Nearly one week after one of the biggest online fan events of the year, the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer continues to be the focus of the comic book movie world and looks to continue the trend until the end of 2021. Factoring into this Avengers-level hype is speculation surrounding Doctor Strange, returning villains, and even potential comebacks for other Spider-Men
While so many cameos, guest appearances, and multiversal implications are cause for anticipation, real Spidey-fans know that a Peter Parker story is nothing without its side characters.
From the panels of comics dating back to the 60's to every live-action adaptation since, the people closest to Peter have always been a staple of the franchise. There is always a dependable best friend, a nurturing aunt, and a loyal love interest.
But now, with Peter's identity being revealed to the whole world, Spidey's amazing friends are in danger like they have never been before on the big screen.
Peter's secret identity is one of his traditional character traits throughout the Spider-Man lore, both in the comics and on-screen. In the Raimi trilogy led by Tobey Maguire, Peter's identity is kept secret to everyone he knows until the end of Spider-Man 2. This embedded the idea in the mainstream audience that the more people know about Peter's wall-crawling evenings, the higher chance there is of them getting involved and in the line of fire.
This ideology is slightly more lax in Andrew Garfield's The Amazing Spider-Man as Peter lets his girlfriend Gwen Stacy know right away out of trust. Then comes the MCU and their traditionally loose focus on the secret identity trope.
Despite Peter being recruited by Tony Stark and introduced as Peter Parker and Spider-Man to a number of Avengers personnel, Peter attempts to hide his double life from his friends and family, until Ned and Aunt May stumbles upon him in Spider-Man: Homecoming and MJ confirms she is just smarter than everyone in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
So the MCU Spider-Man has his best friend, love interest, guardian aunt, and even Avengers liaison Happy Hogan aware of his secret identity after Spider-Man: Far From Home. This is different, but not unreasonable. Peter can protect this crew, and it allows these movies to focus on other story beats for Peter Parker. And then came the post-credit scene heard around the world.
When Mysterio reveals to the world that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, the most classic of Peter Parker's fears are realized. Everyone he loves is in danger of being a target for his enemies. Enemies that can use Ned, MJ, May, or Happy to get to Peter because they know he cares about them. Spider-Man: No Way Home may be showing fans that angle in the teaser trailer, but the enemy is not just a rich guy in a green mask or a super-fan turned proton.
In classic MCU fashion, one of Parker's biggest enemies in this one, going after the people he loves, is the government.
HAPPY HOGAN CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE AGAIN
The Iron Boy criticism of MCU Spider-Man is one that both holds a lot of weight and doesn't have many scenes to stand on. However, if there is one constant between the two characters in the MCU, it is Happy Hogan. With both Tony Stark and Peter Parker, Happy appears in the first film as a comedic addition, in the second film as a more involved sidekick, and finds himself in some deep trouble in the third.
This shot from the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer shows a concerned Happy Hogan staring down an intimidating raid team situation. Another establishing shot in the trailer shows the raid team approaching Happy in a fiery location with laser-aimed weapons and tactical gear. Needless to say, Happy is in one hell of a tight spot here.
This frame confirms Happy's role in the movie and also conveys the seriousness of the situation. For as minor of a role John Favreau's veteran bodyguard plays in the grand scheme of things, Happy Hogan is not someone who scares easily. As a member of Tony Stark's posse, a supplemental piece of the Avengers, and someone who has Nick Fury's phone number, very few people can get the jump on Happy Hogan.
So who could be closing in and giving Happy such a worried look on his face?
THE DEPARTMENT OF DAMAGE CONTROL
The Department of Damage control was introduced in the MCU's first Peter Parker solo flick, Spider-Man: Homecoming, as a Stark Industries funded government branch responsible for cleaning up the messes left behind after superhero events inevitably destroy major chunks of a city or town.
Though being introduced post-Civil War, this group has been around canonically since shortly after the attack on New York from The Avengers. The audience's first look at this cleaning crew came as they stole a job from Adrian Toomes and sent him down the path of villainy and deceit.
It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for The Department of Damage Control to shift from cleaning up superhero messes to tracking down violators of The Sokovia Accords after the events of Captain America: Civil War. After "The Blip" and the introduction of The Global Repatriation Council in The Falcon And the Winter Soldier, The DODC is a viable candidate to play a role in one of the world's most famous superheroes being unmasked and accused of murder on national television.
This is not a shot in the dark guess because The Department of Damage Control is seen interrogating Peter in the teaser trailer. So it would make sense why the DODC might want to talk to Peter Parker, but what does Happy, and the rest of the Parker gang have to do with anything?
GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION
Peter tells Doctor Strange that ever since Mysterio revealed his identity, that it has turned his life upside down. He even mentioned that this isn't about him, and that “this is hurting a lot of people". While Happy is the only one shown staring down a firing squad, there are flashes of both Aunt May and Ned in an interrogation room.
Could the DODC be going after people who knew Peter was Spider-Man before everyone else knew?
This would hold up more to the classic Civil War run in the comics where Peter's identity being revealed was the main focus of his story in that event. His loved ones were immediately put in danger and then sheltered with safety in Avengers Tower. With the current state of the MCU and Parker's validity as a "hero" being questioned, that is not an option in No Way Home.
With Happy, Aunt May, Ned, and MJ all knowing Peter's identity prior to Mysterio leaking it to the world, they could potentially be in some hot water for concealing the identity of an unregistered superhero. Or they could be being questioned about Peter's character as it relates to the death of Mysterio.
Either way, someone, possibly the DODC, wants their hands on people close to Peter Parker, and they don't seem to be going about it very politely.
This is undoubtedly one of the most intense personal situations the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has had to deal with in live-action. With so many cameos, surprise guests, returning villains, and universal crossover, it is hard to lose the identity storyline in the fray.
But if Marvel Studios has taught us anything, it is that they are capable of weaving two major storylines together for one complete, comprehensive, and amazing story.