! I'm going to get you, Goblin! I'm going to destroy you slowly--and when you start begging me to end it--I'm going to remind you of one thing--YOU KILLED THE WOMAN I LOVE--AND FOR THAT, YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!

Source ― The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Issue #121.

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quote:
Green Goblin: Heads up, wall crawler! First, I finished off Gwen Stacy--and now--it's your turn!

Spider-Man:
WRONG GOBLIN! YOU MURDERED THE ONLY GIRL I'LL EVER LOVE--AND TODAY'S THE DAY YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!!


Source ― The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Issue #122.

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quote:
Green Goblin: She's dead Spider-Man... The woman you love is dead! There's nothing you--or any other costumed interloper can do to revive her! But don't worry, my fine foe-- you'll not be long apart--! Soon you shall join her--BEYOND DEATH!

Spider-Man: I wouldn't bet on it, Goblin. Only one man's going to die this day--and, mister, it won't be me! Or maybe you've already forgotten... You killed Gwen Stacy! She didn't just die--YOU KILLED HER! Maybe you think she deserved it, because she was stupid enough to love a guy named Peter Parker--and he was stupid enough to love her back. Maybe you think that makes it okay--fair in love and war--but for me, that just makes you guilty--AND FOR IT--YOU'RE GOING TO PAY!


Green Goblin: Imbecile! Your moral standards do not impress me!--Any more than do your pitiful attempts to capture--eh?


Spider-Man: Keep talking, Goblin. I want you to remember just as you are: Arrogant--elitist--merciless--with all the ethics of a weasel--a weasel caught in a fatal trap--A WEASEL WHO'S ABOUT TO BE DESTROYED!


Green Goblin: No--!


Spider-Man: "No"? What's that? Do I hear you begging, Goblin? Don't make me sick, friend--why should I show you any mercy? What mercy did you show Gwen? Answer me that, Green Goblin--ANSWER ME THAT! ANSWER ME, BLAST YOU! ANSWER ME!


Green Goblin: I'm afraid I don't need to, Parker! The question seems academic now--don't you agree?


Source ― The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Issue #122.

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But Spider-Man is unable to maintain his hold over the Green Goblin because of the impracticality and limited freedom in aerial fights, and the Green Goblin gets away. But Spider-Man catches up later:

quote:
Green Goblin: No doubt my wall crawling foe expects to ambush me. If so, he's a greater fool than I've imagined! For, while he guards the front--I shall exist through the rear--AND TAKE HIM FROM THE SIDE!

Spider-Man: WRONG GOBLIN! TONIGHT IT'S MY GAME--AND WE PLAY MY RULES!


Green Goblin: Not quite, my imprudent friend. The Green Goblin's weapons are many--all you have are those puny web shooters--


Spider-Man: --And one heck of a lot of chutzpan--and an anger that just won't quit!


Green Goblin: My jet-flyer! You unthinking fool--you've ruined it! You'll pay for that action, Parker--I PROMISE YOU, YOU'LL PAY!


Spider-Man: Mister, are we living in the same universe? You killed my woman, Goblin--AND YOU'RE RAGING ABOUT A BLASTED BARGAIN-BASEMENT TOY? Let's get our priorities straight, punk! There's a big difference between a fancy gimmick--and a human life!


Green Goblin: Life? You talk to me of life? What is there in that paltry existence of one useless female? A simpering, pointless girl who never did more than occupy space--while I--


Spider-Man: THAT'S IT, BUSTER! THAT IS IT!


Source ― The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Issue #122.

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Norman mocks Peter for his feelings of loss and grief over Gwen's death, who Norman belittles, perceiving Gwen as a worthless waste of life, asking "What is there in that paltry existence of one useless female" and calling Gwen "a simpering, pointless girl who never did more than occupy space" as a response to Peter's grief stricken rage, which only serves to enrage Peter even more:

quote:
Peter: You're talking about my lady, creep! Someone I loved--I mean loved--! Do you know what that means? HAVE YOU ANY IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS?? I LOVED HER, GOBLIN!! AND YOU--!YOU--TOOK--HER--AWAY! FILTHY--WORM EATING--SCUM! [...] Good lord... What in the name of heaven am I doing! In another moment I might have killed him! I would become like him-- a-a murderer!

Narrator: And, as Spider-Man drops back, disgusted with the violence that nearly consumed him-- he is unaware of the reappearance of old violence-- in the deadly form of the Goblin's remote controlled flyer!

Source ― The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Issue #122.

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Part 3:

Peter beats the crap out of Norman whilst screaming and hounding him at the same time, but stops, realizing that he could wnd up killing Norman if he continued beating him up for just another moment. Peter expresses remorse and disgust with himself, thinking that killing Norman would make him a murderer just like Norman, as the narrator expands upon this by saying Peter "drops back, disgusted with the violence that nearly consumed him" whilst Norman takes the opportunity to recuperate:

quote:
Source ― The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Issue #122.


