Symbiote Spider-Man #2, set immediately after Peter Parker returns from Battleworld with the alien symbiote costume as seen in Secret Wars, reveals a never-before-seen Spider-Man foe: Hardrock, a super-strong mutant recruited by Mysterio, who was earlier inadvertently pushed back into a life of supervillainy by his wall-crawling archfoe.
On a movie set, beefy Alan Jennings is berated by a director for breaking the nose of a lead actor. Despite being the “best stuntman in the business,” Jenkins is fired on the spot.
In his trailer, he’s confronted by Mysterio, secretly former movie special effects guru Quentin Beck. Jennings is unimpressed, confusing the costumed supervillain with wrestler Rey Mysterio. Mysterio conjures vicious creatures when exhibiting his “powers,” but Jennings is unfazed.
Jennings recants when Mysterio flashes a thick wad of cash, offering a well-paying job. Mysterio says Jennings’ skin is nigh impenetrable and he boasts superhuman speed and strength. Unbeknownst to Jennings, he’s a mutant, but denies he’s “some freak.”
Mysterio calls Jennings a creation of nature and sicks him on Spider-Man, who is “most definitely a freak.” The simple Jennings reports being called a freak in high school, but he “always made them regret it.” Mysterio manipulates Jennings further, telling him Spider-Man is obviously a bully out of costume.
As the black-suited Spider-Man swings around the city on patrol, he laments being on the outs with his Aunt May, who isn’t speaking to him over his decision to drop out of college. He spots the familiar green smoke of Mysterio, but his Spider-Sense going undisturbed clues Spider-Man into realizing it’s an illusion.
Spider-Man is aware he’s following Mysterio into a trap, but he wants to apologize for manhandling the fishbowl helmet-wearing criminal who claims to have suffered the death of his sister. The dead woman is in reality Audrey Henning, an innocent bank teller accidentally shot dead by a security guard during Mysterio’s botched bank robbery in the preceding issue.
Mysterio summons “Hardrock,” who asks incredulously, “You really want me to go by that stupid name?”
As Spider-Man calls for a five-minute truce with Mysterio, he’s caught off guard by Hardrock’s superpowered fist. Hardrock leaps into action, suited up in a black domino mask and a matching all-black outfit. The bald-headed brawler declares the attack a “paid gig,” calling Spider-Man’s impending doom “nothing personal.”
Spider-Man retaliates with a punch and recoils in pain, describing the blow as hitting a brick wall — or the metal-skinned mutant Colossus. A subsequent beating leaves Spider-Man dismayed: he’s beaten Doctor Octopus, Kraven the Hunter, and Electro. “This nobody can’t be the one who takes me down,” Spidey thinks, his suit conjuring a web that slips off Hardrock’s chest like a slippery bowling lane.
Hardrock says his clothing has been specially treated, rendering Spider-Man’s webs useless. “But my hits always stick,” Hardrock says, kicking Spider-Man in the head with his size 15 boot.
Spider-Man lays helpless at his feet. “So this was the amazing Spider-Man. Not so amazing, as it turns out,” Hardrock says as he levels a gun pointblank at the crumpled superhero.
“Still, I guess it doesn’t matter who he is,” Hardrock says. “A bullet to the brain should be all I need.”
As he presses the gun into Spider-Man’s temple, his alien suit stirs to life. The inky substance overtakes a terrified and confused Hardrock, who cries too Mysterio for help. But the supervillain can only helplessly watch on in horror.
The symbiotic infiltrates Hardrock’s mouth, invading his body. He chokes as night black goop leaks from his eyes, ears, and nose. Then, like an overstuffed water balloon, he expands — and pops with a horrific splat. The outcome is so grotesque a repulsed Mysterio vomits in his helmet.
The surveillance station used by Mysterio to watch his exclusive pay-per-view of Spider-Man versus Hardrock is abandoned just as Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, batters down its door. On a rooftop, Mysterio is still revulsed. Recovering from the gruesome aftermath, Mysterio asks himself aloud, “What the hell was that thing?”
The unmasked Quentin is met by Johnny Ohnn, his old college roommate now in Fisk’s employ. Quentin asks his old friend not to alert his boss, who “treasures power above everything.”
“And I’ve seen something, Jonathan. Something that could provide him incredible power,” Beck says. “And with your help, I can capture it.”0comments
With an intrigued smile, Johnny says, “Tell me more.”
Next issue, Kingpin and Electro join the fray as a certain bad luck-inducing prowler gets in on the action.