There are a lot of questions to be asked regarding where Spider-Man will go after the December release of No Way Home. While it’s unknown what the next chapter in Spidey’s cinematic book will be, we do have an answer about where we’ll see him next. According to the recent Disney+ Day event, the future of Spider-Man will be found in his past. Marvel Studios is producing an animated series with the subtitle Freshman Year. It’ll explore the character’s origins in the MCU. The problem is, aside from the likelihood we’ll see yet another iteration of Ben Parker get gunned down in the streets, we know almost nothing about the story’s details. It also opens up the question: who will Spidey face in this prequel series?
The parameters set by the cartoon’s place in the Marvel timeline prevent it from showing Peter Parker going head-to-head with any of his major rogues. Spider-Man: Homecoming was fairly clear in its assertion that Michael Keaton‘s Vulture is the most intimidating villain Parker has faced by that point in his career. Plus, context clues would indicate the web-head hadn’t done anything extravagant enough to be more than a YouTube star before Tony Stark discovers him in Civil War. This would mean that, for the show to have a genuine bad guy looming over our freshly made hero, they would have to be a threat that both exists outside of the public eye and appears low on Peter’s danger scale. As such, it’s the perfect time to introduce Wilson Fisk as his main threat.
The Kingpin has made a profession out of appearing moral. There is arguably no character who has mastered the art of discreet villainy like Fisk, who simultaneously runs New York with an iron fist and an entrepreneurial spirit. Fans are, obviously, no strangers to the character, who reached peak popularity in the last decade with a recurring role on Netflix’s acclaimed Daredevil series. It feels like a return to the screen, big or small, is imminent, with live-action MCU shows like Hawkeye and Echo bringing the criminal underworld back to the forefront of Marvel’s storytelling. If the Kingpin of Crime were to be slipped into either, or both, of these projects, placing him and his infamous gangster land into a story that is set nearly a decade earlier would be a wonderful way to retroactively tie that part of the MCU together.
It would be far less than a stretch if whoever takes out Ben is portrayed as being in the employ of Fisk, whose on-the-low activity happened to cross paths with a newly-powered Peter and his altruistic uncle. From there, a misguided, vengeful, and inexperienced Spider-Man may want to hunt down whoever was responsible for the death of his father figure, much like the first act of 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. However, in this story, Parker’s search would lead him directly into the path of “Mr. Big” and his Enforcers, a group of men with wildly individual and specific skill sets like having quick feet and being large (yes, those Enforcers).
There are enough goons, like the Enforcers who worked for Tombstone in The Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon, that could provide an appropriately difficult combat challenge for an untrained Spidey. They might also be small enough not to garner any headlines for the wallcrawler. Skirmishes with Spider-Man may be chalked up to one of the aforementioned YouTube videos. That way, they could be the prominent threat of Freshman Year before it is inevitably revealed who they work for. This plot point would line up with the original Amazing Spider-Man comics, while still leaving room for creative interpretation.
It should be acknowledged that a member of the Enforcers did appear in Homecoming, played by Logan Marshall-Green as a member of Adrian Toomes’ team and the first person to wield the Shocker gauntlets. However, this version of Jackson Brice has almost nothing in common with his comic namesake Montana. Freshman Year could easily separate those names into two characters. Brice could also be left out of the Enforcers altogether, with another rotating member of their squad taking his place.
Using Kingpin and the Enforcers as antagonists allows for a story that features plenty of Spidey action without ever dipping into “Avengers-level” notoriety. Peter would be able to dig into the mystery of his new opponents and come to terms with a full emotional arc, learning about great power and great responsibility, as well as plant seeds for a connection with the MCU’s underworld without ever actually taking down Kingpin or his empire. The end of the show would fit perfectly into the MCU if it saw the wall-crawler taking down the Enforcers, embracing his newfound heroism, and placing himself on Wilson Fisk’s list of threats for a possible future showdown. All without contradicting anything we’ve seen from the film trilogy so far.