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Peter says that he thought seeing Norman die would make him feel better about Gwen's death, that it would "mean more" and that "it should mean something" and that "It's got to have a point." But instead of that, it just made him feel empty, washed out, and maybe slightly more alone. Keep in mind that in this story, Peter had literally just witnessed Norman Osborn murder his Gwen Stacy, the first woman Peter had ever truly loved, and he failed to save Gwen.That is one of Spider-Man's most iconic failures. It's arguably his greatest failure. His powers weren't enough to prevent Gwen from being kidnapped. His powers weren't enough to save her. And Norman just laughed at Peter's loss and grief, showing no remorse, but mockery and contempt. So even when Peter had the chance to avenge Gwen and go over the edge by ending Norman once and for all, he stops. Peter refuses to cross that line, otherwise he would be a murderer just like Norman. He'd be no better than Norman in that regard. And when Norman died, it didn't make Peter feel any better, it just made him feel worse. Peter reflects on this in ASM #177:

quote:
Peter[internal thoughts]: Why are the sins of the father always revisited on the son? Despite everything that's happened... Despite all he's done... This really isn't poor Harry's fault! If anyone is to blame, it's Norman Osborn--Harry's father! And then, it wasn't really his fault either! It was an accidental chemical explosion which caused Osborn's brain damage... And transformed him into the Green Goblin--the only foe who knows my secret identity! We battled repeatedly, until that fateful day atop the George Washington bridge--when the Goblin murdered Gwen Stacy, the girl I loved! I went after the Goblin then, aching for revenge--but when Norman died as a result of his own actions... I found just how hollow vengeance can be! Unfortunately, his father's death totally unhinged Harry's already unstable mind--and he became the new Green Goblin, carrying on in his old man's footsteps... Until I finally defeated him, and the authorities carried him away... Raving like the lunatic he had become!

Source ― The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Issue #177.


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Peter says that he was "aching for revenge" when going after Norman, but "found how hollow vengeance can be" when Norman "died" as a result of his actions. Even as flawed human being, Peter's moral compass was strong enough to prevent him from actually giving into his vengeful desire to kill the Green Goblin. Spider-Man isn't about revenge. He's not the Punisher. Now I will move onto more examples from the 616 comics:

Venom

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Venom doesn't any introduction, but what I will say about this instance is that it's Spider-Man and Venom's first encounter. Venom initially has the upper hand due to having all of Spider-Man's powers but to a greater degree, so Spider-Man had to rely on using his wits to outsmart Venom. Spider-Man manages to outsmart Venom and has the opportunity to use his sonic blaster to end Venom, but there's a problem:

quote:
Spider-Man [internal thoughts]: I don't get it! When Mr. Fantastic used the blaster on me, the Symbiote was driven away! But it's only pulling away from Brock! Why isn't it detaching? Unless--it can't? It must have completely bonded with his body! That's why he isn't triggering my Spider-Sense! The Alien never tripped it--and now he is the Alien! Which means that if I kill it... I'll kill Brock! Don't know if I could take a human life even to save my own! And after the beating I took, I don't have much life left! I'd better regroup, think up a new plan--!

Venom [internal thoughts]: Leaving? Uh-uh!


Spider-Man: Whu--?!?


Venom: Night night.


Source ― The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Issue #300.


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Spider-Man realises that the Alien Symbiote has completely bonded with Eddie Brock's body, meaning that Brock and the Symbiote have become one and the same in the form of Venom. Spider-Man muses that if he uses the sonic blaster to kill the Symbiote, he'll also end up killing Brock. Exhausted and unwilling to cross that line, Spider-Man leaves the battle, saying that he doesn't know if he can take a human life to even save his own life, so he leaves to regroup and think of a new plan. Unfortunately for Spider-Man, his refusal to kill Venom inadvertently gives Venom the opportunity to recuperate and stop Spider-Man from escaping, regaining the upperhand and incapacitating Spider-Man. Spider-Man's no kill rule ended up costing him a victory in this instance when you think about it, if he killed Venom, both the Symbiote and Brock would have died, and not only would there be no more Venom (assuming he doesn't get brought back to life), there wouldn't even be a Carnage or any other Symbiotes. But the fact that Spider-Man refused to cross that line is still consistent with his morals, and he can't predict the future.

Granted, this does suggest that Spider-Man's no kill rule doesn't apply to Aliens because he refuses to kill the Symbiote because he's worried he'll also end up killing Brock, meaning that he is actually willing to kill the Symbiote as long as he doesn't kill Brock at the same time, and Peter also says that he doesn't know if he "could take a human life even to save" his own life. Note that Spider-Man says he doesn't know if he has it in him to take a human life, not just any life. As a matter of fact, Spider-Man has explicitly stated and confirmed that he has tried to kill the Symbiote before:

quote:
Spider-Man [internal thoughts]: I think I'm in trouble *OONF* The Alien wasn't really killed by those bells! Must've just dissipated out of pain! Or... Rejection! Probably sensed Brock's desire to kill me, and thought that was a good idea--since I tried to kill it! AGH! Still don't know why Venom's not triggering my Spider-Sense, though! And I'm paying for that ignorance in pain! He's got all of my powers, and more muscle! All I've got is experience! Have to use strategy! Call on my cunning to get him over to the blaster!

Source ― The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Issue #300.

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Spider-Man says that he has tried to kill the Symbiote, showing that his no kill rule doesn't necessarily apply to Aliens, but this case is honestly an an outlier. Taking a human life is a much harder choice because human beings are very complex life forms. The Symbiote isn't really that complex; it's just an Alien goo that thinks and requires a symbiotic relationship with a host in order to survive. Although the Symbiote was a sentient life form, in nature it's a parasite, much like bacteria. Spider-Man tried to kill it because it was an adrenaline junkie that tried to permanently bond itself to Spider-Man's body, Spider-Man couldn't stand the thought of being bonded with another life form for the rest of his life.

Now I'm going to move onto another example from the earth 616 universe:


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Part 4:

Carnage

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Carnage doesn't need any introduction here, but what I will say about this instance is that it occurs in the Maximum Carnage, a story arc that Cletus Kasady AKA Carnage goes on a rampage with other homicidal supervillains. They absolutely ravage New York and spread lots of blood shed to the point Spider-Man has to team up with various other superheroes and even anti-heroes/villains to save New York from Carnage and his contemporaries. Towards the end of the story, Spider-Man and Venom have a 2v1 against Carnage, but Spider-Man doesn't agree with Venom's methods of achieving victory over Carnage:

quote:
Spider-Man: BACK OFF VENOM! Too many people have already died! One more won't solve anything! You know all about the sick childhood Kasady endured--the abuse he suffered--is it any wonder he turned out like he did?! He never had a chance! In his own fashion, he just may be the most innocent of all! The time has finally come for you to put your personal demons to rest, Brock... To bury your ghosts in the past... And begin the healing process!

Source ― Maximum Carnage Issue #14.

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Venom gains the opportunity to end Carnage once and for all and seizes that opportunity to inflict lethal harm, but Spider-Man stops Venom from killing Carnage. Spider-Man explains his reasons, saying that "Too many people have already died!" and that "One more won't save anything!" and brings up Cletus Kasady's bad childhood, believing that he never had a chance and that it's no wonder he turned into a homicidal serial killer. Spider-Man also exclaims that Kasady "may just be the most innocent of all!" due to his bad childhood. Spider-Man also tries to appeal to Brock's humanity by demanding him to put his "personal demons to rest" and bury his ghosts in the past to "begin the healing process!"

Unfortunately for Spider-Man, Carnage is not convinced by Spider-Man's pleas, and attempts to kill him:

quote:
Carnage: Nice speech, webster! But even I didn't buy it! That psycho-babble is good for the occasional plea bargain, but it bears little relation to reality! I am... Therefore I kill! 'Nuff said--?!

Spider-Man [internal thoughts]: Of all the stupid, careless--whoa! Look where I landed! I knew this place was familiar! Did Carnage throw me here deliberately--or was it just a coincidence?! Maybe I should listen to my own afvice, and bury my ghosts... If I ever get the chance!


Carnage: SAYONARA, SPIDEY! I can't let Venom take me down without one for the road--and guess who's the fall guy?


Source ― Maximum Carnage Issue #14.

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But Spider-Man is luckily saved by an unexpected ally:

quote:
Source ― Maximum Carnage Issue #14.

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You can read or re-read the rest of the story yourself, but this instance speaks volumes about Spider-Man's empathy and compassion, but also his idealistic views. Spider-Man refuses to allow Venom to kill Kasady because he thinks that here has already been too much death in the crisis that Carnage has recently put them through, and killing Kasady won't solve it. Spider-Man also shows sympathy towards Kasady because of his terrible childhood, and even pleads with Venom to put his personal inner demons to rest and bury his ghosts in the past to begin his healing journey. But Spider-Man's pleas demonstrably fail because they're too idealistic and Kasady himself points it out, saying that he didn't buy it and that Spider-Man's "psycho-babble is good for the occasional plea bargain, but it bears little relation to reality!" which is sadly true in this instance. Spider-Man's aversion to killing and idealistic views nearly costed his life. And the root source of Spider-Man's idealist views are the teachings and moral values of Uncle Ben and Aunt May, who taught him to see the good in everyone and have faith in people.

quote:
Spider-Man [internal thoughts]: No! I refuse to accept that! I've weathered a lot of hard times... Been face to face with my own fair share of devils--and I've managed to stay true to Uncle Ben's faith in people! Sure, there are some really twisted souls out there--the Kravens and Dock Ocks and Venoms--but the average people I've dedicated my life to protecting--the Aunt Mays and Uncle Bens of the world--have never let me--DOWN?!?!

Source ― Maximum Carnage Issue #14.

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And last, but certaintly not least, I'm going to move onto another example from a Marvel/DC Comics crossover...


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Old Post Jan 12th, 2021 01:46 PM
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Part 5:

The Joker

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I saved this example for the last because even though it's from a Marvel/DC comics crossover, it's the best example in my opinion because anyone who knows the Joker should how evil and homicidal this guy is. Spider-Man and Batman: Disordered Minds is the first crossover between Batman and Spider-Man. I won't go into much detail about what happens in the story, but Spider-Man and Batman team up to fight Carnage and the Joker. This story was published in 1995, written by J. M. DeMatteis, who has authored many Batman and Spider-Man comics. The story itself features the Earth 616 versions of Spider-Man and Carnage, and the Post Crisis versions of Batman and the Joker. So even though it takes place outside of the mainstream Marvel and DC universes on account of being a crossover, it's supposed to be an accurate representation of how these characters would interact with each other if they met. Towards the end of the story, Spider-Man has a confrontation with the Joker, and it starts like this:

quote:
Joker: Run away... Run away... Kill again another--day..?! A spider signal?! I hope Commisioner Gordon doesn't hear about this!

Spider-Man: YOU!


Source ― Spider-Man and Batman: Disordered Minds.


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Spider-Man's confrontation with the Joker goes like this:

quote:
Spider-Man: You spit on everything that's decent in this world!

Joker: But of course!


Spider-Man: You murder hope! You trample goodness! You suck it all down into the chaos!


Joker: We aim t'please!


Spider-Man: The only way to stop a sneering animal like you -- IS TO KILL YOU!


Joker: Then go ahead-- do it! It'll be hilarious, don't you think? A goody two-shoes like you -- murdering a stinker like? Come one, I dare you! I double dare you! HAHAHAHAHA


Spider-Man: What am I doing? Dear god-- what am I doing?


Joker: Too bad. I thought he had the makings of a decent lunatic! Ah well-- once I unleash my vi-- Rus--


Spider-Man: Sorry, Joker -- I could never you... Or anyone. You see, I've got an example to live up to. A faith I'll never betray. That may not be very funny--but it's true.

Source ― Spider-Man and Batman: Disordered Minds.


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When Spider-Man confronts the Joker, he is tempted to kill Joker and even threatens to kill him, knowing fully well how evil Joker is, saying that he murders hope, tramples goodness, sucking it all down into chaos. Spider-Man declares to the Joker that the only way to stop "a sneering animal" like him... Is to kill him. Joker however, isn't even afraid of Spider-Man, but actually encourages Spider-Man to give into his darker impulses, finding that the prospect of a "goody two-shoes" like Spider-Man murdering "a stinker like" the Joker is hilarious. But Spider-Man change of heart and calms down, realizing how violent and vindictive it would be to kill the Joker. Joker appears to express slight disappointment, but shrugs it off because he has other plans, but before he can finish talking, Spider-Man incapacitates Joker with a punch. Spider-Man talks to the incapacitated Joker, saying that he could never bring himself to kill Joker and anyone else for that matter because he has "an example to live up to." A faith he'll never betray. This is likely a reference to Uncle Ben and the moral values he instilled in Peter's worldview, as well as the lesson of Power and Responsibility that he learned from Uncle Ben's death, which may not be funny to the Joker, but it's true. It's true because Uncle Ben's ideals and death are what motivated Peter to become Spider-Man in the first place. Uncle Ben's ideals and death are what make Spider-Man the hero he is.

Granted, the story doesn't make it clear whether Peter knows the full history of the Joker's atrocities, but I would assume he has a hunch. But regardless of what Peter knows or doesn't know about the Joker, it's still a great moment to the reader when you take into consideration of what the Joker has done. This guy crippled Barbara Gordon (The Killing Joke), murdered Jason Todd (A Death in the Family), murdered Sarah Essen (No Man's Land) and has done many other terrible things. So the fact that Spider-Man demonstrated a strong moral compass to overcome the urge to kill the Joker is a really great moment. I'm not sure if this has actually been confirmed in any Spider-Man story, but I belive that the reason why Peter has a moral code is because he thinks Uncle Ben would be ashamed of him if he became a killer. It just seems like the sort of thing he would believe in, considering how his career as a superhero is driven by living up to his Uncle's ideals and death.

Closing Statements:

Wel, I think that's enough examples of Spider-Man's no kill rule being illustrated as an integral element to his character as a whole. Hope it was worth reading. Good day.


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